And Then There’s Omaha …

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.

When putting together the NCAA Midwest Regional preview a couple weeks ago, it seemed fairly apparent (at least to me) that the team leaving South Bend, Ind., with a berth in this week’s Frozen Four wouldn’t be Nebraska Omaha.

ECAC Hockey playoff champion Harvard, UNO’s first-round opponent, had won seven of its previous eight games. Minnesota State, the tournament’s top overall seed, won the WCHA regular-season and playoff titles and was arguably the nation’s most consistent team from day one. RIT, Minnesota State’s first-round foe, had won seven straight en route the Atlantic Hockey postseason crown.

And then, in the immortal words of this guy, there’s Omaha.

Can you blame me for writing them off? Had a Magic 8-Ball previewed the Midwest Regional, its assessment of Nebraska Omaha would’ve been, “All signs point to no.”

Three teams in South Bend had won two games the previous weekend. UNO had two wins in the previous seven weeks. The Mavs hadn’t posted consecutive victories since Jan. 17 (a 4-1 win at Colorado College) and Jan. 30 (an overtime win against visiting North Dakota) and hadn’t won twice in the same weekend since sweeping Denver in Omaha on Jan. 9-10.

But wait, there’s more …

Nebraska Omaha goaltender Ryan MassaIn the 11 games following the OT win against The Team That Shall Not Be Renamed, the Mavericks scored 20 goals. That was fewer than all but eight teams in the country. Then there’s this mind-scrambling statistic: during those 11 games, UNO scored nine even-strength goals.

NINE! You know who had nine even-strength goals during that same span? Not RIT’s Brad McGowan—he had 13. Not Denver’s Trevor Moore or Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey—they each had 10. St. Cloud State’s David Morley and Miami’s Blake Coleman both had nine.

That’s freaking absurd. And when I say freaking, I don’t mean freaking.

There were signs the Mavs weren’t in complete disarray during that stretch. Led by senior goalie Ryan Massa (that’s him pictured above), UNO was only allowing 2.18 per goals game. The power play was clipping along at 24.3 percent success rate. And the absence of senior forward and team leader Dominic Zombo for all but one of those games certainly didn’t help.

Zombo was back in the lineup for the Midwest Regional. More important, the Omaha that prompted “And then there’s Omaha …“ wasn’t this Omaha. Freshman Grant Gallo, who had one goal since Dec. 1, scored in the first period against Harvard. So did freshman Avery Peterson—he had zero points since Jan. 30. Another rookie, Tyler Vesel, added an empty-netter for his first goal since Jan. 30.

In the third period of the regional final against RIT, freshman Jake Randolph gave UNO a 1-0 lead with his first goal since Dec. 30. Freshman David Pope, who had scored one goal since Jan. 9, added an ENG in what turned into a 4-0 romp. Massa—who in his first three years with the Mavs rarely saw his name without “up-and-down” or “inconsistent” in front of it—was named regional MVP, stopping 73 of the 74 shots he faced in South Bend.

So now here’s Omaha … in its first Frozen Four. A lesser person would probably want a little credit or acknowledgment for spurring the Mavs—after all, one third of my tweet has appeared on a sign at the Midwest Regional, was turned into a t-shirt, and was mentioned by Zombo in a recent Omaha World-Herald article. However, I crave not these things.

Just remember one thing about Nebraska Omaha: You didn’t hear it here first.

NCAA Midwest Regional Preview


Saturday: RIT vs. Minnesota State, 4 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: Harvard vs. Nebraska Omaha, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN3)
Sunday: Regional Final, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)


Location: Mankato, Minn.
Record: 29-7-3 overall (21-4-3 WCHA, first)
Qualified: WCHA tournament champions
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Fourth (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Mike Hastings
Key Players: Matt Leitner, F, Sr., 39 GP, 9-23–41; Bryce Gervais, F, Jr., 39 GP, 27-9–36; Casey Nelson, D, So., 39 GP, 7-26–33; Stephon Williams, G, Jr., 34 GP, 25-5-3, 1.64 GAA, .926 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Mavericks were NCAA Division II hockey national champions in 1980, beating Elmira in the championship game. In 1979, Minnesota State (then known as Mankato State) finished second in the Division II tournament to Lowell (now UMass Lowell), which was led by future four-time Stanley Cup winner Craig MacTavish.

Burning Question: Is this the Mavericks’ year? Minnesota State has been the nation’s most consistent team from the start and, on paper, they have no weaknesses. In fact, one could argue the Mavs enter the NCAA tournament playing their best hockey to date—since its March 6 loss at Bemidji State, Minnesota State has won five straight, outscoring its opponents by a 25-6 margin. They’re also ruthless once they take the lead; the Mavs are 20-1-3 when up after one period and 22-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes. Anything less than a Frozen Four trip would be a disappointment.

Most Recent Minnesota State Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
21-Chase Grant 23-Teddy Blueger 15-C.J. Franklin Defenseman Zach Palmquist will play his 160th consecutive game in a Maverick uniform Saturday vs. RIT. That’s the longest active consecutive games-played streak in the nation.
12-Jean-Paul Lafontaine 18-Matt Leitner 9-Bryce Gervais
17-Michael Hunterbrinker 26-Dylan Margonari 19-Brad McClure
24-Brent Knowles 16-Jordan Nelson 8-Max Gaede
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
7-Zach Palmquist 5-Carter Foguth 35-Stephon Williams Scoring offense: 3.69 GPG (3rd)
Scoring defense: 1.92 GPG (3rd)
Power play: 24.4% (4th)
Penalty kill: 86.8% (13th)
27-Brett Stern 11-Sean Flanagan 34-Cole Huggins
28-Jon Jutzi 6-Casey Nelson


Location: Omaha, Neb.
Record: 18-12-6 overall (12-8-4 NCHC, third)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Third (most recent, 2011)
Head Coach: Dean Blais
Key Players: Jake Guentzel, F, So., 33 GP, 12-23–35; Austin Ortega, F, So., 36 GP, 19-15–34; Ian Brady, D, So., 35 GP, 5-15–20; Ryan Massa, G, Sr., 26 GP, 12-7-6, 2.04 GAA, .934 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Mavericks and Minnesota State are the only teams in this year’s field without a previous NCAA tournament win. UNO was ousted in the first round in both its prior national tournament berths; Minnesota State is winless in its three previous NCAA appearances.

Burning Question: Will the Mavs’ late-season swoon carry over into the NCAA Tournament? Things were looking pretty rosy for Omaha after beating visiting North Dakota in overtime on Jan. 30 to improve to 16-6-3 overall and 10-4-1 in the NCHC. But the Mavs spun out thereafter, going 2-6-3 in its last 11 games. The primary problem? Scoring. Omaha has 20 goals in its last 11 games, and only nine of them have come at even strength. The lack of 5-on-5 offense doesn’t bode well for the Mavs in a region in which the other three teams are rolling. 

Most Recent Nebraska Omaha Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
12-David Pope 20-Jake Guentzel 16-Austin Ortega UNO’s freshmen have combined for 98 points to date this season. That’s second-most among NCAA tournament teams behind only Boston University’s 139 points.
13-Jake Randolph 10-Tyler Vesel 25-Justin Parizek
7-Avery Peterson 19-Tanner Lane 17-Luke Nogard
9-James Polk 27-Aaron Pearce 18-Jono Davis
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
2-Brian Cooper 5-Joel Messner 29-Kirk Thompson Scoring offense: 2.67 GPG (35th)
Scoring defense: 2.36 GPG (18th)
Power play: 19.0% (21st)
Penalty kill: 82.9% (30th)
4-Luc Snuggerud 28-Brian ORourke 31-Ryan Massa
24-Ian Brady 23-Grant Gallo 1-Brock Crossthwaite


Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Record: 21-12-3 overall (11-8-3 ECAC Hockey, sixth)
Qualified: ECAC Hockey tournament champions
NCAA Championships: One (1989)
NCAA Appearance: 22nd (most recent, 2006)
Head Coach: Ted Donato
Key Players: Jimmy Vesey, F, Jr., 36 GP, 31-26–57; Kyle Criscuolo, F, Jr., 36 GP, 17-30–47; Patrick McNally, D, Sr., 20 GP, 6-15–21; Steve Michalek, G, Sr., 36 GP, 21-12-3, 2.29 GAA, .924 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Seven ECAC Hockey schools won the league’s regular-season or playoff championship in the time between Harvard’s last ECAC Hockey crown (a league playoff title in 2006 and its league tournament triumph last weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Burning Question: Which Crimson team will show up: the one that won seven of its last eight games, the one that started the season 10-1-2, or the one that went 4-10-1 from Jan. 10-Feb. 27? This much is true: Jimmy Vesey will show up. The junior forward has been on an absolute tear over the last six games with 10 goals and 15 points. Even more encouraging is the recent play of goalie Steve Michalek, who has a 1.63 GAA and a .937 save percentage in the last month. The first-round date with struggling Omaha is quite favorable for Harvard.

