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Saturday, March 27, 2004

"They came back and won!" 

That is what people around these parts are saying, in one form or another, today. "They" is the University of Maine hockey team, and their comeback in last night's first round NCAA tournament game was one for the record books. It's still hard to comprehend what we witnessed on television last night, but I will step aside here to let the Albany Times-Union tell the story:

ALBANY -- Maybe the pollsters were right this week when they made Maine the unanimous choice as the top-ranked college hockey team in the country (incorrect - they got 21 of 40 votes) because not many teams could have done what the Black Bears did Friday night.

Appearing hopelessly beaten almost four minutes into the third period, Maine pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of NCAA hockey with four third-period goals in a 5-4 victory over a stunned Harvard University in the first game of the NCAA East Regional at Pepsi Arena.

The comeback from a three-goal deficit equaled the largest game reversal in NCAA history and saved the Region's top-seeded team from being upset by the 14th seed in the NCAA field.
Like all such stories, this one has an unsung hero who stepped up when his team was against the ropes and needed a spark.

ALBANY, N.Y. - He's not a team captain. He's not a senior leader. He doesn't score a lot of goals.

John Ronan is a grunt on this University of Maine hockey team. A ditch digger. A forward on the fourth line. The junior from South Boston who doesn't mind breaking his back doing the heavy lifting and doesn't care if it goes unnoticed.

Friday night, John Ronan cared. His team was down, 4-1. His team was 20 minutes away from the end of its season. And John Ronan had something to say.
Whatever he said, it lit a fire under the team's collective posterior after two lackluster periods in which they were outmatched and always a step or two behind. Then they came back and won.

There is a sense of disbelief in Maine today, but there's no time to celebrate the improbable victory. Wisconsin, a 1-0 overtime winner over Ohio State, is up next, tonight. Maine won an earlier meeting 6-2, but after last night, it's hard to predict how this game will go.

UPDATE: Not a blowout, but a win all the same, and Maine moves on to the Frozen Four in Boston.
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