Six minutes into Saturday night's contest with Harvard, the Bowling Green hockey team finally realized what it was actually up against.
Senior defenseman Todd Flichel had been whistled for a holding infraction two minutes earlier, thus allowing the vaunted and much feared Crimson power play unit onto the ice.
For the ensuing 120 seconds, however, Harvard never got close to notching the first score of the game as the Falcons played an agressive man-down defense. As Flichel skated out of the sin bin, the Bowling Green fans and bench began to cheer.
But then they stopped. The same thought, it seemed, had flashed across the whole Falcon section: that's two minutes less we have to get back into this series.
The scoreboard read "0-0" as the teams lined up for the opening face-off Saturday night, but the SRO crowd and the players alike saw a "7" in the Harvard box and a "1" in the Visitors.
The two-game total-goals format of these NCAA quarterfinals produced a Kafkaesque contest. The Crimson's six-goal blow-out of Bowling Green the previous night had left the Falcons in a very, very deep hole. From that hole came such utterances as:
"Before the game we talked about it," B.G. Coach Jerry York said after Saturday's finale. "We said if we could get a two-goal lead in that [first] period, and then do it again the next period, we could go into the sixth period of the weekend with a chance to pull it out."
And from above the hole, such thoughts as, "It was something we talked about right after the game last night," Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said. "And we talked about it before the game tonight, but it's a sub-conscious thing. I guess it's always in the back of [the Harvard players'] minds."
Imagine, one coach worries before a national quarterfinal game that his team may not be properly psyched up. The other talks of getting a four-goal edge over the first two periods just to have a chance of pulling out victory.
Odd, but not surprising. Like it or not, the total goals format--which turns the two-game series into one long six period game--can produce some distorted situations.
And Saturday night's game, which the Falcons entered needing a pair of field goals just to even the score with the Crimson, was certainly one.
After the second period, the battle stood at 1-0, Harvard. It had been an exciting if not technically perfect contest, with fine goaltending at both ends of the ice and some spirited play in between.
And yet, a number of people were actually seen leaving Bright. "Midterms," explained one. "Party," said another. They walked away from Bright knowing full well what the outcome would be, knowing full well that for the third time in five years the Harvard hockey team would be advancing to the Final Four.
Inside, the third period of the tight, one-goal contest began. Thirteen minutes later, Crimson junior Allen Bourbeau notched a power play goal to give Harvard a little cushion.
The crowd cheered enthusiastically, to be sure, but not with the frenzied energy that would have accompanied the tally in a real one-goal game. Below on the ice, the players celebrated, but without the victory heep of bodies that should have been there.
The atmosphere, or lack there of, even took a little something away from Harvard netminder Dickie McEvoy's otherwise brilliant 40-save shutout. Even if McEvoy had let eight of those shots get past him Saturday, the Crimson would still be destined for Detriot today.
Let the record show that at 7:58 of the final period of the game, the crowd broke into chants of "Detriot, Detriot," and a group of students held up a banner reading, "Spring Break '87--Detriot."
The true outcome, however, had been decided 24 hours earlier.