Most Recent Harvard Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
19-Jimmy Vesey 14-Alex Kerfoot 11-Kyle Criscuolo Vesey opened the year with a 20-game point streak during which he scored 18 goals and added 16 assists. He’s only been held scoreless in three games this season—all losses. The Crimson scored a total of one goal in those matches.
9-Luke Esposito 17-Sean Malone 63-Colin Blackwell
39-Brian Hart 2-Tyler Moy 91-Jake Horton
22-Devin Tringale 7-Eddie Ellis 72-Phil Zielonka
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
8-Patrick McNally 37-Desmond Bergin 34-Steve Michalek Scoring offense: 3.33 GPG (8th)
Scoring defense: 2.44 GPG (27th)
Power play: 20.8% (10th)
Penalty kill: 86.4% (15th)
44-Max Everson 10-Brayden Jaw 31-Merrick Madsen
25-Wiley Sherman 5-Clay Anderson 32-Peter Traber


Location: Rochester, N.Y.
Record: 19-14-5 overall (14-9-5 Atlantic Hockey, third)
Qualified: Atlantic Hockey tournament champions
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Second (most recent, 2010)
Head Coach: Wayne Wilson
Key Players: Matt Garbowsky, F, Sr., 38 GP, 26-27–53; Josh Mitchell, F, Jr., 38 GP, 15-35–50; Brady Norrish, D, Fr., 37 GP, 4-18–22; Jordan Ruby, G, Sr., 21 GP, 10-7-4, 2.11 GAA, .923 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Tigers enter the tournament with a seven-game winning streak and eight wins in their last 10 games, both tops among teams in this year’s NCAA field.

Burning Question: Can the Tigers recapture the magic that led to their 2010 Frozen Four appearance? Is it probable? No, but it’s possible. RIT bottomed out at 5-10-3 on Jan. 3 after losing to Minnesota in overtime at the Mariucci Classic. The Tigers are 14-4-2 since—only Minnesota State has more wins during that span—and Josh Mitchell, Matt Garbowsky, and Brad McGowan each have scored 30+ points during that stretch. The goaltending has been excellent, too; both Jordan Ruby and Mike Rotolo have sub-2.00 goals against averages since Jan. 9.

Most Recent RIT Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
7-Brad McGowan 9-Matt Garbowsky 25-Josh Mitchell Brady Norrish’s 22 points is the most by an RIT freshman defenseman since current Vancouver Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev put up 28 points in his lone season with the Tigers in 2009-10. Norris has 10 points (all assists) in his last seven games.
26-Caleb Cameron 20-Mark Golberg 19-Myles Powell
28-Brandon Thompson 14-Danny Smith 11-Andrew Miller
22-Garrett McMullen 17-Todd Skirving 15-Max Mikowski
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
3-Alexander Kuqali 10-Brady Norrish 40-Jordan Ruby Scoring offense: 3.13 GPG (13th)
Scoring defense: 2.39 GPG (T-24nd)
Power play: 14.5% (44th)
Penalty kill: 88.0% (5th)
8-Chase Norrish 12-Gregory Amlong 30-Mike Rotolo
18-Matt Abt 21-Michael Holland

NCAA East Regional Preview


Saturday: Boston College vs. Denver, 3 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)
Saturday: Providence vs. Miami, 6:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Sunday: Regional Final, 5 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)


Location: Oxford, Ohio
Record: 25-13-1 overall (14-9-1 NCHC, second)
Qualified: NCHC tournament champions
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 13th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Enrico Blasi
Key Players: Austin Czarnik, F, Sr., 39 GP, 9-34–43; Riley Barber, F, Jr., 38 GP, 20-20–40; Matthew Caito, D, Jr., 38 GP, 3-19–22; Jay Williams, G, Jr., 27 GP, 19-8-0, 1.89 GAA, .922 save pct.

What You Need To Know: With forward Blake Coleman (20 goals) suspended for Saturday and the status of forward Riley Barber (20 goals) in doubt after he was injured late in last weekend’s NCHC championship game win vs. St. Cloud State, Miami could face Providence without 32 percent of its goal production.

Burning Question: Seriously, how do the RedHawks get by Providence without Coleman and potentially Barber? In addition to sharing the team lead in goals, both have been on fire as of late. Coleman’s got eight goals and 13 points in his last six games; Barber’s got seven goals and 13 points in his last nine contests. Goals will be at a premium, especially against goalie Jon Gillies and the stingy Friars defense. It’ll be up to leading scorer Austin Czarnik to get others involved in the offense.

Most Recent Miami Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
95-Anthony Louis 7-Austin Czarnik 22-Kevin Morris With 167 points in 158 games, Austin Czarnik is the tournament’s active scoring leader. He’s three points ahead of Minnesota’s Kyle Rau and five points in front of Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner.
42-Conor Lemirande 26-Justin Greenberg 33-Andrew Schmit
14-Cody Murphy 25-Blake Coleman 11-Riley Barber
10-Alex Wideman 9-Sean Kuraly 12-Alex Gacek
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
58-Louie Belpido 8-Matthew Caito 1-Jay Williams Scoring offense: 3.21 GPG (12th)
Scoring defense: 2.38 GPG (T-22nd)
Power play: 19.8% (17th)
Penalty kill: 83.3% (T-27th)
5-Chris Joyaux 28-Ben Paulides 35-Ryan McKay
27-Scott Dornbrock 2-Taylor Richart


Location: Denver, Colo.
Record: 23-13-2 overall (13-10-1 NCHC, fourth)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Seven (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005)
NCAA Appearance: 25th (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Jim Montgomery
Key Players: Danton Heinen, F, Fr., 38 GP, 16-29–45; Trevor Moore, F, So., 37 GP, 21-21–42; Joey LaLeggia, D, Sr., 35 GP, 13-25–38; Tanner Jaillet, G, Fr., 25 GP, 14-7-0, 2.38 GAA, .917 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Pioneers eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the 14th straight season, the longest such streak in Division I hockey. North Dakota is second with 13 straight seasons of 20 wins or more.

Burning Question: Are we paying enough attention to the Pioneers? This team has all the ingredients to win a national championship—its best players (Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore, and Joey LaLeggia) come into the NCAA tournament playing their best hockey, a strong veteran presence with seven seniors in the lineup, and a very good defensive unit paced by LaLeggia, junior Nolan Zajac, and sophomore Will Butcher. If Denver gets steady play from the goaltending tandem of Tanner Jaillet and Evan Cowley, it could earn a trip back to Boston, site of its 2004 national title triumph.

Most Recent Denver Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
26-Evan Janssen 27-Quentin Shore 12-Ty Loney Forward Danton Heinen enters the weekend with 45 points, the most by a Pioneers freshman since Dave Shields scored 48 points in 1986-87.
8-Trevor Moore 19-Daniel Doremus 20-Danton Heinen
16-Zac Larraza 9-Gabe Levin 18-Emil Romig
14-Larkin Jacobson 25-Matt Tabrum 39-Grant Arnold
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
28-Adam Plant 4-Josiah Didier 36-Evan Cowley Scoring offense: 3.29 GPG (9th)
Scoring defense: 2.45 GPG (T-28th)
Power play: 21.6% (8th)
Penalty kill: 83.9% (25th)
21-Joey LaLeggia 11-Nolan Zajac 31-Tanner Jaillet
7-Will Butcher 6-Matt VanVoorhis


Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Record: 21-13-3 overall (12-7-3 Hockey East, tied for second)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Five (1949, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2012)
NCAA Appearance: 34th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Jerry York
Key Players: Alex Tuch, F, Fr., 36 GP, 14-14–28; Adam Gilmour, F, So., 37 GP, 9-17–26; Teddy Doherty, D, Jr., 37 GP, 6-17–23; Thatcher Demko, G, Jr., 34 GP, 19-12-3, 2.14 GAA, .927 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Eagles and Denver, their first-round opponent, played a two-game series at Magness Arena Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The two teams split, each winning a 2-1 decision. Ryan Fitzgerald scored two goals in the BC win; Danton Heinen scored both Denver goals in the Pioneers’ overtime victory.

