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Falling Short Of A National Championship

Monday, 04.1.2013 / 10:50 AM ET
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Panthers Insider
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Falling Short Of A National Championship
Minnesota forward Nick Bjustad (University of Minnesota)

It was a tough weekend for the Panthers prospects that were looking to win an NCAA National Championship.

Seven Panthers prospects had a chance to do so but by Saturday, their dreams of winning that title came to an end and the upstart Yale Bulldogs were the cause for four of them.

Seeded fourth in the West Region and 15th overall in the tournament, they took out two of the NCAA's most prestigious programs in back-to-back days and will have a chance to play for a National Championship if they beat UMass-Lowell in the semis on April 11.

First it was Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau and the second ranked University of Minnesota that were shocked by the Bulldogs. The underdogs held a 2-0 lead after two periods before Minnesota tied it up with two third period goals (Rau assisting on the first). It didn't take Yale long to rebound in overtime as they forced a turnover behind the net and scored just nine seconds in to send the Gophers home.

"This is one of the best years of my life, one of the best group of guys I’ve ever been with," said Bjugstad to the media following the game. Florida's first round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 draft had one of Minnesota's best chances in the first 40 minutes, sending a backhanded shot from a sharp angle off the goaltender and off the post, wide. Having made the decision to return to chase a title, he was asked about his future. "I don’t even want to think about it right now. I get choked up thinking about it."

North Dakota scored two third period goals to come back and defeat Niagara in their first round and looked good through forty minutes as Hobey Baker finalist Corban Knight gave them a 1-0 lead less than eight minutes in against the Bulldogs. Yale would not be deterred as they exploded for four third period goals in a 4-1 victory to win the region and spoil Knight and Rocco Grimaldi's chances at a title.

In the East, defending champs Boston College along with 2012 first round pick and freshman defenseman Mike Matheson were no match for Union College, falling 5-1. Wisconsin (Ed Wittchow) fell to UMass-Lowell 6-1 in their opening game Friday while Denver and Sam Brittain fell 5-2 to New Hampshire in the same region, although Brittain did not see any action for the Pioneers.

The Frozen Four will see two four seeds, Yale and St Cloud St. (who beat Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) by a combined 9-2) face-off against two top seeds in UMass-Lowell and Quinnipiac respectively with the winners facing off in the Championship Game on April 13.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
D. Bolland 48 5 16 1 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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