INCH WRITERS RANKINGS: THE PRESEASON TOP WHATEVER

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

ST. PAUL, MINN. | XCEL ENERGY CENTER
SATURDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 29-30

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)

NO. 1 SEED MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

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

NO. 2 SEED NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

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

NO. 3 SEED ST. CLOUD STATE HUSKIES

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

NO. 4 SEED ROBERT MORRIS COLONIALS

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

BRIDGEPORT, CONN. | WEBSTER BANK ARENA
FRIDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 28-29

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)

NO. 1 SEED UNION DUTCHMEN

Location: Schenectady, N.Y.
Record:
28-6-4 overall (18-3-1 ECAC Hockey, first)
Qualified:
ECAC Hockey tournament champion
NCAA Championships:
None
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

NO. 2 SEED PROVIDENCE FRIARS

Location: Providence, R.I.
Record:
21-10-6 overall (11-7-2 Hockey East, third)
Qualified:
At-large bid
NCAA Championships:
None
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

NO. 3 QUINNIPIAC BOBCATS

Location: Hamden, Conn.
Record:
24-9-6 overall (12-6-4 ECAC Hockey, third)
Qualified:
At-large bid
NCAA Championships:
None
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

NO. 4 SEED VERMONT CATAMOUNTS

Location: Burlington, Vt.
Record: 
20-14-3 overall (10-10-0 Hockey East, tied for seventh)
Qualified: 
At-large bid
NCAA Championships: 
None
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

NCAA Midwest Regional Preview

CINCINNATI, OHIO | US BANK ARENA
FRIDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 28-29

Friday: Colgate vs. Ferris State, 4:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN3)
Friday: North Dakota vs. Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Saturday: Regional Final, 6:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)

NO. 1 SEED WISCONSIN BADGERS

Location: Madison, Wis.
Record: 24-10-2 overall (13-6-1 Big Ten, second)
Qualified: Big Ten tournament champion
NCAA Championships: Six (1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990, 2006)
NCAA Appearance: 25th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Mike Eaves
Key Players: Mark Zengerle, F, Sr., 36 GP, 10-33–43; Michael Mersch, F, Sr., 36 GP, 22-13–35; Jake McCabe, D, Jr., 35 GP, 8-17–25; Joel Rumpel, G, Jr., 28 GP, 21-5-1, 2.03 GAA, .930 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Badgers have been an NCAA Tournament no. 1 seed on seven previous occasions. In all but one of those years, Wisconsin advanced to the Frozen Four.

Burning Question: Will Wisconsin experience a senior moment in 2014? No team in the tournament field has gotten more from its fourth-year players, who’ve scored 63 of the team’s 118 goals in 2013-14. With nine seniors gone after this season and early departures (Kerdiles? McCabe? Rumpel?) a distinct possibility, is there a sense this is the Badgers’ best chance at an NCAA title with a rebuild on the horizon?

Most Recent Wisconsin Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
17-Nic Kerdiles 8-Mark Zengerle 7-Tyler Barnes Zengerle, who won MVP honors in last weekend’s Big Ten tournament, enters regional play with a nine-game point streak during which he’s scored six goals and 12 assists.
15-Morgan Zulinick 14-Jefferson Dahl 25-Michael Mersch
21-Grant Besse 16-Joseph LaBate 18-Sean Little
26-Brad Navin 12-Keegan Meuer 22-Jedd Soleway
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
19-Jake McCabe 24-Joe Faust 33-Joel Rumpel Scoring offense: 3.28 GPG (11th)
Scoring defense: 2.50 GPG (18th)
Power play: 19.0% (24th)
Penalty kill: 84.6% (12th)
28-Kevin Schulze 27-Frankie Simonelli 33-Landon Peterson
20-Eddie Wittchow 5-Chase Drake

NO. 2 SEED FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS

Location: Big Rapids, Mich.
Record: 28-10-3 overall (20-6-2 Hockey East, second)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Third (most recent, 2012)
Head Coach: Bob Daniels
Key Players: Garrett Thompson, F, Sr., 41 GP, 16-16–32; Justin Buzzeo, F, Jr., 40 GP, 14-18–32; Scott Czarnowczan, D, Sr., 39 GP, 6-19–25; C.J. Motte, G, Jr., 38 GP, 27-8-3, 2.25 GAA, .926 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Bulldogs split a season-opening series with Colgate in Hamiliton and later lost to the Raiders in January when the two met in Minneapolis as part of the Mariucci Classic.