Burning Question: Are the Eagles really going to rely on goaltending and defense? Boston College has scored 105 goals to date which, barring a national championship run, will be the team’s lowest output since its 96 goals in 1961-62. Fortunately, the Eagles can lean on goalie Thatcher Demko and the most talented defensive corps in college hockey, which includes one first-round NHL draft pick (Michael Matheson), two second-round selections (Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini), and a sure-fire first-rounder in the 2015 draft (Noah Hanifin). Goals may be at a premium for BC, but this year’s Eagles are built to win that way.

Most Recent Boston College Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
19-Ryan Fitzgerald 26-Austin Cangelosi 11-Chris Calnan Saturday’s game features two of the tournament’s highest-scoring defensive corps. BC’s blueliners have totaled 97 points this season (fifth among NCAA tourney teams); DU’s rearguards are tied for second with 111 points.
24-Zach Sanford 14-Adam Gilmour 12-Alex Tuch
27-Quinn Smith 18-Michael Sit 17-Destry Straight
15-Cam Spiro 21-Matthew Gaudreau 10-Danny Linell
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
5-Michael Matheson 6-Steve Santini 30-Thatcher Demko Scoring offense: 2.84 GPG (23rd)
Scoring defense: 2.32 GPG (15th)
Power play: 15.2% (T-39th)
Penalty kill: 86.9% (12th)
4-Teddy Doherty 2-Scott Savage 29-Brad Barone
7-Noah Hanifin 3-Ian McCoshen 1-Brian Billett


Location: Providence, R.I.
Record: 22-13-2 overall (13-8-1 Hockey East, tied for second)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 11th (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Nate Leaman
Key Players: Nick Saracino, F, Jr., 36 GP, 13-20–33; Trevor Mingoia, F, Jr., 36 GP, 13-14–27; Tom Parisi, D, Jr., 35 GP, 3-13–16; Jon Gillies, G, Jr., 31 GP, 20-13-2, 1.95 GAA, .931 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Providence is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in school history. The Friars made three trips to the national tournament between 1981-1985, but had a year off between each berth.

Burning Question: Can a baseball analogy work for the Friars? The strength of this Providence team is up the middle with goaltender Jon Gillies, one of the best in the country, and three very good centers in senior Ross Mauermann and juniors Noel Acciari and Mark Jankowski. And while they’re not explosive offensively, how many goals the Friars score is often secondary to when they score—Providence is 16-3-0 this season when it scores first. Taking a lead, holding on to it, and turning the game over to the closer in Gillies isn’t a bad strategy. 

Most Recent Providence Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
22-Brandon Tanev 24-Noel Acciari 18-Nick Saracino The Friars have scored a total of 17 goals in its 13 losses. Nine of Providence’s losses have been by one goal and four of them have come in overtime.
20-Shane Luke 14-Ross Mauermann 26-Brian Pinho
12-Stefan Demopoulos 10-Mark Jankowski 19-Trevor Mingoia
15-Steven McParland 21-Kevin Rooney 15-Brooks Behling
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
6-Tom Parisi 16-Anthony Florentino 32-Jon Gillies Scoring offense: 2.81 GPG (24th)
Scoring defense: 2.00 GPG (4th)
Power play: 14.7% (43rd)
Penalty kill: 86.0% (16th)
19-Jake Walman 3-John Gilmour 35-Nick Ellis
5-Kyle McKenzie 27-Josh Monk 1-Brendan Leahy

NCAA West Regional Preview


Friday: St. Cloud State vs. Michigan Tech, 4:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN3)
Friday: Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota, 8 p.m. ET(TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: Regional Final, 9 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)


Location: Grand Forks, N.D.
Record: 27-9-3 overall (16-6-2 NCHC, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Seven (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1997, 2000)
NCAA Appearance: 30th (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol
Key Players: Drake Caggiula, F, Jr., 39 GP, 16-17–33; Michael Parks, F, Sr., 39 GP, 12-20–32; Jordan Schmaltz, D, Jr., 39 GP, 4-23–27; Zane McIntyre, G, Jr., 39 GP, 27-9-3, 2.05 GAA, .929 save pct.

What You Need To Know: With two wins in Fargo this weekend, the criminally underappreciated Hakstol will take North Dakota to the Frozen Four for the seventh time in his 11 seasons as head coach.

Burning Question: Was the NCHC Frozen Faceoff an aberration? North Dakota didn’t look particularly sharp in last weekend’s losses to St. Cloud State and Denver, but we’re inclined to give a mulligan to a team whose last back-to-back losses occurred in November 2013. North Dakota misses injured forward Mark MacMillan and his team-high 16 goals; still, this is a team that whose total is greater than the sum of its parts. A very good defensive corps, goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist Zane McIntyre, and rabid, decidedly pro-NoDak crowd in Fargo make the top seed the prohibitive favorite in the West.

Most Recent North Dakota Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
9-Drake Caggiula 27-Luke Johnson 15-Michael Parks North Dakota hasn’t had its team scoring leader put up fewer than 39 points since the 1993-94 season, when Landon Wilson recorded 33 points for the WCHA’s last-place team.
28-Stephane Pattyn 8-Nick Schmaltz 3-Tucker Poolman
21-Brendan O’Donnell 13-Connor Gaarder 14-Austin Poganski
29-Bryn Chyzyk 10-Johnny Simonson 7-Wade Murphy
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
4-Keaton Thompson 24-Jordan Schmaltz 31-Zane McIntyre Scoring offense: 3.26 GPG (10th)
Scoring defense: 2.23 GPG (10th)
Power play: 19.6% (19th)
Penalty kill: 84.5% (24th)
5-Nick Mattson 6-Paul LaDue 33-Cam Johnson
20-Gage Ausmus 2-Troy Stecher


Location: Houghton, Mich.
Record: 29-9-2 overall (21-5-2 WCHA, second)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Three (1962, 1965, 1975)
NCAA Appearance: 11th (most recent, 1981)
Head Coach: Mel Pearson
Key Players: Tanner Kero, F, Sr., 40 GP, 19-26–45; Alex Petan, F, Jr., 40 GP, 15-24–39; Shane Hanna, D, So., 40 GP, 6-14–20; Jamie Phillips, G, Jr., 40 GP, 28-8-2, 1.71 GAA, .935 save pct.

What You Need To Know: American International, Army, Bentley, Connecticut, Dartmouth, Penn State, and Sacred Heart: They’re the only teams without an NCAA tournament appearance since the Huskies last received an invitation back in 1981. Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson was a senior forward on that team.

Burning Question: Are the Huskies just happy to be here? There’s likely a certain amount of relief among Keewenaw Peninsula hockey fans now that the NCAA tourney drought for the storied Tech program is over. That said, this is a really good team led by a terrific goaltender in junior Jamie Phillips and a talented group of forwards and there’s little doubt the Huskies would love exorcising a couple more demons by getting a chance to bounce former WCHA foes St. Cloud State and North Dakota from the field.

Most Recent Michigan Tech Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
14-Malcolm Gould 19-Blake Pietila 7-Reid Sturos Four Huskies have eclipsed the 100-point plateau for their careers: senior forwards David Johnstone, Tanner Kero, and Blake Pietila and junior forward Alex Petan.
9-Alex Gillies 10-Tanner Kero 23-Alex Petan
27-Tyler Heinonen 25-Mike Neville 15-David Johnstone
18-C.J Eick 8-Dylan Steman 20-Blake Hietala
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
2-Cliff Watson 17-Riley Sweeney 30-Jamie Phillips Scoring offense: 3.55 GPG (6th)
Scoring defense: 1.77 GPG (2nd)
Power play: 21.6% (7th)
Penalty kill: 85.4% (22nd)
22-Shane Hanna 3-Matt Roy 31-Devin Kero
12-Mark Auk 6-Chris Leibinger 35-Matt Wintjes


Location: St. Cloud, Minn.
Record: 19-18-1 overall (11-12-1 NCHC, sixth)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 11th (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Bob Motzko
Key Players: Joey Benik, F, Jr., 38 GP, 16-22–38; Jonny Brodzinski, F, Jr., 38 GP, 20-17–37; Ethan Prow, D, Jr., 33 GP, 4-18–22; Charlie Lindgren, G, So., 36 GP, 18-17-1, 2.26 GAA, .919 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Keep an eye on the statuses of junior forward Kalle Kossila and senior defenseman Andrew Prochno. Neither played in last weekend’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis due to injury.

