Northeast Regional Preview

No. 1 Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)

Record: 25-10-3

How They
Got Here:
Won
Hockey East Tournament; 4th in Final Pairwise Rankings.

Key
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
shutout).

Why
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.

Why
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)

Record: 25-12-5

How they got here: WCHA Champions; 5th in final
PairWise Rankings

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)

Record: 20-9-3;
ECAC Regular Season Champions

How They
Got Here:
At-Large
bid; 9th in final Pairwise Rankings.

Key
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%).

Why
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.

Why
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)

Record: 18-11-9

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
Shutouts)

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

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Northeast Regional Preview

#1 Boston University Terriers (31-6-4)

How They Got In: Hockey East Champions

Five Key Players:

Colin Wilson So. F (15g, 35a, 50p)
Nick Bonino So. F (16, 28, 44)
Jason Lawrence Sr. F (21, 13, 34)
Matt Gilroy Sr. D (8, 24, 32)
Kieran Millan Fr. G (25-2-3, 1.84 GAA, .923 SC%).

What To Watch For:

This tournament is the Terriers to lose. Colin Wilson, a power forward at heart, has been the playmaker for BU dishing out 35 assists. Few players in the NCAA can carry the puck end to end and set up his teammates for an easy goal like Wilson can.

Putting BU on the power play would also be a terrible decision for any team in the nation. Led by Jason Lawrence’s 13 PP goals the Terriers have a 21.8% success rate with the man advantage, first in Hockey East.

Kieran Millan is already one of the best goalies to come through this storied program. He has the all-time leading win percentage for freshman goalies in BU history. Fresh off his MVP award form the Hockey East tournament, Millan will cause fits for the opposing teams due to his superior instincts in net.

The Terriers are stronger than virtually every other team in the nation in every category. This team has six seniors and four juniors, which gives BU an unbelievable amount of experience in big games.

#2 North Dakota Fighting Sioux (24-14-4)

How they got in: At-Large

Five Key Players:
Ryan Duncan Sr. F (19, 19, 38 )
Chris VandeVelde Jr. F (16 , 17, 33)
Chay Genoway Jr. D (3, 29, 32)
Jason Gregoire Fr. F (11, 16, 27)
Brad Eidsness Fr. G (24-11-4, 2.47 GAA, .908 SV%)

What to Watch For:

The Fighting Sioux are a senior laden team that knows how to get it done come tournament time having advanced to four consecutive Frozen Fours. That being said, this group of seniors has some unfinished business after not being able to hoist the National Championship trophy that has eluded them in those four trips. The WCHA regular season champions looked abysmal at the WCHA Final Five last weekend in St. Paul, losing 3-0 to Minnesota Duluth and 4-1 to Wisconsin on consecutive days and now must to travel to Manchester to take on UNH in the Wildcats back yard.

This is a tall order for the Sioux but this team has shown the talent to skate with any team in the country. After a rough 4-7-1 start, North Dakota has erupted for a 19-6-3 record since the start of December including an eye-popping 15-4-3 record since the start of 2009. A stat that has summed up North Dakota’s season: the Fighting Sioux hold a record of 22-1-2 when scoring three or more goals and are 2-13-2 when scoring less than the magic number of three.

#3 New Hampshire Wildcats (19-12-5)

How They Got In: At-large bid

Five Key Players:

James vanRiemsdyk So. F (17g – 22a – 39pts)
Mike Sislo So. F (18g – 10a – 28pts)
Kevin Kapstad Sr. D (2g – 22a – 24pts)
Brian Foster Jr. G (18-10-4, 2.63 GAA, .910 SV%, 3 SO)
Danny Dries So. F (10, 11, 21)

What To Watch For:

The Wildcats have the ability to ruin the season for any team they run into in the tournament. Though they haven’t had their most offensive production this season, UNH finished third in the Hockey East conference, arguably the toughest in college hockey.

Sophomore forward James vanRiemsdyk has the ability to be the difference maker in the tournament. He has outrageous speed for his size and can take over the game at will. Unfortunately, it seems that when UNH is down in a game vanRiemsdyk shuts off and isn’t playing to his full ability. The one-game elimination atmosphere has the magic to change the mindset of any player into a determined machine.

When the Wildcats lost Kevin Regan to graduation last year, they weren’t sure if Foster would be able to shoulder the load like Regan had. Foster was able to hold down the team without last years leading scorers Matt Fornataro (46pts) and Mike Radja (43pts) who also graduated. If the UNH offense has trouble going in a game, it is very possible that Foster will put the entire team on his back and carry them into the next round.