Burning Question: Can the Bulldogs get the first goal, and then to three? Ferris State is 5-8-2 this season when scoring two or fewer goals and 23-2-1 when notching three or more goals. Couple that with the Bulldogs’ proclivity for playing with the lead–a 20-1-0 record when leading after one period and a 21-0-1 mark when up after two–and you’ve got Ferris’ recipe for success.

Most Recent Ferris State Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
18-Andy Huff 8-Cory Kane 20-Gerald Mayhew Kane, the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer, has scored eight of his 13 goals and 19 of his with 30 points in his team’s last 14 games.
21-Justin Buzzeo 17-Jared VanWormer 16-Garrett Thompson
22-Matt Robertson 11-Kenny Babinski 9-Chad McDonald
25-Sean O’Rourke 6-Kyle Schempp 28-Seth Adams
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
2-Scott Czarnowczan 3-Travis White 30-C.J. Motte Scoring offense: 3.32 GPG (10th)
Scoring defense: 2.24 GPG (T-6th)
Power play: 17.1% (35th)
Penalty kill: 86.5% (6th)
23-Brandon Anselmini 7-Jason Binkley 29-Charles Williams
4-Zach Dorer 10-Ryan Lowney 31-Trace Pennock

NO. 3 SEED COLGATE RAIDERS

Location: Hamilton, N.Y.
Record: 
20-13-5 overall (13-6-3 ECAC Hockey, second)
Qualified: 
At-large bid
NCAA Championships: 
None
NCAA Appearance: 
Fifth (most recent, 2005)
Head Coach: 
Don Vaughn
Key Players: 
Tyson Spink, F, So., 38 GP, 10-23–33; Darcy Murphy, F, So., 38 GP, 19-9–28; Spiro Goulakos, D, Jr., 38 GP, 9-11–20; Charlie Finn, G, Fr., 28 GP, 16-7-4, 2.40 GAA, .916 save pct.

What You Need To Know: Coffee is for closers–and Colgate. After posing a 3-11-2 mark down the stretch to end the 2012-13 campaign, the Raiders ended this season with a 13-4-3 record this year.

Burning Question: Are the Raiders ready for prime time? Outside of forward Mike McCann and backup goalie Eric Mihalik, the rest of the Colgate lineup has at least one year of eligibility remaining. Perhaps this NCAA trip will serve as a launching pad to future success not unlike Union’s national tournament debut in 2011.

Most Recent Colgate Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
15-Darcy Murphy 21-Mike Borkowski 13-Dan Gentzler The Raiders’ sophomore class has accounted for 69 of the team’s 108 goals; Colgate’s top five scorers are all second-year players.
8-Tyson Spink 18-Tylor Spink 12-Kyle Baun
25-Joe Wilson 26-Andrew Black 19-Mike McCann
17-Emilio Audi 14-John Lidgett 27-Tim Harrison
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
20-Brett Corkey 4-Kevin Lough 1-Charlie Finn Scoring offense: 2.84 GPG (30th)
Scoring defense: 2.71 GPG (29th)
Power play: 17.6% (30th)
Penalty kill: 82.6% (27th)
3-Brendan Corcoran 7-Ryan Johnston 29-Eric Mihalik
11-Jake Kulevich 6-Spiro Goulakos

NO. 4 SEED NORTH DAKOTA

Location: Grand Forks, N.D.
Record:
23-13-3 overall (15-9-0 NCHC, second)
Qualified:
At-large bid
NCAA Championships:
Seven (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000)
NCAA Appearance:
29th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach:
Dave Hakstol
Key Players: 
Rocco Grimaldi, F, So., 39 GP, 14-22–36; Michael Parks, F, Jr., 39 GP, 11-17–28; Dillon Simpson, D, Sr., 39 GP, 7-15–22; Zane Gothberg, G, So., 30 GP, 18-9-3, 2.05 GAA, .923 save pct.

What You Need To Know: North Dakota is making its 12th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the longest active streak in Division I hockey.

Burning Question: Is North Dakota’s March mediocrity just a hiccup? Dave Hakstol’s team has been sensational over the last three-plus months, posting an 18-6-1 mark since Dec. 1. But NoDak is just 4-4-0 in its last eight games. Which sample size is more indicative of the team’s current state? With a very good Wisconsin team awaiting in the first round, we’ll know the answer soon.