Burning Question: How far can Charlie Lindgren take them? St. Cloud State played their way into the NCAA tournament by winning 10 of their last 16 games, during which the sophomore goaltender posted a 1.81 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. This edition of the Huskies isn’t as high scoring as those we’ve seen in the past; the potential absence of Prochno, SCSU’s best defenseman, puts even more of the burden on Lindgren.

Most Recent St. Cloud State Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
9-Joey Benik 13-David Morley 63-Patrick Russell The only player in this year’s NCAA tournament with more career goals than Jonny Brodzinski’s 63 is Minnesota’s Kyle Rau, who has 67. Rau, a senior, has played in 159 games while Brodzinski, a junior, has played in 118 games.
42-Blake Winiecki 22-Jonny Brodzinski 16-Jimmy Murphy
4-Ben Storm 37-Joe Rehkamp 17-Judd Peterson
18-Garrett Milan 27-Nick Oliver 21-Brooks Bertsch
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
7-Niklas Nevalainen 12-Ethan Prow 35-Charlie Lindgren Scoring offense: 2.76 GPG (T-26th)
Scoring defense: 2.39 GPG (T-24th)
Power play: 23.7% (5th)
Penalty kill: 80.0% (44th)
5-Nathan Widman 40-Tim Daly 45-Rasmus Reijola
26-Mika Ilvonen 2-Jarrod Rabey


Location: Hamden, Conn.
Record: 23-11-4 overall (16-3-3 ECAC Hockey, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Fourth (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Rand Pecknold
Key Players: Sam Anas, F, So., 37 GP, 23-16–39; Matthew Peca, F, Sr., 38 GP, 7-29–36; Justin Agosta, D, Sr., 38 GP, 3-19–22; Michael Gartieg, G, Jr., 35 GP, 22-9-3, 2.00 GAA, .918 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Bobcats’ senior class enters the NCAA tournament with 97 career wins. Only Minnesota (105), Boston College (104), and North Dakota (100) have more victories during that same span.

Burning Question: Can Quinnipiac survive the loss of sophomore forward Sam Anas? The Bobcats’ leader in goals (23) and points (39) suffered a leg injury in the deciding game of his team’s ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series win over Union; he didn’t dress for Quinnpiac’s loss to Harvard in last weekend’s league tournament semifinals and isn’t expected to play in Fargo. Anas had a strong second half —he registered 13 goals in his last 17 games and seven goals in the five games before he was hurt.

Most Recent Quinnipiac Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
18-Sore Jonzzon 20-Matthew Peca 16-Landon Smith Quinnipiac’s roster boasts three sets of brothers: Connor and Tim Clifton, Bo and Canon Pieper, and twins Jonah and Nathan Renouf.
8-Alex Barron 26-Travis St. Denis 19-Tanner MacMaster
39-Andrew Taverner 23-Tommy Schutt 17-K.J. Tiefenwerth
2-Brayden Sherbinin 11-Tim Clifton 24-Bo Pieper
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
22-Danny Federico 6-Devon Toews 34-Michael Garteig Scoring offense: 2.76 GPG (T-26th)
Scoring defense: 2.24 GPG (11th)
Power play: 19.6% (20th)
Penalty kill: 87.9% (6th)
4-Connor Clifton 27-Kevin McKernan 29-Sean Lawrence
14-Derek Smith 12-Justin Agosta 35-Jacob Meyers

NCAA Northeast Regional Preview


Friday: Yale vs. Boston University, 2 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Friday: Minnesota vs. Minnesota Duluth, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: Regional Final, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)


Location: Boston, Mass.
Record: 25-7-5 overall (14-5-3 Hockey East, first)
Qualified: Hockey East tournament champions
NCAA Championships: Five (1971, 1972, 1978, 1995, 2009)
NCAA Appearance: 33rd (most recent, 2012)
Head Coach: David Quinn
Key Players: Jack Eichel, F, Fr., 36 GP, 24-42–66; Evan Rodrigues, F, Sr., 37 GP, 18-39–57; Matt Grzelcyk, D, Jr., 37 GP, 10-26–36; Matt O’Connor, G, Jr., 31 GP, 22-3-4, 2.12 GAA, .928 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Since winning the school’s fifth national title in 2009, the Terriers have made just one NCAA tournament appearance. That was in 2012, when BU was bounced by Minnesota in the first round of the West Regional.

Burning Question: Can anyone stop Jack Eichel? The nation’s leading scorer averages 1.83 points per game and, remarkably, he’s been racking up points at an even better clip as the season has progressed—witness his 39 points in 20 games in 2015 and 26 points during his current 12-game scoring streak. But he’s managed just six points (all assists) in BU’s seven losses. Sure, the Terriers have dangerous players throughout the lineup—last year’s leading scorer, Robbie Baillargeon, is a third-line wing this season—but if you can’t corral Eichel, you can’t beat BU.

Most Recent Boston University Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
17-Evan Rodrigues 9-Jack Eichel 10-Danny O’Regan Further evidence of the Eichel Effect: Terriers forward Evan Rodrigues entered his senior year with 60 career points in 105 career games. He’s got 57 points in 37 games this season as Eichel’s linemate.
26-A.J. Greer 7-Cason Hohmann 2-Ahti Oksanen
13-Nikolas Olsson 21-Matt Lane 19-Robbie Baillargeon
12-Chase Phelps 11-Mike Moran 15-Nick Roberto
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
5-Matt Grzelcyk 16-John MacLeod 29-Matt O’Connor Scoring offense: 3.89 GPG (1st)
Scoring defense: 2.27 GPG (13th)
Power play: 28.2% (2nd)
Penalty kill: 83.3% (27th)
4-Brandon Hickey 25-Brandon Fortunato 30-Connor LaCouvee
27-Doyle Somerby 20-Brien Diffley 1-Anthony Moccia


Location: Duluth, Minn.
Record: 20-15-3 overall (12-9-3 NCHC, fifth)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: One (2011)
NCAA Appearance: Ninth (most recent, 2012)
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin
Key Players: Tony Cameranesi, F, Jr., 38 GP, 8-20–28; Dominic Toninato, F, So., 32 GP, 16-9–25; Andy Welinski, D, Jr., 38 GP, 9-11–20; Kasimir Kaskisuo, G, Fr., 34 GP, 17-13-3, 2.31 GAA, .915 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Bulldogs were 18-10-1, their high-water mark of the season, after beating St. Cloud State in Duluth on Feb. 13, then proceeded to go 2-5-2 the rest of the way.

Burning Question: Can UMD score enough goals? The Bulldogs have averaged just 2.0 goals per game during their recent 2-5-2 stretch; since Valentine’s Day, the team ranks tied for 42nd in the country in scoring offense. In the 29 games prior to Valentine’s Day, UMD had the nation’s 13th best scoring offense, averaging 3.14 goals per game. A return to form for forward Dominic Toninato, the team’s best player who has struggled since missing five February games with an injury, would boost the Bulldogs’ fortunes.

Note: Tip of the hat to all the UMD fans who pointed out that sophomore forward Alex Iafallo, the team’s third-leading scorer who hasn’t played in more than a month due to illness, is expected to be back on the Bulldogs’ top line Friday.