#4 Ohio State Buckeyes (23-14-4)

How they got in: At-Large Bid

Five Key Players:

Corey Elkins Sr. F (18, 22, 40)
John Albert So. F (11, 28, 39)
Zac Dalpe Fr. F (13, 12, 25)
Shane Sims So. D (7, 17, 24)
Dustin Carlson Go. G (21-11-3, 2.40 GAA, .920 SV%, 4 SO)

What to Watch For:

It’s been an interesting season for the Buckeyes. The team started 2-5-1 in their first eight games, and has done really well since going 21-9-3 in their last 33. Even with that stretch of games, the Buckeyes still finished fifth in the CCHA standings. They swept Bowling Green and lost to Alaska in three games. With that being said, OSU hasn’t played a game in more than a week, it would’ve been 13 days to be exact once they play BU. Will see if this team comes out a little rusty or with a lot of energy led by many underclassmen. Even if they lose Saturday to the Terriers, John Markell’s squad has a bright future ahead of them.

Compiled by Mike Alloy, Scott Stone and Tim Rosenthal

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Northeast Regional Preview

In the past, the DCU Center in Worcester has seen some great NCAA hockey action. This year’s Northeast regional should be no different.

The Northeast regional bracket features the Miami Redhawks, who could be the best all around team in the tournament, the Boston College Eagles, a team who loves to spread the ice, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, an historic team that is looking to get back to the promised land and the Air Force Falcons, who last year almost defeated the Gophers in the NCAA tournament.

No one is safe in this bracket, not even the top team, the Miami Redhawks, who play Air Force in the first round (4:00 p.m. Saturday). The second game features BC and Minnesota (7:30); Two teams who proved their mettle last weekend in their conference tournaments.

Who will prevail in this difficult region? Let’s break down the first round match-ups and predict who will win this regional.

#1 Miami vs. #4 Air Force

As previously stated, Miami could be the best all around team in the tournament. Head coach Enrico Blasi and his squad had a scoring margin of 2.28 (averaged 4.08 goals for and gave up an average of 1.80 goals) tops in the nation. The Redhawks outscored their opponents by 91 goals and can beat you with any style of play.

The penalty killing for the Redhawks was also tops in the nation at 89.6 percent. Justin Mercier and Carter Camper were two main reasons why they were so good, as they can score in any shorthanded situation.

Ryan Jones, a Hobey Baker finalist, scored 30 goals and is the team’s most lethal threat. Jeff Zatkoff had a stellar season in goal coming out with 26 victories while recording three shutouts and had a goals-against-average of 1.67.

Miami could be the best overall team in the tournament; however, the specter of a potential match-up with Boston College could haunt them, since they have lost to BC the last two years in the NCAA tournament.

Air Force lost Eric Ehn, a Hobey finalist last year, with a broken leg in January, but the team was able to do well without him, capturing the Atlantic Hockey tournament title. Brent Olsen, Jeff Hajner and Greg Flynn each recorded 30-plus points for the Falcons in the place of Ehn.

The Falcons defense was also solid. Andrew Volkening had the highest winning percentage among goalies in Atlantic Hockey at .649 and his GAA of 2.08 was second in the conference.

Air Force had a good run, but it will end in Worcester. Miami will come out victorious.

Prediction: Miami 5 – Air Force 2

#2 Boston College vs. #3 Minnesota

Jerry York is one win shy of 800 for his career after the Eagles captured the Hockey East Championship this past weekend.

BC is led by the leading scorer in the nation, Nathan Gerbe, who himself is a Hobey finalist. Gerbe had 57 points, including nine in the Hockey East tournament, the most out of any player, en route to the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

If you think that Gerbe is the only one that can provide excitement when the Eagles hit the ice, think again. Joe Whitney had a stellar freshman campaign leading all Hockey East rookies with 47 points. Perhaps there is a little Brian Gionta in him not just in size, but his speed, agility and quickness. Ben Smith is another 40-plus point guy, while Dan Bertram and Benn Ferriero each had 30-plus points.

In goal, John Muse started every minute of every game for the Eagles as a freshman. Muse had a great Hockey East tournament and was named to the all-tournament team, in part due to his stellar performance in goal, in part due to the defense surrounding him. Senior captain Mike Brennan is the leader of the team and has been to two Frozen Fours. Brennan will look to add a third to his resume.

Minnesota struggled in the first half, and the departure of Kyle Okposo midway through the year was supposed to damage the Gophers.

However, key contributions from Blake Wheeler and Ben Gordon, helped the Gophers overcome their obstacles. Alex Kangas has solidified the number one spot between the pipes while players like Derek Peltier and David Fischer have helped out his cause on defense.

This might not be the best club Don Lucia has had, but the Gophers fought through adversity from the off-season to mid-year with players departing. The fact that they have made it this far is due to solid coaching.

Overall though, Boston College looks like the better team. I like BC in this game and look for the Eagles to upset Miami in the regional final.

Prediction: BC 4 – Minnesota 2

Regional Final Prediction: BC 3 – Miami 2 (OT)

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