Most Recent North Dakota Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
9-Drake Caggiula 16-Mark MacMillan 15-Michael Parks Grimaldi’s 36 points are the fewest to lead North Dakota since 1993-94, when Landon Wilson paced the team with 33 points in Gino Gasparini’s final season behind the bench in Grand Forks.
28-Stephane Pattyn 19-Rocco Grimaldi 27-Luke Johnson
21-Brendan O’Donnell 13-Connor Gaarder 11-Derek Rodwell
25-Mitch MacMillan 29-Bryn Chyzyk 17-Colten St. Clair
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
18-Dillon Simpson 24-Jordan Schmaltz 31-Zane Gothberg Scoring offense: 3.05 GPG (T-20th)
Scoring defense: 2.49 GPG (17th)
Power play: 17.9% (28th)
Penalty kill: 83.1% (T-21st)
5-Nick Mattson 6-Paul LaDue 33-Clarke Saunders
4-Keaton Thompson 2-Troy Stecher

NCAA Northeast Regional Preview

WORCESTER, MASS. | DCU CENTER
SATURDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 29-30

Saturday: Denver vs. Boston College, 4 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)
Saturday: Minnesota State vs. UMass Lowell, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN3) Sunday: Regional Final, 5 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)

NO. 1 SEED BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Record: 26-7-4 overall (16-2-2 Hockey East, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: Five (1949, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2012)
NCAA Appearance: 33rd (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Jerry York
Key Players: Johnny Gaudreau, F, Jr., 37 GP, 32-37–69; Kevin Hayes, F, Sr., 37 GP 24-32–56; Mike Matheson, D, So., 35 GP, 3-14–17; Thatcher Demko, G, Fr., 21 GP, 14-4-3, 2.13 GAA, .921 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Eagles are 2-3-0 against Notre Dame this season and 24-4-4 against everyone else.

Burning Question: Coach Jerry York has guided Boston College to three national championships in the last six seasons by getting his team to peak at precisely the right time. Notre Dame proved the Eagles to be slightly mortal by beating them three times in four tries in March. Was it just a case of BC running into a red-hot opponent that matched up really well with them, or did the Eagles prematurely reach their apex?

Most Recent Boston College Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
13-Johnny Gaudreau 24-Bill Arnold 12-Kevin Hayes Gaudreau, the leading candidate for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award, scored at least one point in all but two of the Eagles’ games this season and had a 31-game point streak snapped in BC’s 4-2 loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago.
27-Quinn Smith 18-Michael Sit 10-Dan Linell
19-Ryan Fitzgerald 23-Pat Brown 26-Austin Cangelosi
11-Chris Calnan 14-Adam Gilmour 9-Brendan Silk
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
7-Isaac MacLeod 6-Steve Santini 30-Thatcher Demko Scoring offense: 4.05 GPG (1st)
Scoring defense: 2.27 GPG (T-8th)
Power play: 24.4% (5th)
Penalty kill: 90.5% (1st)
28-Scott Savage 5-Mike Matheson 1-Brian Billett
3-Ian McCoshen 4-Ted Doherty 30-Brad Barone

NO. 2 SEED UMASS LOWELL RIVER HAWKS

Location: Lowell, Mass.
Record: 25-10-4 overall (11-6-3 Hockey East, second)
Qualified: Hockey East tournament champion
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Sixth (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Norm Bazin
Key Players: Joe Pendenza, F, Sr., 39 GP, 13-16–29; Adam Chapie, F, So., 36 GP, 12-11–23; Christian Folin, D, So., 39 GP, 6-13–19; Connor Hellebuyck, G, So., 27 GP, 17-8-2, 1.73 GAA, .936 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The River Hawks have scored a total of 17 goals in their 10 losses (1.7 goals per game) and 94 goals in their other 29 games (3.24 goals per game.)

Burning Question: UMass Lowell doesn’t score a ton, but with sophomore Connor Hellebuyck in goal, it’s not a necessity. That said, the River Hawks draw high-scoring Minnesota State in the opening round and could face Boston College, the nation’s best offense, in the regional final. Can the country’s top defensive team stay in shut-down mode, or will the River Hawks need to outscore an opponent in order to advance?