Most Recent Minnesota Duluth Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
8-Kyle Osterberg 19-Dominic Toninato 26-Adam Krause First-round foes UMD and Minnesota have played four games at four different sites this season: Notre Dame, Ind., in the Ice Breaker; Minneapolis; Duluth; and St. Paul, Minn., in the North Star College Cup.
11-Austin Farley 13-Tony Cameranesi 20-Karson Kuhlman
27-Cal Dekowski 22-Jared Thomas 25-Justin Crandall
24-Charlie Sampair 23-Austyn Young 3-Dan Molenaar
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
6-Derik Johnson 7-Andy Welinski 33-Kasimir Kaskisuo Scoring offense: 2.87 GPG (22nd)
Scoring defense: 2.45 GPG (T-28th)
Power play: 17.9% (27th)
Penalty kill: 81.9% (35th)
21-Carson Soucy 15-Willie Raskob 36-Matt McNeely
5-Willie Corrin 10-Brenden Kotyk


Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Record: 23-12-3 overall (12-5-3 Big Ten, first)
Qualified: Big Ten tournament champions
NCAA Championships: Five (1974, 1976, 1979, 2002, 2003)
NCAA Appearance: 36th (most recent, 2014)
Head Coach: Don Lucia
Key Players: Mike Reilly, D, Jr., 38 GP, 6-36–42; Kyle Rau, F, Sr., 38 GP, 20-21–41; Travis Boyd, F, Sr., 31 GP, 19-21–40;  Adam Wilcox, G, Jr., 37 GP, 22-11-3, 2.38 GAA, .913 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Gophers recovered from a 4-8-2 skid between Nov. 14 and Jan. 24 to post a 12-3-1 mark over its last 16 games.

Burning Question: Can the Gophs keep on keepin’ on? During its recent 16-game run that started with a Jan. 30 win at Wisconsin, Minnesota has averaged 4.06 goals per game, attempted an average of six more shots per game than its foes, has won more than 55 percent of its faceoff, and boasts a ridiculous power-play success rate of 32.1 percent. Figuring out the key to the Gophers’ success is almost too easy—they’re really, really good when they control the puck and, when they don’t, they’re not good.

Most Recent Minnesota Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
18-Leon Bristedt 7-Kyle Rau 24-Hudson Fasching With a team-high 42 points in 38 games, Mike Reilly has a chance to become the first defenseman to lead the Gophers in scoring since Mike Crowley in 1996-97.
11-Sam Warning 22-Travis Boyd 17-Seth Ambroz
13-Taylor Cammarata 25-Justin Kloos 19-Vinni Lettieri
15-A.J. Michaelson 26-Christian Isackson 3-Jack Glover
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
5-Mike Reilly 28-Jake Bischoff 32-Adam Wilcox Scoring offense: 3.58 GPG (5th)
Scoring defense: 2.47 GPG (31st)
Power play: 28.2% (1st)
Penalty kill: 79.4% (48th)
2-Brady Skjei 6-Ryan Collins 34-Nick Lehr
10-Ben Marshall 20-Michael Brodzinski


Location: New Haven, Conn.
Record: 18-9-5 overall (14-3-3 ECAC Hockey, third)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: One (2013)
NCAA Appearance: Seventh (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Keith Allain
Key Players: Frankie DiChiara, F, So., 32 GP, 8-13–21; Rob O’Gara, D, Jr., 32 GP, 6-15–21; Mike Doherty, F, So., 32 GP, 12-8–20; Alex Lyon, G, So., 31 GP, 17-9-5, 1.58 GAA, .939 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Sophomore forward Frankie DiChiara and junior defenseman Rob O’Gara share the team lead in scoring with 21 points. If one ranked all the players in this year’s NCAA tournament by points, DiChiara and O’Gara would be tied for 87th on that list.

Burning Question: Is there any possible way the Bulldogs can get past Boston University? No disrespect to Yale—and, yes, that improbable run to the 2013 national championship is still fresh in everyone’s minds—but this is a terrible matchup for them on paper. The Bulldogs were winless in the eight games this season in which they allow more than two goals and haven’t won when the opponent scores first. Any chance of an upset starts (and likely ends) with goaltender Alex Lyon, the country’s leader in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts (seven).

Most Recent Yale Line Chart
Left Wing Center Right Wing Notes
17-Frankie DiChiara 9-Carson Cooper 12-Cody Learned The Bulldogs have given up an NCAA-low 51 goals this season, and its nine power-play goals allowed is also tops in the country in that category.
28-Ryan Hitchcock 25-Chris Izmirlian 24-Mike Doherty
19-Anthony Day 7-Matt Killian 20-John Baiocco
11-Trent Ruffolo 6-Stu Wilson 21-John Hayden
Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
10-Mitch Witek 4-Rob O’Gara 34-Alex Lyon Scoring offense: 2.62 GPG (38th)
Scoring defense: 1.59 GPG (1st)
Power play: 17.5% (29th)
Penalty kill: 82.5% (2nd)
14-Ryan Obuchowski 18-Nate Repensky 29-Connor Wilson
22-Tommy Fallen 2-Adam Larkin 30-Patrick Spano

Conference Finals Preview

Equal parts desire and boredom compelled me to whip up the at-a-glanciest of previews for this weekend’s conference tournament action. Even if you disagree with everything written below, do me one favor: push the math majors to the side for a couple days and just enjoy what’s taking place on the ice. Life is for the living!

Blue Cross Arena | Rochester, N.Y. | TV: None

Friday: (5) Mercyhurst (18-15-4) vs. (1) Robert Morris (24-7-5), 5:05 p.m. ET
Friday: (3) RIT (17-14-5) vs. (2) Canisius (18-11-7), 8:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Championship game, 7:05 p.m. ET

action_rmu_wydoWho should win: Robert Morris. Though the Colonials, Canisius, and RIT have been on roughly the same arc since launching into league play in early January—all three teams have 12 wins since Jan. 9—Robert Morris has been the most consistent from day one.

Who will win: Robert Morris. Coach Derek Schooley’s team, led by Hobey Baker Award finalist Cody Wydo (pictured, right), ranked first in Atlantic Hockey in scoring offense, third in scoring defense, first in power-play success, and second in penalty killing. The Colonials will get past RIT and the Tigers’ terrific forward Matt Garbowsky, another Hobey finalist, in the title match en route to a second NCAA Tournament berth in as many seasons.

Joe Louis Arena | Detroit | TV: Big Ten Network

Friday: (5) Ohio State vs. (1) Minnesota (21-12-3), 4:30 p.m. ET
Friday: (3) Michigan vs. (2) Michigan State (17-15-2), 8 p.m. ET
Saturday: Championship game, 8 p.m. ET

Who should win: Minnesota. Unlike the rest of the Big Ten, the Gophers’ flaws appear to be primarily mental. Provided they show up in Detroit with the proper frame of mind, they’re the league’s most-balanced team.

Who will win: Minnesota. Whom do you trust to win two or three games in a row? Michigan might score seven goals one night, then allow seven the next. Michigan State goalie Jake Hildebrand was named B1G POY earlier this week but, in spite of his brilliance, the Spartans are 6-13-2 when allowing two or more goals. Think about that—in games in which its opponents put up a crooked number, MSU has a .333 winning percentage. That’s absurd. Do you like Spartans’ chances of keeping Michigan and (likely) Minnesota to zero or one goals on consecutive nights? Neither do I.

Herb Brooks Arena | Lake Placid, N.Y. | TV: Fox College Sports

Friday: (6) Harvard (19-12-3) vs. (1) Quinnipiac (23-10-4), 4:05 p.m. ET
Friday: (4) Colgate (21-11-4) vs. (2) St. Lawrence (20-13-3), 7:35 p.m. ET
Saturday: Championship game, 7:35 p.m. ET

Who should win: I … don’t …know. One can make a compelling case for each of the four teams. Quinnipiac, which pretty much coasted to the league’s regular-season title, has the best balance. St. Lawrence, led by freshman netminder Kyle Hanlon’s 1.66 GAA and .947 save percentage over the Saints’ last 15 games—SLU was 11-3-1 during that span—has the best goaltender. Colgate, unbeaten in its last seven games and 7-2-1 since Feb. 1, is peaking at the right time. Then there’s Harvard, which brings the most talent to Lake Placid.

Who will win: Colgate. Logic would most likely dictate Quinnipiac in this spot, I suppose, but the Raiders enter the weekend on a bit of a roll—not as hot as they were a year ago when an extraordinary second half propelled them to an ECAC Hockey championship game appearance and an NCAA Tournament bid, but pretty good nonetheless. We’re rolling the dice on the ‘gate.

TD Garden | Boston | TV: NESN and NBC Sports Network

Friday: (7) Vermont (22-14-4) vs. (4) UMass Lowell (20-11-6), 5:05 p.m. ET
Friday: (8) New Hampshire (19-18-2) vs. (1) Boston University (23-7-5), 8:05 p.m., ET
Saturday: Championship game, 7:05 p.m. ET

action_bu_eichelWho should win: Boston University. Take a look at the Terriers’ roster beyond Jack Eichel (pictured, right). A ton of talent and a good deal of experience would seem to be enough to allow BU to forge ahead, especially with probable NCAA Tournament teams Boston College and Providence bounced during last weekend’s quarterfinals.

