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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