Most Recent UMass Lowell Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
18-A.J. White 14-Joe Pendenza 12-Josh Holmstrom Sophomore F Adam Chapie, the team’s second-leading scorer, has missed UML’s last three games with an undisclosed injury. He also leads the River Hawks in power-play goals (5) and game-winning goals (5).
10-Ryan McGrath 24-Michael Colantone 29-Derek Arnold
7-Shayne Thompson 5-Joe Gambardella 9-Terrence Wallin
23-Scott Wilson 20-Michael Fallon 8-Evan Campbell
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
4-Joe Houk 27-Zack Kamrass 36-C. Hellebuyck Scoring offense: 2.85 GPG (29th)
Scoring defense: 1.85 GPG (1st)
Power play: 21.1% (12th)
Penalty kill: 81.3% (39th)
26-Christian Folin 3-Mike Kapla 31-Doug Carr
25-Dylan Zink 28-Jake Suter 30-Brian Robbins

NO. 3 SEED MINNESOTA STATE MAVERICKS

Location: Mankato, Minn.
Record: 26-13-1 overall (20-7-1 WCHA, second)
Qualified: WCHA tournament champion
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Third (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Mike Hastings
Key Players: Matt Leitner, F, Jr., 38 GP, 12-32–44; Jean-Paul Lafontaine, F, Jr., 40 GP, 20-20–40; Zach Palmquist, D, Jr., 40 GP, 4-19–23; Cole Huggins, G, Fr., 33 GP, 21-7-1, 1.91 GAA, .924 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Mavericks are the oldest team in this year’s tournament field with an average age of 22.61 years.

Burning Question: Minnesota State hasn’t lost since Jan. 31 when it dropped a 5-2 decision. In the 13 ensuing games the Mavericks went 12-0-1, outscoring its foes by a 50-16 margin. However, all but two of those wins came against teams with sub-.500 records. Will the Mavericks’ dominance over weaker competition during the latter third of the season hurt them in Worcester?

Most Recent Minnesota State Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
21-Chase Grant 18-Matt Leitner 9-Bryce Gervais McInnis (21 goals) and Lafontaine (20 goals) are the first Mavs duo to score 20+ goals in a season since Shane Joseph (29) and Grant Stevenson (27) did it back in 2002-03.
25-Zach Stepan 23-Teddy Blueger 22-Johnny McInnis
12-J-P Lafontaine 26-Dylan Margonari 19-Zach Lehrke
24-Brett Knowles 20-M. Huntebrinker 8-Max Gaede
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
27-Brett Stern 7-Zach Palmquist 34-Cole Huggins Scoring offense: 3.23 GPG (12th)
Scoring defense: 2.33 GPG (12th)
Power play: 25.3% (4th)
Penalty kill: 86.7% (4th)
28-Jon Jutzi 6-Casey Nelson 35-Stephon Williams
11-Sean Flanagan 3-Blake Thompson

NO. 4 SEED DENVER PIONEERS

Location: Denver, Colo.
Record: 20-15-6 overall (10-11-3 NCHC, sixth)
Qualified: NCHC tournament champions
NCAA Championships: Seven (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005)
NCAA Appearance: 24th (most recent, 2013)
Head Coach: Jim Montgomery
Key Players: Trevor Moore, F, Fr., 41 GP, 13-18–31; Ty Loney, F, Jr., 41 GP, 11-14–25; Joey LaLeggia, D, Jr., 36 GP, 12-11–23; Sam Brittain, G, Sr., 38 GP, 19-13-6, 2.11 GAA, .932 save pct.

What You Need To Know: The Pioneers enter the tournament with a season-high, four-game winning streak. Prior to that, Denver had won three games in a row on one occasion.

Burning Question: Denver’s success likely hinges on veteran goalie Sam Brittain, not just for his leadership but also his play; The Pioneers are the lowest-scoring team in the tournament field, averaging just 2.68 goals per game. Can Brittain keep foes at bay long enough for his offensively challenged teammates to find the back of the net?

Most Recent Denver Line Chart
 Left Wing Center  Right Wing Notes
8-Trevor Moore 19-Daniel Doremus 12-Ty Loney The Pioneers have more freshmen on their roster (11) than any other team in the NCAA Tournament field. Incidentally, Boston College, DU’s first-round opponent, has 10 rookies on its roster.
16-Zac Larazza 9-Gabe Levin 18-Emil Romig
14-Larkin Jacobson 25-Matt Tabrum 39-Grant Arnold
26-Evan Janssen 23-Matt Marcinew 27-Quentin Shore
 Defense Defense Goalies Team Statistics (NCAA Rank)
7-Will Butcher 10-David Makowski 1-Sam Brittain Scoring offense: 2.68 GPG (36th)
Scoring defense: 2.24 GPG (T-6th)
Power play: 20.4% (15th)
Penalty kill: 86.5% (5th)
21-Joey LaLeggia 11-Nolan Zajac 31-Adam Cowley
6-Matt VanVoorhis 4-Josiah Didier

INCH Writers Big Ten Conference Preview

The Big Ten tournament poses a bit of a different challenge for five of the six teams competing in St. Paul—it’s the first postseason foray for Penn State. The remaining teams are accustomed to easing into the league playoffs with a best-of-three series. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly easing into the postseason, but it wasn’t a one-and-done like the B1G tourney. There was a little margin for error, room for one flat performance. Not this time.

