THE FROZEN FOUR….A View From Center Ice

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Here’s a quick look at the teams competing in the Frozen Four in Boston April 9, 2015 to April 11, 2-015. Teams are reviewed in alphabetical order:

 

BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS 

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Record: 27-7-5 (1st in Hockey East)

Record vs Final 16: 5-3

PP: 25.6%  PK: 83.1%  GPG: 3.85 GAPG: 2.26

Final Pairwise: #3

Top Players:

Jack Eichel  (F/ FR)  38-24-43-67 |  +49

Evan Rodriques (F/ SR) 39-21-40-61 |  +30

Danny O’Regan (F/ JR) 39-22-26-48 |  +40

Matt Grezelcyk (D/JR) 39-10-27-37 |  +32

Ahti Oksanen (F/D/JR) 38-24-11-35 |  +17

Matt O’Connor (G/ JR) 33-24-3-4 | 2.10 GAA  | .928 SV%

What got the Terriers to the Frozen Four: 3-2 OT Win over Yale; 3-2 Win over Minnesota-Duluth

Featuring the two top scorers in college hockey, the Terriers have been averaging 3.85 GPG, the tops in the country. Jack Eichel, the presumed favorite for the Hobey Baker Award and top two pick in this years NHL draft has amassed 67 points this season on 24 goals and 43 assists. However,  the offense doesn’t stop there. Senior forward Evan Rodriques has compiled 61 points on 21 goals and 40 assists and Danny O’Regan has added 48 points including 22 goals. Every aspect of the offense has been solid including the power play humming along at 25.6%, average GPG of 3.85 and average shots per game at 36. Despite the gaudy offensive numbers, coach David Quinn pushes a strong defense and in combination with strong goaltending from Junior Matt O’Connor this team has been stingy allowing only 2.26 GPG.  O’Connor’s 2.10 GAA and .928 SV% rank him as one of the top netminders in college hockey. The corps of defenseman is young but is led by Junior Matt Grzelcyk who’s added 37 points and is +32. Ahti Oksanen has had an outstanding season alternating from defense to forward and tying Eichel for the team lead with 24 goals. There’s few weaknesses on this years Terrier squad unless you consider youth as a weakness. They’ve been one of college hockey’s top teams all season and it’s appropriate they’ve made it to the Frozen Four. The Terriers are certainly a favorite to win it all.  

 

 

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE FRIARS

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Record: 24-13-2 (2nd in Hockey East)

Record vs Final 16: 4-3-1

PP: 15.2%  PK: 85.9%  GPG: 2.95 GAPG: 2.05

Final Pairwise: #14t

Top Players:

Nick Saracino (F/JR) 38-13-22-35 | +12

Shane Luke (F/SR) 39-13-18-31 | +12

Noel Acciari  (F/JR) 39-14-16-30 | +21

Trevor Mingoia  (F/JR) 38-14-15-29 | +8

Ross Mauermann (F/SR) 39-11-14-25 | +4

Mark Jankowski  (F/JR) 35-6-!8-24 | +5

Jon Gillies (G/JR) 37-24-13-2 | 2.01 GAA | .929 SV%

What got the Friars to the Frozen Four: 7-5 Win over Miami; 4-1 Win over Denver

The other Hockey East squad to make the Frozen Four, the Friars have not been to the show since 1985. Coach Nate Leaman has been the architect in the ascension of the Providence program and has them in the Frozen Four just four years after taking the helms as head coach. Prior to Providence, he was the head coach at Union College and was instrumental in much of the recruiting that yielded a national championship for that school last year. The Friars are an in your face, physical team with a  game plan that was effective against both Miami and Denver in the NCAA East Regional. Considering 9 of the Friars 13 losses were by one goal it’s obvious you can expect to be in a 60 minute battle with this squad. Although they have some quality scorers in Noel Acciari and Nick Saracino, their strength starts with their goaltender Jon Gillies .929 SV % and 2.01 GAA. Calgary first round draft choice  Mark Jankowski is a 6’3″ physical force on the ice and will be a factor this weekend. He’s underperformed in the goal scoring department but there’s no question he can dictate play and is a key to the Friars battles in the trenches. Senior forward Ross Mauermann is another key player that will be relied upon due to his experience and he has that ability to be involved in crucial goals. Providence is scoring 2.95 GPG but more importantly only allowing 2.01 GPG. The power play  is effective but won’t blow you away at 15.6%. However, the PK has been effective at 85.9%.   

 

 

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA – OMAHA MAVERICKS

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Record: 20-12-6 (3d in NCHC)

Record vs Final 16: 10-9-3

PP: 19.6 %  PK: 83.5%  GPG: 2.74  GAPG: 2.26

Final Pairwise: #8

Top Players:

Jake Guentzel (F/SO) 35-13-25-38 | +9

Austin Ortega  (F/SO) 38-20-17-37 | +8

Jake Randolph (F/FR) 38-5-21-26 | +8

Tyler Vesel  (F/FR) 38-8-14-22 | +9

Justin Parizek (F/SO) 37-13-8-21 | +10

Avery Peterson (F/FR) 38-11-10-21 | +1

Ryan Massa (G/SR) 28-14-7-6 |1.92 GAA | .939 SV %

What got the Mavericks to the Frozen Four: 4-1 Win over Harvard; 4-0 Win over RIT