Who will win: Boston University. UMass Lowell, the defending league postseason champion and the best bet to challenge the Terriers this weekend, pulled out of a month-long mid-winter skid to go 4-1-3 in its last seven games. The River Hawks have one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses and a solid goalie in Kevin Boyle; BU has the country’s most prolific offense and a better goalie in Matt O’Connor. Plus, you know, Jack Eichel.

Target Center | Minneapolis | TV: CBS Sports Network

Friday: (6) St. Cloud State (18-17-1) vs. (1) North Dakota (27-7-3), 5:05 p.m. ET
Friday: (4) Denver (22-12-2) vs. (2) Miami (23-13-1), 8:35 p.m. ET
Saturday: Third-place game, 4:35 p.m. ET (not televised)
Saturday: Championship game, 8:35 p.m. ET

Who should win: North Dakota. You’d expect the nation’s top-ranked team to come into this weekend with a chip on its collective shoulder after entering this tournament a year ago as a massive favorite only to flop in the semifinals against a sub-.500 Miami team.

Who will win: North Dakota. It won’t be easy—any time NoDak and St. Cloud State play it’s going to be a war, and Denver and Miami are both very good. But the hunch here is NoDak gets past the Huskies, who could be without key players Andrew Prochno (hand) and Kalle Kossila (upper body). Have to believe the winner of the Denver-Miami game (which, on paper, looks like the weekend’s best regardless of league) enters the the title match with less in its tank than North Dakota; that, plus goaltender Zane McIntyre, should be just enough to give NoDak the edge.

Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, Minn. | TV: Fox Sports North

Friday: (6) Ferris State (18-19-2) vs. (1) Minnesota State (27-7-3), 5:05 p.m. ET
Friday: (3) Bowling Green (23-10-3) vs. (2) Michigan Tech (28-8-2), 8:35 p.m. ET
Saturday: Championship game, 7:05 p.m. ET

action_mnk_lafontaineWho should win: Minnesota State. If North Dakota is the country’s most consistent team, the Mavericks are second on that list. Coach Mike Hastings’ squad is ridiculously deep, too; senior forward Jean-Paul Lafontaine (pictured, right), who enters the weekend with 127 points in 154 career games, ranks seventh on the team in scoring this season with 24 points in 33 games.

Who will win: Minnesota State. Picking top seeds to win five of the six league titles. Way to go out on a limb. Seriously, however, the Mavericks are, in this writer’s opinion, the nation’s best team. Ferris State and goalie C.J. Motte can be a dangerous semifinal matchup, but the Bulldogs won’t score enough to topple the Mavs. Michigan Tech is the sentimental favorite and, hey, they’re really good, too, with a 13-2-1 mark since Jan. 16, but the Mavericks—with all that scoring balance and stellar goaltending from Stephon Williams—are too good to be denied.

On Conference Realignment …

So I was hanging out on Twitter a couple weeks ago and asked followers to hit me up with any questions they might have. This was one of them:

It’s a legitimate question, one that couldn’t be adequately answered in 140 characters. I may not do much better using 20 times the characters here, but it’s worth a shot.

Even though we went through an entire round of realignment two years ago, programs that made a flip have a better idea how the current situation works for them. And I believe that, yes, the CCHA will come back in some form. It’s not that anyone is truly unhappy where they are right now.* But there’s going to a team or teams who think they can improve their situations by breaking away or, in the case of the CCHA, re-starting a league.

* Look, I’ve heard the rumblings about Notre Dame not being keen on Hockey East for a variety of reasons, but they’re a better institutional fit in Hockey East—that’s a big deal at Notre Dame—and they’ll draw better crowds against HEA foes than they would against opponents from, say, the NCHC.

Bowling Green and Ferris State landed in the WCHA after the CCHA dissolved two years ago.

If that happened, wouldn’t it make sense for nearby Ferris State to come on board? And might Atlantic Hockey members Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara and/or Robert Morris be open to flipping to a new-look CCHA, lured by the opportunity to offer 18 scholarships as opposed to the 14-scholarship limit imposed by their current league?Bowling Green owns the rights to the CCHA—at least that’s my understanding, and I don’t really know what that entails. That said, is it far-fetched to think Bowling Green, which according to this story from last November has an athletic department deficit of $11.4 million, wouldn’t explore rejuvenating the CCHA as a way to cut costs? Do you think Western Michigan, which the same article says has a $21.3 million athletic department shortfall, could be convinced to join based on finances?

That’s seven programs right there, enough for this imaginary league to get its playoff champion an automatic NCAA tournament bid. Getting to eight is easy, either by courting Lake Superior State or Miami.

Ah, the RedHawks, the wild card in this scenario. They’re one of the top dozen hockey programs in the country; getting them to commit a new CCHA would be a coup. Would Miami, owners of a $19.7 million athletic department deficit according to, join fellow MAC members Bowling Green and Western Michigan in a new league? Or do the RedHawks think leaving the powerful NCHC would be a disservice to the hockey program? For that matter, does Western Michigan feel the same way about a move out of Natty Ice?

Arizona State joins the college hockey mix in a couple of years. Where will the Sun Devils land and, if they end up in the NCHC, does it open the door for, say, Minnesota State as that league’s tenth member? Now that the Big Ten has added Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member for men’s lacrosse, maybe that cracks the door for that league to go outside of its boundaries in search of more teams.

This is all just speculation, but the hunch here is conference realignment in the next couple years is more than just possibility, but a probability.


Prior to just about every season at the old INCH site or here at INCH Writers, we’d roll out our rankings of every college team in the country called the Great 58 or the Great 58+1 depending on the number of programs. It was a fun, largely meaningless exercise. Oh, and people like lists.

As I was putting the list together for 2014-15, a problem arose. Slotting the first 10 or so teams was easy. So was ordering the bottom half dozen. The 40 in the middle, however, was a mess. I mean, I probably could’ve come up with a fairly reasonable ranking of all 59 teams, but I didn’t feel good about it.

Thankfully, INCH’s Joe Gladziszewski solved my problem. He said, “Do it like you do the regular-season rankings. Just list the ones you want and when you’re done, you’re done.”

Gladdy didn’t actually say that. He tweeted it to me. I’m embellishing to make the story a little better. This is not like Evgeni Malkin embellishing.

He’s right: just because one can create a top 15 or top 20 doesn’t mean that many teams are worthy of mention. The end result, therefore, is the first INCH Writers Preseason Top Whatever, where I rank the teams until I feel like no one else deserves to be rated.

1. Minnesota (28-6-7 in 2013-14, NCAA runner-up): Here’s the production the Golden Gophers lost from last season: 15 goals, 40 assists and 83 saves. For a team that returns six skaters who scored 10 or more goals last season, making up for the departed shouldn’t be an issue.

action_pc_gillies2. Providence (22-11-6, NCAA Tournament participant): With all but one forward back from last season, the Friars should improve on the 115 goals they scored in 2013-14. With junior Jon Gillies (pictured, right) and his 2.12 career GAA in goal, it isn’t a necessity.

3. Colgate (20-14-5, NCAA Tournament participant): Another veteran-laden squad, the Raiders were a surprise second-place finisher in ECAC Hockey last season. Of the 10 players reached double digits in points a year ago, nine of them are back. So, too, is goalie Charlie Finn.

4. Boston College (28-8-4, NCAA Frozen Four participant): No one, even the great Jerry York, loses four forwards who combined for nearly 500 career points without skipping a beat. It may take a bit for the Eagles to get up to speed, but I expect they’ll be buzzing come March.

5. North Dakota (25-14-3, NCAA Frozen Four participant): There are 14 NHL draft picks on the roster. Freshman forward Nick Schmaltz, a first-round selection of Chicago Blackhawks this past summer, is the most highly touted. Junior goalie Zane McIntyre, property of the Bruins, is the most important, however.

6. Minnesota State (26-14-1, NCAA Tournament participant): If forwards Zach Stepan and Teddy Blueger can improve to Matt Leitner/John-Paul Lafontaine levels of offensive output—and I think they can—the Mavericks will score a lot of goals this season.