Thurs., March 20 | Quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.: (5) Michigan State vs. (4) Ohio State; (6) Penn State vs. (3) Michigan.
Fri., March 21 | Semifinals at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.: Penn State or Michigan vs. (2) Wisconsin; Michigan State or Ohio State vs. (1) Minnesota.
Sat., March 22 | Finals at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

In the NCAAs: Minnesota, Wisconsin.
Probably in: None.
Need help: Michigan.

action_minn_wilcoxKeep an eye on: Michigan. Yeah, all six teams are playing for the league’s postseason title, but Michigan has the most to gain (or lose) this weekend in St. Paul. Barring wholesale upsets in other league tournaments, the Wolverines should qualify for the NCAA tournament with just one win. Therein lies the rub—Michigan and Penn State, the Wolverines’ opening-round opponent, split their regular-season series. Michigan has a tendency this season to play to the level of its opponent; how will they respond against the Nittany Lions?

The pick: Minnesota. It’s hard to envision this tournament not boiling down to a Minnesota-Wisconsin final—the Gophers and Badgers have been the class of the Big Ten from the start. The season series between the two was a draw at two wins apiece with each team defending its home ice, so they’re quite evenly matched. That said, Minnesota’s just a little deeper offensively and just a little better in goal.

INCH Writers Conference Playoff Preview

Anyone else feel thrown for a loop this month because of the calendar? I suppose it’s because there are five full weekends in March, because it seems like we should be prepping for conference finals this weekend and tuning in to the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday. But, no, it’s league tournament quarterfinal weekend for everyone except for the Big Ten, where they’re still playing regular-season games.

We’ll take a glance at the Big Ten tournament next week. Front and center now are the playoffs in Atlantic Hockey, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East, the NCHC, and the WCHA. By the way, here’s your link to tournaments results for all six leagues.

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INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

It’s the last weekend of the regular season, or the second-to-last weekend, or the third-to-last weekend depending on the conference. What does that have to do with this installment of the INCH Top Whatever? Nothing, other than providing a convenient
lead-in to our list of the top teams in the country.

action_bc_hayes1. Boston College (25-4-4/16-1-2 Hockey East): Obscure statistics are kinda my thing. Here’s one I dubbed dagger goals: BC forward Kevin Hayes (pictured, right) has five goals this season in the first minute or last minute of a period or overtime when the Eagles and their opponent are tied.

2. Minnesota (21-4-5/10-2-2 Big Ten): The key to beating the Gophers may be sticking with them through the game’s first 20 minutes. Minnesota is 7-4-4 this season when tied or trailing after one period; they’re 14-0-1 otherwise.

3. Union (22-6-4/16-3-1 ECAC Hockey): How close are the Dutch to being unbeaten this season? Five of their six losses are of one-goal variety; the sixth, a 5-3 defeat to Colgate, featured an empty net goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.

4. Ferris State (23-7-3/18-4-2 WCHA): The Bulldogs are averaging nearly a full goal per game more at home (55 goals in 14 games for an average of 3.93 goals per game) than on the road (50 goals in 17 games, an average of 2.94 goals per game.)

action_scs_prochno5. St. Cloud State (18-7-5/12-5-3 NCHC): Defenseman Andrew Prochno (pictured, right) will miss this weekend’s critical series with North Dakota, a critical loss for the Huskies. The junior is among Natty Ice’s leaders in defensemen scoring (19 points) and plus-minus rating (+17).

6. Wisconsin (19-9-2/10-5-1 Big Ten): Joel Rumpel is challenging Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand for the title of best goaltender in the Big Ten. In seven February starts, Rumpel is 5-1-1 with a 1.42 GAA and a .954 save percentage.

