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Mitch's Sports Report: UVM Men's Hoops Season Ends In More Disappointment At NIT

The amazing winning streak. The regular season that saw them finish with the best record and top seed in the America East conference. It all looked so good for the University of Vermont men's basketball team, until they stumbled in the conference championship game against UMBC and had to settle for an invite from the N.I.T. tournament rather than the coveted NCAA dance.

Now the Catamounts' fall from grace is complete, ousted in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament by Middle Tennessee State in a 91-64 rout last night in the Volunteer State.

UVM fell against a hot-shooting Tennessee squad led by Giddy Potts, who nailed six 3-pointers and finished with 25 points on the night. The Catamounts got a game high 18 points from Anthony Lamb, but he scored 14 of those in the first half and was shut down in the second.

The Catamounts finish the season with a record of 27 wins and 8 losses and six seniors have played their last game for UVM, including Drew Urquhart, who finished with 16 points last night and had a spectacular season, helping lead the offense after Lamb went down early in the season with a broken foot. But the 2017-18 campaign will be remembered more for its great momentum and a winning streak that included 27 straight wins over conference opponents dating back to last year, but one that ultimately fizzled out in the one game that mattered most, followed by a tepid showing in a tournament the Catamounts would prefer not to have been invited to in the first place. But perhaps that will serve as a motivating factor for the returning core of players when they take to Tom Brennan court next season.

That court was to have been the site of the final four in the division one boy's high school basketball playoffs last night, but the snow storm put the kibosh on that and all the games were postponed until tonight, and the D-1 final has been rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.

To the pros, and things looked about as bleak for the Boston Bruins as you can get in the late stages of their game against the Carolina Hurricanes last night, and not just because of the score. The Bruins trailed the 'Canes 4-1 with just over ten minutes to go in the third period, but the bigger issue for the Bruins was the loss of defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, who left the game with injuries and did not return, along with forward Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins were already dealing with injuries to key players Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy and with Chara and Krug out were left with just four defensemen to rotate in a game that looked out of reach.

But this Bruins team is finding myriad ways to win this year and somehow pulled a rabbit out of the hat yet again last night, rallying to score three goals in a span of just over one minute to tie the game at four, and they weren't done, adding two more for a ridiculous 6-4 comeback win that left the Hurricanes flabbergasted in a game of far greater importance to their playoff hopes than the Bruins, who are firmly ensconced within the playoff bubble.

The rally began with a goal by one of those four defensemen still left standing, Matt Grzelcyk, followed by a David Pastrnak wrist shot just 56 seconds after that, and another by rookie Danton Heinen just 21 seconds later. Pastrnak then put the Bruins ahead for good with a one-timer on the power play with 3 and a half minutes left, and Pasta as he's known, completed his first career hat trick by adding an empty netter in the waning seconds.

The comeback was reminiscent of the game seven playoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 when Boston also trailed 4-1 with ten minutes left and pulled an eventual overtime victory. That game was far more crucial, of course, and with Boston well positioned for the post-season this year, the hope is that the injuries to Chara, Krug, and DeBrusk are not too serious and they can all be rested over the next few weeks if need be, because with the way the Bruins have been playing this surprising season, it seems like their biggest foe is the injury bug rather than the foes they skate against in a given contest. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, really needed that game. They trail New Jersey by seven points for the last available wild card berth with 12 games left to play.

Elsewhere, the Montreal Canadiens snapped their five game losing skid with a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Artturi Lehkonen scored twice for Montreal but this game was marked by an ugly incident in which former teammates Greg Pateryn, now with Dallas, and Andrew Shaw collided in what looked like a helmet to helmet hit. Shaw was down on the ice when Pateryn chose to add a couple of punches to Shaw's head and the Montreal forward had to be helped from the ice. Pateryn's actions will no doubt be looked at by the league and he's likely going to face a long and well-deserved suspension.

The NFL free agent frenzy is in full swing and among the biggest signings are former Washington quarterback Kirk Cosuins reportedly signing a deal to take over as QB for the Minnesota Vikings after Case Keenum chose to sign with Denver. The Green Bay Packers are making a big splash, signing one of the best tight ends in the game in Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, and they're breathing easy in the Big Easy with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees agreeing to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints on a two -year deal.

Finally, in the greatest race on earth, the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska, it looks as though barring any major weather snafus or changes of fortune, the winner is projected to be Norwegian musher  Joar Ulsom. He's expected to cross the finish around eight o'clock this morning. Ulsom made history in 2013 when he finished in 7th place as a rookie, the fastest rookie finish ever in the 1000-plus mile race, and he may be crowned champion this year.

*Update* Ulsom was declared the winner of this year's Iditarod.

 

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