NCAA Midwest Regional Preview

NOTRE DAME, IND. | COMPTON FAMILY ICE ARENA
SATURDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 28-29

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)

NO. 1 SEED MINNESOTA STATE MAVERICKS

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

NO. 2 SEED NEBRASKA OMAHA MAVERICKS

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

NO. 3 SEED HARVARD CRIMSON

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

NO. 4 SEED RIT TIGERS

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
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NCAA East Regional Preview

PROVIDENCE, R.I. | DUNKIN’ DONUTS CENTER
SATURDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 28-29

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)

NO. 1 SEED MIAMI REDHAWKS

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

NO. 2 SEED DENVER PIONEERS

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

NO. 3 SEED BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

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

NO. 4 SEED PROVIDENCE FRIARS

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

FARGO, N.D. | SCHEELS ARENA
FRIDAY-
SATURDAY, MARCH 27-28

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)

NO. 1 SEED NORTH DAKOTA

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

NO. 2 SEED MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES

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

NO. 3 SEED ST. CLOUD STATE HUSKIES

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

NO. 4 SEED QUINNIPIAC BOBCATS

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

MANCHESTER, N.H. | VERIZON WIRELESS CENTER
FRIDAY-
SATURDAY, MARCH 27-28

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)

NO. 1 SEED BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS

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

NO. 2 MINNESOTA DULUTH BULLDOGS

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

NO. 3 SEED MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

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

NO. 4 YALE BULLDOGS

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!

ATLANTIC HOCKEY
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.

BIG TEN
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.

ECAC HOCKEY
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.

HOCKEY EAST
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.

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE HOCKEY CONFERENCE
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.

WCHA
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.