No. 1 Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Got Here: Won
Hockey East Tournament; 4th in Final Pairwise Rankings.
Players: F – Cam
Atkinson, F, (24-22-48), Brian Gibbons (15-29-44), Chris Kreider (14-7-21);
D – Brian Dumoulin (1-18-19); G – John Muse (15-8-2, 2.43 GAA, .909 SV%, 1
They’ll Win: The
Eagles are loaded up front, with four lines that can all score, including one
of the best lines in the country in Joe Whitney-Brian Gibbons-Cam Atkinson.
They also have experience between the pipes, as John Muse led BC to the 2008
national title as a freshman. Muse may have given up six goals in the Eagles’
Hockey East title win, but many of those shots were perfect strikes from the
Maine forwards. Besides, if BC scores at the pace it has been scoring at, then
Muse won’t need to steal games.
They’ll Lose: Tough
to be negative about the Eagles, but one flaw is the sheer inexperience on a
national stage for the defensemen. Only senior Carl Sneep has seen NCAA
tournament action, and while the freshmen and sophomores have played like
juniors and seniors, the NCAA tourney is a different animal.
No. 2 – North Dakota (WCHA)
How they got here: WCHA Champions; 5th in final
Key Players: F – Chris VandeVelde (16-25-41), Jason
Gregoire (20-17-37), Danny Kristo (15-21-36), Matt Frattin (10-8-18), Brett
Hextall (13-12-25); G – Brad Eidsness (24-9-1, 2.09 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 Shutouts)
Why They’ll Win: It’s that time of the season again.
North Dakota has a proven track record when it comes to the second-half of the
year. In their last 12, they’ve gone 11-1; in that span they’ve amped up their
offense to the tune of 4.58 goals per game, as well as stepped up their defense
to allow just 1.83 goals against – dropping their already-low season number to
2.10, good for fifth in the country. With the offense firing on all pistons and
the defense playing shutdown hockey, they present a tough challenge to anyone.
Why They’ll Lose: The Eastern bracket is tough. While
they’ve heated up on the last two months, North Dakota will face Yale, the
NCAA’s top-ranked offense for the whole season (4.09 GPG). Should they get past
the eighth-ranked Elis, there’s a pretty good chance they’d see two-seeded and
fourth-ranked Boston College, a top-10 team in offense, defense, and powerplay
categories. The Eagles are also a team that is familiar with the Sioux’ style
of play, as they’ve faced off against 22 times in their history, and though
they hold the better record in those games (11-10-1), it’s a game that could be
stolen by BC’s experience against North Dakota’s relative youth, with 16 freshmen and sophomores.
No. 3 Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)
ECAC Regular Season Champions
Got Here: At-Large
bid; 9th in final Pairwise Rankings.
Players: F – Broc
Little, F, (26-14-30), Brian O’Neill, (14-25-39; D – Jimmy
Martin (2-15-17); G – Billy Blaise (7-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .901 SV%), Nick
Maricic, G, (7-4-2, 2.95 GAA, .888 SV%).
They’ll Win: Yale
currently has the best offense in the country, notching 4.09 goals per game.
Broc Little and Brian O’Neill lead the charge up front, but the Bulldogs get
plenty of help, with 11 players tallying five goals or more this season.
Consequently, the Yale power play is also great, as they sit second in the
country with a 23.5 percent conversion rate North Dakota takes a lot of penalties,
so Yale should have ample time to get the power play rolling.
They’ll Lose: Yale
fell in a three game series to Brown in the ECAC tournament, and come into the
NCAA tourney a bit cold. After freshman Nick Maricic won the starting job,
senior Billy Blaise all of sudden got the nod for the playoffs, where he
struggled. Inexperience and uncertainty in goal is never good, though both
players do give Yale a chance to win. Also, Yale relies too much on the
forwards to put the puck in the net, with none of the defensemen contributing
much on the score sheet in goals.
No. 4 – Alaska (CCHA)
How they got Here: At-Large; t-11th in Final PairWise Rankings
Key Players: F –
Dion Knelsen (19-23-42), Andy Tranto (17-24-41), Dustin Sather (11-14-25); D –
Joe Sova (6-17-23); G – Scott Greenham (18-11-9, 2.20 GAA, .918 SV%, 4
Why They’ll Win: The
Nanooks had a really rough skid from mid-November until the end of January, but
they have been one of the hottest teams since. Alaska is 8-2-2 in their last twelve games and they have
outscored their opponents 41-22. Greenham has three shutouts in that span as he is playing some of his
best hockey at the right time. Last year Alaska had a tough time scoring but played stellar
defense. This year the offense is
revamped with Taranto and Nik Yaremchuk, and is churning out goals. Alaska had the weekend off and should
be well prepared for Boston College on Saturday.
Why They’ll Lose: The
offense this year is miles ahead of where the offense was last year, but a lot
of that production comes from Knelsen, Sather and Taranto. Alaska has scored 107 goals on the year
and 47 of them are courtesy of that trio. BC can eliminate Alaska’s biggest threat by taking away
space and not letting Alaska’s top line work with the puck. Greenham’s four shutouts are
impressive, but he is not bulletproof. Greenham has given up four or more goals six times this year, so he is
susceptible to a bad game.
- Compiled by Kevin Edelson, Joseph Edwards and Matt Fazio
- Video featuring Tim Rosenthal and Kevin Edelson