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 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.

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 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

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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