Reading, Ma- The Worcester Regional begins on Friday at noon EST at the DCU Center. The third overall seed Western Michigan University Broncos will face off against the fourteenth seeded Northeastern University Huskies in the opening game. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen at 6:00 pm EST.
The winner of this region will face the winner of the Albany Regional at Boston’s TD Garden on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in the Frozen Four.
(1) Western Michigan Broncos (25-11-1) vs. (4) Northeastern Huskies (25-12-1)
A battle of first-year head coaches awaits WMU’s Pat Ferschweiler and NU’s Jerry Keefe in Worcester. Each team comes into Friday’s game having experienced a letdown of sorts; both had solid chances to, in NU’s case, advance to the conference finals and in WMU’s to win the conference final.
The Huskies are back-stopped by one of college hockey’s premier goalies this season, Devon Levi. The sophomore from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, is at or near the top in all statistical categories. Levi sits for sixth in wins, third in GAA with a 1.52 average, first in SV% on .952, and second with ten shutouts. The 6′-0″ Levi missed six games while participating in the Beijing Olympics for Team Canada.
— Northeastern Men’s Hockey (@GoNUmhockey) March 13, 2022
“It’ll be fun to go up against an opponent like that,” said Levi of the Broncos. “It will definitely be a challenge but it’s one that we’re all excited for.”
Junior Brandon Bussi, who’s having a career year, handles the Broncos net. The 6′-5″ Sound Beach, NY., native is 25-11-1, with a 2.60 GAA, .910 SV%, and four shutouts.
It's his 4th honor this year 🙅♂️
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) March 8, 2022
The Huskies average 2.58 goals per game while the Broncos average 3.68. Defensively they are flipped, with NU giving up 1.74 a game and WMU allowing 2.62. The Broncos are slightly older, bigger, and heavier than the Huskies. Northeastern has eight NHL prospects to two on Western Michigan.
Against the tournament field, the Broncos are 9-10-1, as they play four qualifying teams in NCHC play. Western Michigan is 8-9-1 against their three conference foes that qualified for the NCAAs. WMU is 6-3 at home and 1-7-1 away from Lawson Ice Arena. 1-1 is the neutral site record for the Broncos. They are 1-1 against non-conference opponents.
“We’re battle-tested from being in the NCHC,” said Ferschweiler. “We have the number three overall seed for a team that was picked to finish sixth in our own conference.”
“It should be a highly entertaining game and up and down the ice is what I would expect,” added the Broncos coach.
Northeastern has only lined up against three schools that made the big dance. The Huskies are a combined 2-4 against the field. 1-2 at home and 1-2 away. NU is 1-0 in non-con action against the field.
The Broncos are paced offensively by Hobey Baker Award nominee Ethan Frank and his 38 points, 26 goals, and 12 assists. Fellow senior Drew Worrad (9-35-44) is the leading point-getter for WMU. Defensemen Ronnie Attard and Michael Joyaux follow up with 36 and 32 points. The Broncos are a balanced mix of upperclassmen and freshmen and are the fourth leading goal-scoring team in the NCAA.
OT WINNER! 🚨
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) March 13, 2022
NU’s focal point is junior Aidan McDonough (24-14-38), Sam Colangelo (12-14-26), and Jack Hughes (7-9-16). The second line of Jakov Novak, Justin Hryckowian, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine are almost equally as dangerous, combining for 23 goals and 36 assists.
The Huskies are a solid defensive team led by a pair of Montreal Canadiens picks, Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble. Jeremie Bucheler, Tommy Miller, and Julian Kislin give the blue line some physical pop.
The two teams last met in 2013, a 1-1 tie, in the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame. Northeastern holds the edge in the overall series 3-0-1.
(2) Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-12-0) vs. (3) Massachusetts Minutemen (22-12-2)
The Massachusetts Minutemen are the reigning champs and seem to be putting their best hockey in front of them at the right time. Having blown a chance at the Hockey East regular-season title in the last weekend of conference play might have been the team’s wake-up call. Three straight wins in the Hockey East tourney led to a celebration on the TD Garden ice, the goal all season, but more so in April than in March. This past Saturday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost the Big Ten championship game against Michigan 4-3. So they’ll come into Worcester with a fire in their belly.
As the season played out, both squads have been in the top half of the rankings. Each has faced adversity and is here where many expected they would be.
“I kind of like that we’re going in as the underdog,” said Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel. “But at the same time, we’re the defendant champions and we’re going to do everything we can to defend our title.”
“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to defend,” added the sixth-year coach. “It’s hard when you come back after winning, and everybody’s gunning for you. But when it got to the end of the year, when things got real serious, our team started to rise, and we played some really good defensive hockey. We played some really good, hard, heavy hockey against two good, hard, heavy teams.”
“It strengthened us to go into the NCAA tournament,” said Carvel. “I feel like our identity really, really showed through the Hockey East playoffs.”
The Minutemen and Gophers last faced each other in 2016-17, Massachusetts Carvel’s first season, during the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota. The Gophers won 4-1. The Gophers are 4-0 all-time against Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is 3-4-1 against the field and 0-4 against non-con opponents. Minnesota is 7-8 against the tourney teams and 3-4 against those not in the Big Ten. The Minutemen are 3-2 at home, 1-2-1 on the road, and 1-0 at neutral sites. The Golden Gophers are 3-4 at home and 4-4 away.
As defending champs, the Minutemen have had the target on their backs all season and have gotten every team’s best punch night in and night out. Massachusetts has experience up and down their lineup. The senior class has experienced the highs and lows of NCAA tournament success. Bobby Trivigno leads the Minutemen, the 5′-8″ Hobey Baker Award hopeful with 20 goals and 28 assists for the team-leading 48 points, third-best in the NCAA. His 20 goals are fifth-best, and his assists are sixth-best overall.
When it comes to Trivigno, it’s more than just the numbers.
“He’s the most unique kid I’ve ever coached. It’s not even close,” said Carvel of Trivigno. “He never gets tired, he never has a bad attitude, and he never gets out-willed. Never, never, never. Every single day. He’s the hardest-working kid. He has a fire inside him. On match, not even close. Unbelievable.”
Junior Ben Meyers (16-21-37), senior Blake McLaughlin (12-20-32), and freshman Matthew Knies (12-17-29) lead the Gophers. Minnesota has 14 NHL draft picks on their roster, the most of any school. The Minutemen have six.
ITS LOUD IN HERE pic.twitter.com/jKE5XJKfha
— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) March 20, 2022
Minnesota’s roster is loaded with talent and can roll four lines, three with high-end talent. Massachusetts goalie Matt Murray will have his hands full on Friday night.
Murray, a graduate student, isn’t flashy and doesn’t get the attention that he deserves. The 6′-1″ St. Albert, Alberta native, is the career leader in wins (73) for the Minutemen and the record holder for shutouts with 14. This season Murray has started all but one game. He is 21-11-2 with a 2.27 GAA and a .919 SV%.
Bob Motzko’s team was 12-8 in early January when goalie Jack LaFontaine, a three-year starter in goal, left the team for the NHL. Junior Justen Close has gone 12-4 in the interim.
In his previous two years, Close had three starts. He now sits with a 1.89 GAA and a .928 SV%. in 16 games this season. The Gophers have rallied as a team since Close took over the netminding duties.