Friday, March 26, 2010
2010 NCAA Hockey Tournament Regional Preview -- Part 1
Posted at 8:00am -- 3/26/2010
2010 NCAA Hockey Tournament Regional Preview
WHAT: The NCAA Hockey Tournament first and second-round action
WHEN: Friday 3/26, Saturday 3/27 and Sunday 3/28
WHERE: Four Regional Sites: West (St.Paul, MN.) Midwest (Ft.Wayne, IN.) East (Albany, NY)
Northeast (Worcester, MA)
TV: ESPN holds all broadcasting rights to the NCAA hockey championships. Games will be on ESPNU or via web on ESPN 360/tape delayed to ESPNU. Some games could be locally syndicated (Comcast 900 for instance)
What’s At Stake:
Sixteen teams are vying for the opportunity to advance to the Frozen Four held at Ford Field in Detroit this season. Here is a look at each regional and specifically the Midwest Regional that Michigan will be participating in.
#1 Denver (WCHA) vs. #4 Rochester Institute of Technology (Atlantic Hockey Association) 3 PM 3/26
#2 Cornell (ECACHL) vs. #3 New Hampshire (Hockey East Association) 6:30 PM 3/26
Regional Final 6:30 PM 3/27
Shared the #1 rank all season with Miami. Won the WCHA regular season title, but went 0-2 in the WCHA tournament, losing to North Dakota and Wisconsin. First back-to-back losses all season. Denver is led by Hobey Baker candidate Rhett Rakhshani and Hobey Baker Finalist (goaltender) Marc Cheverie. The Pioneers roll a deep scoring lineup and a mobile defense. Denver is seeking its eighth national title, with the last one in 2005.
CORNELL (21-8-4 )
Cornell is arguably one of the biggest and most physical teams in the tournament. The Big Red won the ECAC tournament title after finishing second to Yale in the regular season. Most of the Big Red’s success is due to Hobey Baker candidate, goaltender Ben Scrivens, who has posted three straight shutouts in the ECAC tournament. Cornell boasts one of the top power plays in the country, and also ranks as one of the stingiest defense in the country. They have already beaten UNH once this season, and have the luxury of playing close to home.
NEW HAMPSHIRE (17-13-7)
UNH was the HEA’s regular season title winner. They are led by Hockey East’s player of the year, Bobby Butler and by senior goaltender Brian Foster. They play a quick transition style and have the offensive depth up front to make it successful. Most of their wins occurred in league play, though. They only have a 3-7-4 mark against other teams in the tournament, and no wins against teams outside of Hockey East. They have also struggled on the road this season, posting a 7-9-2 away record.
RIT is making its first NCAA Division I tourney appearance after being a powerhouse Division III program. The Tigers took both the Atlantic Hockey regular season and playoff titles and hold the nation’s longest winning streak at ten games. The Tigers are led by senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel and have an experienced squad with their youngest player being 20 years of age. The Tigers play a solid, vanilla style and showed no significant inconsistencies this season, except for the fact that they did not beat any other team outside of their conference.
Prediction: Denver over RIT and Cornell over UNH. Cornell upsets Denver to advance to Detroit.
#1 Boston College (HEA) vs. #4 Alaska Nanooks (CCHA) 1:30 PM 3/27
#2 North Dakota (WCHA) vs. #3 Yale (ECACHL) 5:00 PM 3/27
Regional Final 5:30 PM 3/28
BOSTON COLLEGE (25-10-3)
BC finished second during the regular season and won the HEA tournament title with a wild 7-6 OT game against Maine. They probably have the deepest offensive lineup in the tournament with seven double-digit scorers and the seven players from their 2008 national championship team. BC can also lock it down defensively as long as their experienced junior goaltender (John Muse) can regain the same form he flashed during the 2008 championship run. BC is not big, and could get pushed around, but is extremely fast and uses this speed to relentlessly backcheck, forecheck and transition from defense to offense.
NORTH DAKOTA (25-12-5)
The seven-time NCAA champion is stocked, locked and loaded for another run and is fresh off of their WCHA tourney title win-driving through Denver and SCSU to do it. The Fighting Sioux, tied for fourth in what is arguably the deepest conference in the country, is the hottest team in the nation right now. UND has won 12 of their past 13 games and are peaking offensively. The Fighting Sioux are led on the ice by senior Chris VandeVelde, sophomore Jason Gregoire, and freshman phenom Danny Kristo. Goaltender Brad Eidsness is streaky and could be the weakest link in the Sioux chain.