7. Miami (15-20-3): Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m giving the RedHawks a mulligan for last year’s train wreck because they’ve got too much talent and Enrico Blasi is too good of a coach to let it happen again.

action_scs_prochno8. St. Cloud State (22-11-5, NCAA Tournament participant): The defending Natty Ice regular-season champions have to replace goalie Ryan Faragher. Whomever nabs the no. 1 job gets the benefit of having two terrific defensemen (senior Andrew Prochno, pictured, and junior Ethan Prow) on their side.

9. Union (32-6-4, NCAA champion): No Daniel Carr, no Mat Bodie, no Shayne Gostisbehere. Still, forwards Daniel Ciampini, Mike Vecchione, Max Novak and Mike Pontarelli combined for 62 goals last season and all ECAC Hockey First Team goalie Colin Stevens is back, too.

10. Ferris State (29-11-3, NCAA Tournament participant): Speaking of goalies, C.J. Motte is a good one. He’s back for his senior season—and he’s the Bulldogs’ captain to boot. Keep an eye on sophomore forward Kyle Schempp, who scored 10 goals and 15 assists in a promising rookie campaign.

Teams I thought about including but ultimately didn’t: Denver (20-16-6), Northeastern (19-14-4), Yale (17-11-5), Michigan (18-13-4)

NCAA West Regional Preview


Saturday: Robert Morris vs. Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: St. Cloud State vs. Notre Dame, 9 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Sunday: Regional Final, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)


Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Record: 25-6-6 overall (14-3-3 Big Ten, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Five (1974, 1976, 1979, 2002, 2003)
NCAA Appearance: 35th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Don Lucia
Key Players: Kyle Rau, F, Jr., 37 GP, 12-22–34; Sam Warning, F, Jr., 35 GP, 12-19–32; Mike Reilly, D, So., 37 GP, 8-21–29; Adam Wilcox, G, So., 34 GP, 23-5-6, 1.91 GAA, .933 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The top overall seed in the tournament is also one of the youngest teams in this year’s field. The average age of the Golden Gophers’ roster is 21.17 years; only Boston College (average age: 20.65 years) is younger.

Burning Question: Can Minnesota handle the scrutiny they’ll face in the wake of last year’s disappointing loss to Yale in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament? Getting to the regional final probably won’t be enough to satisfy Gopher fans. Minnesota is really good, but they’re also really young. The NCAA Tournament is a pressure cooker; playing in your backyard in front of thousands of your own fans expecting nothing less than a trip to the Frozen Four ratchets up that pressure.

Most Recent Minnesota Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
26-Nate Condon 25-Justin Kloos 13-Taylor Cammarata Freshmen have accounted for 51 of the Golden Gophers’ 126 goals (40.5%) this season. No team in the country has received more offensive production from its crop of newcomers.
11-Sam Warning 7-Kyle Rau 24-Hudson Fasching
14-Tom Serratore 22-Travis Boyd 17-Seth Ambroz
21-Connor Reilly 27-Gabe Guertler 19-Vinni Lettieri
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
28-Jake Bischoff 10-Ben Marshall 32-Adam Wilcox Scoring offense: 3.41 GPG (T-8th)
Scoring defense: 2.03 GPG (3rd)
Power play: 19.9% (18th)
Penalty kill: 82.5% (29th)
2-Brady Skjei 12-Justin Holl 1-Mike Shibrowski
5-Mike Reilly 6-Jake Parenteau


Location: Notre Dame, Ind.
Record: 23-14-2 overall (9-9-2 Hockey East, eighth)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Seventh (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Jeff Jackson
Key Players: T.J. Tynan, F, Sr., 39 GP, 8-29–37; Vince Hinostroza, F, Fr., 33 GP, 8-24–32; Stephen Johns, D, Sr., 39 GP, 8-12–20; Steven Summerhays, G, Sr., 37 GP, 21-13-2, 2.00 GAA, .925 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Notre Dame has just four power-play goals in 28 man-advantage opportunities over its last nine games for a 14.3 percent success rate, and the Irish have given up at least one power-play goal in six straight games.

Burning Question: You pretty much know what you’re going to get from Steven Summerhays, but will the Irish get enough goals for him? Notre Dame has scored a total of 21 goals in its 14 losses this season. Regardless of how good your goalie is–and Summerhays has been All-American good this season–averaging 1.5 goals per game in your losses isn’t leaving much margin for error.

Most Recent Notre Dame Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
12-Sam Herr 18-T.J. Tynan 21-Bryan Rust In 21 games since Jan. 1, the Herr-Tynan-Rust line has combined to score 22 goals and 33 assists.
11-Jeff Costello 26-Steven Fogarty 15-Peter Schneider
22-Mario Lucia 13-Vince Hinostroza 27-Austin Wuthrich
14-Thomas DiPauli 10-David Gerths 16-Mike Voran
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
25-Kevin Lind 28-Stephen Johns 1-Steven Summerhays Scoring offense: 3.00 GPG (22nd)
Scoring defense: 2.10 GPG (5th)
Power play: 18.3% (26th)
Penalty kill: 84.2% (15th)
3-Shayne Taker 6-Andy Ryan 31-Joe Rogers
23-Eric Johnson 29-Jared Beers 33-Chad Katunar


Location: St. Cloud, Minn.
Record: 21-10-5 overall (15-6-3 NCHC, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 10th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Bob Motzko
Key Players: Nic Dowd, F, Sr., 36 GP, 21-18–39; Jonny Brodzinski, F, So., 36 GP, 20-19–39; Kevin Gravel, D, Sr., 36 GP, 10-13–23; Ryan Faragher, G, Jr., 33 GP, 19-8-4, 2.76 GAA, .906 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Despite losing 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc and high-scoring forward Ben Hanowski, the Huskies have 132 goals through 36 games this season. That’s 13 more than SCSU scored through 36 games last season.

Burning Question: Which Ryan Faragher will show up? Will it be the one who started the year with a 10-1-1 mark, a 1.91 GAA, and a .927 save percentage? Or will it be the one who’s allowing nearly 3.3 goals per game while stopping less than 90 percent of the shots he’s faced since mid-December? Notre Dame’s offense has improved significantly over the last month, so we’ll likely know the answer soon.

Most Recent St. Cloud State Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
16-Jimmy Murphy 26-Nic Dowd 13-David Morley How do you keep your penalty-killing unit, the eighth-worst in the country, from getting exposed? By taking an average of 8.2 penalty minutes per game, the fourth-fewest in the nation.
10-Ryan Papa 11-Kalle Kossila 22-Johnny Brodzinski
9-Joey Benik 8-Cory Thorson 21-Brooks Bertsch
27-Nick Oliver 37-Joe Rehkamp 6-Daniel Tedesco
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
7-Kevin Gravel 40-Tim Daly 29-Ryan Faragher Scoring offense: 3.67 GPG (3rd)
Scoring defense: 2.78 GPG (31st)
Power play: 25.5% (3rd)
Penalty kill: 76.9% (52nd)
15-Niklas Nevalainen 12-Ethan Prow 35-Charlie Lindgren
19-Ben Storm 2-Jarrod Rabey 45-Rasmus Reijola


Location: Moon Township, Pa.
Record: 19-17-5 overall (13-9-5 Atlantic Hockey, fifth)
Qualified: Atlantic Hockey tournament champion
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: First
Head Coach: Derek Schooley
Key Players: Cody Wydo, F, Jr., 41 GP, 30-22–52; Zac Lynch, F, So., 41 GP, 18-27–45; Tyson Wilson, D, Jr., 40 GP, 3-16–19; Dalton Izyk, G, Fr., 10 GP, 5-1-0, 2.73 GAA, .922 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Colonials are one of two teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament whose roster doesn’t feature at least one NHL draft pick. Ferris State is the other.

Burning Question: How does Robert Morris pull off an upset of Minnesota? As we saw in Grand Rapids last year and Grand Forks in 2006, it can happen. And while it’s unlikely to occur at the X this time around, all bets are off if newly christened starting goalie Dalton Izyk stays hot and the Colonials jump out to an early lead, causing a pro-Golden Gopher contingent in St. Paul to become restless.

