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Stanley Cup Final ▲ Sheary, Braun Step Up With Late Heroics In Game 2

Many UMass fans, including myself, were ecstatic that the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks would be playing for the Stanley Cup because it guaranteed that a Minuteman would be immortalized on Lord Stanley’s chalice by the end of the series.  It wasn’t expected however that the two former UMass captains playing, San Jose defenseman Justin Braun and rookie Pittsburgh forward Conor Sheary, would be having such a significant impact on the outcome of the series.

Braun has been a dependable everyday defenseman for the Sharks since he graduated from UMass.  He has developed into more of a stay-at-home blueliner instead of the two-way defenseman we saw when he wore the maroon and white, but even back then there was little doubt that he would be playing in the NHL on regular basis.

Sheary had a hell of a career in Amherst that he probably doesn’t get nearly enough credit for.  He left UMass as the program’s 8th leading scorer.  But the team struggled to win and attendance plummeted and Sheary ended up not getting the coverage he deserved.  But it wasn’t necessary the lack of exposure that created skepticism of whether Sheary was an NHL caliber player.  It was his size.  Extremely skilled 5’8” forwards still struggle to make it to the NHL.  After his UMass career was over I thought he had a decent chance to at least get to the NHL at some point.  Did I expect him to be Sidney Crosby’s linemate within two years of graduating? No.  Did I expect him to be the hero of the Stanley Cup Final through the first two games in his rookie season?  Hell, no.

But that’s where we are.  But Sheary wouldn’t have been the hero if not for Braun’s own heroics earlier in the game.  With the Sharks down 1-0 and just over 4 minutes left Braun, with just 13 goals in 367 career regular season games, tied it up:

The game would go to overtime tied at one apiece.  And then it was Sheary’s turn.  He’d already scored a goal in the Pens’ 3-2 win in game one.  But no goal scored in his entire hockey career has been bigger than this one:

Through two Stanley Cup Final games UMass Minutemen have scored three of the eight goals in the series.  And last night both the former Minutemen captains were stars of the game (as well as some guy who played at Minnesota):

Then crazy things happened.  At one point Conor Sheary was the #1 trending topic on Twitter and he, and the school at which he played, was being mentioned everywhere.  Here’s just a small taste:

It’s hard to imagine Game 3 can top last night.  At least from a UMass fan’s perspective.

There are a number of interesting stories covering last night as well.

Puck Daddy covers how it was Crosby that formulated the winning play.

They also have this piece on the Penguins rookie trio of Sheary, goaltender Matt Murray (no, not our goaltender Matt Murray), and Bryan Rust coming up big so far in the playoffs.

Amalie Benjamin, now writing for NHL.com, has a piece on Braun playing well despite a heavy heart due to the passing of his father-in-law.  Braun’s father-in-law, former NHLer Tom Lysiak, was buried today in Atlanta.

In other news TJ Syner will be heading to Italy to play next season along with his cousin, former Eagle Barry Almeida.

And Mike Busillo made the protected list for the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.

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