Mitch's Sports Report: UVM Locks Up Top Seed In America East; Bruins Suffer First Loss Under Cassidy
The nation's second longest winning streak in mens' college basketball is now at seventeen games. The America East conference crown has been secured. The best regular season record for a UVM hoops team is in the books. And if any other team in America East wants to forge a path to the NCAA tournament, they're going to have to travel through Burlington to get there.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Patrick Gymnasium last night the University of Vermont Catamounts beat the Albany Great Danes 62-50 and locked up the #1 seed in the America East conference playoffs as a result. The team is 25-5, a perfect 15-0 against America East opponents and charging like a juggernaut toward the conference tournament with one game left in the regular season against Stony Brook, and if they win that, they'll be the first America East team to go undefeated against conference opponents in 25 years.
What makes this UVM team so hard to beat is that the scoring gets spread around so evenly. You can't focus on shutting down one or two players because there's always another who can compensate.Last night Payton Henson had 18 points, Ernie Duncan added 13, and Anthony Lamb recovered from a slow start to pour in 12. UVM isn't looking past the conference tournament, but they are far and away the favorite to win it, and get the automatic NCAA bid that would follow. If that happens, there will be a lot of talk about the potential for upsetting some of the more nationally recognized teams that will be hoping for March madness glory. Stay tuned.
In womens' college hockey the St. Michael's Purple Knights took on Franklin Pierce in the play-in game for the New England Hockey Conference playoffs yesterday, and were eyeing an upset of the third-seeded Ravens with the teams tied at one headed into the third period. But the Ravens pulled away for a 3-1 win that ends the Purple Knights season. Jordan Monbouquette scored the lone goal for St. Michael's in the loss.
In other news from St. Mike's swimming & diving senior and Colchester native Lindsay McNall became the first swimmer in program history selected to compete at an NCAA Championship. McNall will compete in two events, the 100 and 200 yard backstroke, when she takes to the pool in the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 10th.
To the pro ice of the NHL, and it couldn't last forever. After rattling off four straight wins under new interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Boston Bruins suffered their first loss under Cassidy in a 5-3 defeat in Anaheim against the Ducks last night. Richard Rakell scored twice for the Ducks, while the Bruins got goals from Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo, more signs that Cassidy's desire to have the defense get more involved in the offense is working. Frank Vatrano also scored for the Bruins but the Ducks killed off five Boston power plays, limiting the damage. No rest for the Bruins. They skate against the L.A. Kings at the Staples Center tonight with back-up Anton Khudobin expected to get the start in place of Tuukka Rask, who made 20 stops last night in the loss. The Bruins are back in that uncomfortably familiar spot where every game from now til the end of the season is like a playoff game for making the playoffs. With the loss last night the Bruins fell out of a playoff spot, passed in the standings by the NY Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs, but a win tonight could vault them back over the Islanders, who are idle, while the Leafs skate against the NY Rangers. That's how tight things are in the east and the two potential points for every win are critical.
Finally, the NBA's trading deadline is today and the Boston Celtics are wondering whether to sit tight, hold on to their coveted draft picks, including the one they own from the Brooklyn Nets, which is likely to produce the #1 pick, or make a blockbuster deal and bring in a superstar player like Chicago's Jimmy Butler or Indiana's Paul George, two names that have been bandied about in relation to the Celtics. A dark horse surprise move would be prying Carmelo Anthony away from the NY Knicks, but my guess is that GM Danny Ainge won't make any deal that includes giving away that potential #1 pick.