Most Recent Robert Morris Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
23-Cody Wydo 19-Scott Jacklin 27-Zac Lynch Wydo, the team’s leading scorer, has at least one point in 16 of his team’s last 18 games. During that stretch, he’s scored 15 goals and 29 points.
11-Jeff Jones 9-David Friedmann 7-Colin South
28-Matt Cope 16-Greg Gibson 44-Brandon Denham
24-Jay Llewelyn 14-David Rigatti 22-Ben Robillard
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
2-Evan Renwick 4-Chase Golightly 31-Dalton Izyk Scoring offense: 3.46 GPG (6th)
Scoring defense: 3.00 GPG (40th)
Power play: 17.2% (32nd)
Penalty kill: 76.2% (53rd)
5-Evan Moore 33-Andrew Blazek 30-Brandon Lane
10-Tyson Wilson 3-John Rey

NCAA East Regional Preview


Friday: Vermont vs. Union, 2 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Friday: Providence vs. Quinnipiac, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: Regional Final, 3 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)


Location: Schenectady, N.Y.
28-6-4 overall (18-3-1 ECAC Hockey, first)
ECAC Hockey tournament champion
NCAA Championships:
NCAA Appearance:
Fourth (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach:
Rick Bennett
Key Players:
Daniel Carr, F, Sr., 35 GP, 22-23–45; Daniel Ciampini, F, Jr., 37 GP, 19-16–35; Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Jr., 38 GP, 8-21–29; Colin Stevens, G, Jr., 32 GP, 24-4-2, 1.96 GAA, .931 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Bennett is Union’s current head coach, but he’s not the only East Regional bench boss to man the helm in Schenectady. Providence’s Nate Leaman guided the Dutchmen from 2003-11 and Vermont’s Kevin Sneddon was Union’s pilot from 1998-2003.

Burning Question: Does Union need to change a thing? As long as the Dutchmen keep on keepin’ on, it’s hard to see them failing to advance to Philadelphia in two weeks. No team in the country is playing better than Union is right now and while that may not make them the favorite to win the NCAA title, it certainly makes them the clear-cut choice in this region.

Most Recent Union Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
9-Daniel Carr 21-Mike Vecchione 17-Daniel Ciampini Carr enters the NCAAs with an eight-game point streak during which he’s scored nine goals and added six assists. He’s recorded 11-10–21 in his last 13 games.
23-Cole Ikkala 11-Sam Coatta 7-Michael Pontarelli
15-Matt Hatch 18-Max Novak 16-Kevin Sullivan
19-Matt Wilkins 12-Eli Lichtenwald 8-Nick Cruice
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
22-Matt Bodie 24-Sebastien Gingrasi 30-Colin Stevens Scoring offense: 3.68 GPG (2nd)
Scoring defense: 2.08 GPG (4th)
Power play: 21.4% (11th)
Penalty kill: 82.3% (31st)
14-Shayne Gostisbehere 2-Jeff Taylor 31-Dillon Pieri
28-Noah Henry 6-Charlie Vasaturo  1-A. Sakellaropoulos


Location: Providence, R.I.
21-10-6 overall (11-7-2 Hockey East, third)
At-large bid
NCAA Championships:
NCAA Appearance:
10th (most recent, 2001)
Head Coach:
Nate Leaman
Key Players:
Ross Mauermann, F, Jr., 37 GP, 19-15–34; Nick Saracino, F, So., 37 GP, 9-17–26; John Gilmour, D, So., 37 GP, 5-13–18; Jon Gillies, G, So., 32 GP, 18-8-5, 2.20 GAA, .929 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Since the Friars’ last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001, every other Hockey East team has made at least one trip to the national playoffs.

Burning Question: Can Jon Gillies channel his inner Chris Terreri? It’s been nearly three decades since Terreri turned in one of the greatest performances in NCAA Tournament history, carrying a lightly regarded Providence team to the brink of a national championship. For the Friars to get to Philly, they’ll need a similar effort from Gillies, the college game’s most talented goalie.

Most Recent Providence Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
22-Brandon Tanev 24-Noel Acciari 19-Derek Army Mauermann, the Friars’ leading scorer, has just one point in his last nine games–a goal in a conference playoff quarterfinal win vs. Maine on March 15.
12-Stefan Demopoulos 10-Mark Jankowski 9-Trevor Mingoia
18-Nick Saracino 14-Ross Mauermann 20-Shane Luke
15-Steven McParland 21-Kevin Rooney 7-Drew Brown
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
5-Kyle McKenzie 28-Steven Shamanski 32-Jon Gillies Scoring offense: 2.97 GPG (23rd)
Scoring defense: 2.30 GPG (10th)
Power play: 13.9% (53rd)
Penalty kill: 87.0% (3rd)
3-John Gilmour 2-Kevin Hart 35-Nick Ellis
6-Tom Parisi 16-Anthony Florentino 31-Brendan Leahy


Location: Hamden, Conn.
24-9-6 overall (12-6-4 ECAC Hockey, third)
At-large bid
NCAA Championships:
NCAA Appearance:
Third (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach:
Rand Pecknold
Key Players: 
Sam Anas, F, Fr., 39 GP, 22-21–43; Kellen Jones, F, Sr., 39 GP, 18-24–42; Zach Tolkinen, D, Sr., 35 GP, 3-19–22; Michael Garteig, G, So., 39 GP, 24-9-6, 1.89 GAA, .912 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Bobcats are one of two teams (Boston College is the other) to rank among the top 10 nationally in the four major statistical categories: scoring offense, scoring defense, power-play success rate, and penalty-killing percentage.

Burning Question: Will Quinnipiac try to win the title all at once? A bit of a vague concept–think of it as trying to hit a five-run home in baseball. After playing for the national championship last season, one wonders if the Bobcats will be hyper-focused on getting another crack at the title this time around. As long as they don’t press, the Bobcats pose the most serious threat to Union in the East.

Most Recent Quinnipiac Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
7-Trevor Moore 10-Connor Jones 15-Kellen Jones Connor Jones has at least one point in 12 of the Bobcats’ last 14 games. He’s scored 8-7–15 during that stretch.
12-Bryce Van Brabant 6-Cory Hibbeler 19-J. Samuels-Thomas
26-Travis St. Denis 20-Matt Peca 11-Tim Clifton
2-Brayden Sherbinin 18-Soren Jonzzon 23-Tommy Schutt
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
27-Zach Tolkinen 4-Connor Clifton 34-Michael Garteig Scoring offense: 3.62 GPG (4th)
Scoring defense: 1.97 GPG (2nd)
Power play: 22.7% (6th)
Penalty kill: 90.1% (2nd)
22-Danny Federico 14-Derek Smith 31-Adam Cowley
5-Devon Toews 8-Alex Barron


Location: Burlington, Vt.
20-14-3 overall (10-10-0 Hockey East, tied for seventh)
At-large bid
NCAA Championships: 
NCAA Appearance: 
Sixth (most recent, 2010)
Head Coach: 
Kevin Sneddon
Key Players: 
Chris McCarthy, F, Sr., 37 GP, 16-24–40; Mario Puskarich, F, Fr., 36 GP, 19-16–35; Michael Paliotta, D, Jr., 37 GP, 5-22–27; Brody Hoffman, G, So., 19 GP, 10-7-1, 2.01 GAA, .927 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Catamounts enter the regional with 3-10-1 record against teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament field and 17-4-2 mark against non-qualifiers.

Burning Question: Does Vermont have a chance against Union? On paper, the odds are pretty slim. The Catamounts struggle to score; among tournament teams, only Denver averages fewer goals per game, and UVM’s power play ranks 44th in the nation. Unless goalie Brody Hoffman turns in a Tim Thomas-esque performance–with his play, not his political ramblings–the Catamounts’ NCAA Tournament experience will be brief.

Most Recent Vermont Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
20-Brendan Bradley 3-Chris McCarthy 21-Mario Puskarich Hoffman and Santaguida have each played 19 games in goal, but Hoffman has started the Catamounts’ last eight contests. He’s posted a 1.85 GAA and a .936 save percentage during that span.
22-Brady Shaw 17-Jake Fallon 6-Colin Markison
23-Connor Brickley 19-Matt White 14-Anthony DeCenzo
11-H.T. Lenz 8-Jonathan Turk 16-Pete Massar
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
25-Nick Luukko 4-Nick Bruneteau 37-Brody Hoffman Scoring offense: 2.78 GPG (33rd)
Scoring defense: 2.27 GPG (T-8th)
Power play: 15.7% (44th)
Penalty kill: 85.8% (7th)
5-Rob Hamilton 2-Michael Paliotta 1-Mike Santaguida
26-Caylen Walls 15-Yvan Pattyn