7. North Dakota (18-9-3/13-7-0 NCHC): NoDak is 13-2-1 since its Nov. 29 loss to St. Lawrence. During that 16-game stretch, goalie Zane Gothberg is 11-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

8. UMass Lowell (20-8-4/10-5-3 Hockey East): The River Hawks are 9-0-2 in Hockey East play when leading after one period and 1-5-1 when trailing or tied after the first 20 minutes.

9. Quinnipiac (21-8-5/11-6-3 ECAC Hockey): Spent some time poking around for an interesting note on the Bobcats. Can’t really find anything. That’s not really on me, is it?

10. Northeastern (18-10-4/10-6-2 Hockey East): Forwards Braden Pimm (18 goals) and Kevin Roy (17 goals) have a chance to become the first Huskies’ duo to score 20 or more goals in a season since J.F. Aube and Jordan Shields did it in 1994-95.

11. Colgate (16-11-5/12-5-3 ECAC Hockey): BC’s Thatcher Demko is the highest-profile freshman goalie in the country, but how about a nod to the Raiders’ Charlie Finn? Since Jan. 1, he’s 9-1-3 with a 1.89 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

action_mnk_lafontaine12. Minnesota State (19-13-0/17-7-0 WCHA): The Mavericks (that’s leading scorer Jean-Paul Lafontaine pictured on the right) are one of three teams currently ranked among the top 18 nationally in scoring offense, scoring defense, power-play success rate, and penalty-killing percentage. Boston College and Quinnipiac are the others.

13. Cornell (14-7-5/10-6-4 ECAC Hockey): Cornell’s a good team, but this statistic sort of runs counter to that reality: The Big Red is 11-3-5 in games decided by two or fewer goals and 3-4-0 in games decided by three or more goals. So more often than not when Cornell loses, they really get shellacked.

From the Crease: Scrivens Seizes the Spotlight

I can’t really explain what it was that made me fire up the video stream of last night’s Edmonton Oilers/San Jose Sharks game, but I’m glad I did, even if it meant a limited amount of sleep for those of us out East. If you don’t live in a hockey black hole, by now you know about Edmonton’s Ben Scrivens 59-save performance in a 3-0 win over the Sharks.

1391062001000-01-29-2014-Ben-Scrivens

I got to know Scrivens pretty well during his time at Cornell when I was serving as that school’s hockey SID, and the public persona that he displays in interviews is the real thing. Anyone who’s worked in hockey knows players who are very different when the cameras are turned off. That’s not Ben, and that’s why it’s so great to see him getting his moment in the spotlight.

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Union’s Bennett Deserves Lengthy Suspension

If you watch WTEN/WXXA-TV photographer Justin Andrews’s YouTube video of the aftermath of Saturday’s Union-Rensselaer game at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., there’s a moment around the 48-second mark where Union coach Rick Bennett, while being restrained by officials, attempts to throw a punch at RPI coach Seth Appert.

Full disclosure: I’ve known Appert since we both worked at Denver in the late 1990s and consider him a friend. That relationship does not factor into this discussion, however.

Based on the clip, however, it appears Bennett’s fist connects with the helmet of Milos Bubela, an RPI player trying to keep the coaches separated.

Tossing a haymaker at an opposing player, one would assume, was not Bennett’s intent. But it sure looks like that’s what happened. If that’s the case, Bennett needs to be severely punished.

Look, I didn’t see the game. I don’t know what transpired leading up to that final faceoff and the ensuing chaos. I’m not absolving others involved in the fracas for their transgressions. They, too, should be punished.

That said, rule no. 1 for people of authority—coaches, officials, and the like—in amateur sports is never, ever get physical with a student-athlete from another team. What Bennett did wasn’t as egregious as ex-Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes slugging a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl, but it happened. And as Ohio State president Harold Enarson said the following day at a press conference announcing Hayes’ dismissal, “There isn’t a university or athletic conference in this country that would permit a coach to physically assault a college athlete.”

Sunday, Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin suspended Bennett for the team’s next two games. He’s still allowed to run practices during the week. There’s also the chance ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell could discipline Bennett. There’s also a chance—a pretty good one, in fact—that it won’t be enough.

So what constitutes an appropriate punishment? Should Bennett be fired? Without talking to anyone involved in the melee, I’m fairly confident he wasn’t trying to slug Bubela. I could give Bennett the benefit of the doubt, but zero-tolerance types could make a pretty strong case for his ouster.

Putting intent aside, however, this sure looks like a case of a coach making physical contact with an opposing player.

That just can’t happen—ever. Bennett must be suspended for the rest of this season.