The Bulldogs are an unknown quantity of sorts outside of their two top guns, junior Broc Little (26-14-40) and 21 goal scorer Sean Backman, who unfortunately will miss the tourney due to injury. Yale typically is successful by utilizing their speed and forcing quick transition into offense. They press on both ends of the ice, clog passing lanes and do not allow many shots on goal. They will need to play extremely well defensively to advance in this regional.
This is the Nanooks’ first NCAA tourney appearance and first by an Alaskan school since 1992. Their mode of operation is typically a suffocating defensive style, then pray for enough offense by committee to win. This season, though, they boast the CCHA Rookie of the Year Andy Taranto and also offensive leader senior Dion Knelsen. Goaltender Scott Greenham is big and mobile and has the capability of shutting down any foe. He will be tested in this regional. UA will need to win the special teams’ battle and stay within their system to advance.
Prediction: BC defeats Alaska, UND upends Yale. North Dakota upsets BC to advance to Detroit.
#1 Wisconsin (WCHA) vs. #4 Vermont (HEA) 5:30 pm 3/26
#2 St. Cloud State (WCHA) vs. #3 Northern Michigan (CCHA) 9:00 pm 3/26
Regional Final 9:00 pm 3/27
This is most likely the most talented and deepest team in the field, especially on the blue line. Like Michigan, the Badgers have 11 NHL draft choices on their roster, although their leading scorer and goaltender are undrafted. Wisconsin is led by senior Michael Davies, junior defenseman Brendan Smith, junior Blake Geoffrion, and goaltender Scott Gudmandson. Eight players on the roster have 20 or more points, with seven players having scored more than 10 goals. Wisconsin has firepower to spare and is dangerous on the power play. Their downside is usually engaging with other high scoring teams in an open run and gun fashion or falling behind to solid defensive teams. Even with the offense to come back, it is difficult in a one and done tourney like this to give other teams too many chances. One other note- SCSU has had the Badgers number this season, with Wisconsin losing to the Huskies three times, including the WCHA tourney semi-finals.
ST. CLOUD STATE (23-15-5)
The Huskies finished third in the WCHA and were the tournament runner ups, losing to North Dakota in the final. They have an experienced team up front led by junior Garrett Roe, senior Ryan Lasch and senior defenseman Garrett Raboin. Goaltending has been a question mark at times, with the duties shared between freshman Mike Lee and junior Dan Dunn. If the Huskies best players disappear, so will the team’s chances this weekend. One of the biggest problems for SCSU this season has been penalty killing which ranks 40th in the country at 80%, the worst of any of the 16 teams in the tournament. Both NMU and Wisconsin have potent PP’s, so this is one area that may hurt the Huskies. SCSU has yet to win a NCAA tournament game in its history and will be looking to break that spell now that St. Cloud has an appearance in the cozy confines of its home state.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN (20-12-8)
The Wildcats enjoyed a fine season finishing fourth in the CCHA, and advanced to the CCHA tournament championship game before losing to Michigan. Still, since mid January, NMU is 10-2-2 rolling into the NCAA tournament. Both of those losses were to the Wolverines. The Cats are led by CCHA player of the year junior Mark Olver, junior Gregor Hanson, and defenseman (junior) Erik Gustafsson. Senior goaltender Brian Stewart also holds one of the best save percentages in the conference at .927 and is money when his team stakes him to a lead. NMU rolls three solid lines with the first two lines as good as any in the country. They are well coached, solid defensively and have good special teams. They have a tendency of taking too many penalties, though and that is dangerous in this regional. NMU has one national championship to its credit, in 1991, while in the WCHA.
Perhaps the weakest at-large team selected in the field, the Catamounts probably made the tournament over Minnesota Duluth and Ferris State based on the strength of their out of conference record and HEA tourney sweep of UNH. Vermont finished 8th in the HEA, but ironically only finished three points out of 3rd. This team suffered heavy graduation losses from the Frozen Four team of a year ago, and the offensive production is living proof of this year’s shortcomings. Still, the Catamounts have received productive help from seniors Brayden Irwin, Colin Vock and Brian Roloff. Goaltending chores are handled by sophomore Rob Madore, who is being promoted as one of the best in college hockey. Vermont depends on a big, experienced, rugged and talented defensive corps that focuses on shutting down opponents rather than relying on offense to win games. The special teams are not special either, as the Catamount PP is 45th nationally (15th versus other teams in the tournament) at 16%. Madore and co. will have to win 1-0 or 2-1 to advance.
Prediction: Wisconsin over Vermont and SCSU over NMU. Wisconsin beats SCSU to advance to Detroit.
Tomorrow the Midwest Regional and Michigan Preview
Written by Yostmeister
Go Blue -- Wear Maize!