The Mavericks are making their first trip to the Frozen Four. It could be said they had the easiest route to Boston but you still have to win and they did so with two three-goal wins in the Midwest Region. This is not a team that powered its way through their schedule over the last two months of the season. As a matter of fact, they’ve compiled an unimpressive record of  4-5-3 since February 1 and only picked up two conference wins during that period. The second youngest team in the tourney, it’ll be interesting to see how the youngsters respond under the pressure of the Frozen Four. It’s been a challenge for their offense over the last two months of the season and they enter the tourney with the lowest GPG of all four teams. Goaltender Ryan Massa has been outstanding this season and leads the nation in save percentage at .939. Sophomore Austin Ortega has been a clutch scorer all season and has a nation’s leading 11 GWG and 20 goals on the season. A quality group of defenseman led by sophomore Ian Brady can be effective but again, overall are a young group and will be under pressure in game one by the aggressive forecheck of the Providence Friars. With the top seven scorers for Omaha being underclassmen, they’ll live or die by the ability of the youth to perform on Thursday. Dean Blais has the coaching experience. The key is whether that experience can be translated to performance on the ice by his young squad.   

 

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA

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Record: 29-9-3 (1st in NCHC)

Record vs Final 16: 13-8-3

PP: 19.6%  PK: 84.8%  GPG: 3.29  GAPG: 2.17

Final Pairwise: #2

Top Players:

Drake Caggiula (F/JR)  41-18-18-36 | +12

Michael Parks (F/SR)  41-12-20-32 | +13

Jordan Schmalz (D/JR) 41-4-23-27 | +12

Nick Schmalz (F/FR) 37-5-21-26 | +4

Luke Johnson (F/SO) 41-10-13-23 | +11

Paul LaDue (D/SO) 40-5-17-22 | +8

Zane McIntyre (G/JR) 41-29-9-3 | 2.00 GAA | .931

What got North Dakota to the Frozen Four: 4-1 Win over Quinnipiac; 4-1 Win over St. Cloud State

North Dakota is making their 21st appearance in the Frozen Four since 1958 and 7th appearance in the past decade under coach Hakstol. They’ve been one of the top teams in college hockey all season but have had adjustments to make since losing top goal scorer Mark MacMillan in late February. Since that time, their record is 5-3 and they put forth an uninspiring performance in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center in Minneapolis losing both games by scores of 3-1/5-1. They rebounded in front of a highly partisan crowd on their home turf in the West Regional two weeks ago to punch their ticket to the Frozen Four. Without argument, this team will go as far as goaltender Zane McIntyre can take them. However, on Thursday, there will be legions of red in the seats at the TD Garden in Boston and the partisan crowd should favor their Hockey East opponent. North Dakota is solid across the board in both offensive and defensive categories. And, their experience should be to their advantage. They can be susceptible defensively but when you have McIntyre to cover your backside it’ll cover up mistakes. Junior forward Drake Caggiula has been outstanding for UND this season with 18 goals including 5 GWG. Philadelphia draft choice Michael Parks has been a key performer as well adding 4 GWG. Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz is as good as it gets in college hockey with 27 points and a plus/minus of +12.  The matchup in game one with Boston University should be outstanding.

My Predictions:

Game 1: Providence College Friars vs University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks

This game will be an interesting contrast of styles. Omaha would prefer a run and gun game but it just isn’t going to happen when facing the Providence Friars. Providence bottled up both Miami and Denver of the NCHC in the East Regional and both can be physical teams in their own right. Providence will pressure the DE corps of Omaha and look for turnovers. Look for Mark Jankowski of Providence to be a big factor in this game on the forecheck. Experience and the crowd will be to the advantage of the Friars on Thursday. Omaha will have to try to open up the ice and they’ll need a super performance by Ryan Massa. They’ll also need physical play out of forward Dominic Zombo and they have the nations top clutch goal scorer in Austin Ortega. When all is said and done I expect Providence to dictate play and prevent  Omaha from opening up their offense. It’ll be a frustrating afternoon for the Mavericks as even if they can get some offensive opportunities going they still have to beat Gillies and that isn’t an easy task. This game should be a two-goal win for the Friars.

Game 2: University of North Dakota vs Boston University Terriers

This should be an outstanding matchup. Boston University should benefit from a partisan crowd, something UND used to their advantage in the West Regional. North Dakota will have to figure out a way to slow down an incredibly potent offense led by Jack Eichel. However, even if they are able to shut out Eichel, the UND defense will still have to deal with Rodrigues, Oksanan and O’Regan – not an easy task at all. North Dakota’s experience will have the advantage over the youngest squad in the tourney. Cagguila, Schmalz and McIntyre will have to lead from their respective positions for UND. The play in front of McIntyre will be the key for North Dakota in this game. Boston University averages 36 SOG per game. Unless they can keep that average down it’s going to be mighty difficult to slow down the offensive assault of the Terriers. Discipline will also be a key for North Dakota. The Terriers power play is at almost 26% and it’ll be lights out for UND if they allow too many man-advantage opportunities. North Dakota will have to fight off the partisan crowd and score early and see if they can get the young Boston University squad to start second guessing itself. There’s no doubt this will be a tight game. However, the home crowd advantage and the potency of the BU offense should benefit them and lead them to a one-goal win.

Game 3: Providence College Friars vs Boston University Terriers

In an all-Hockey East final it’ll pit the two top teams in the league in the championship game. The two squads split their only series of the season in the first month of the season with BU dominating in a 4-1 win the first game and Providence edging the Terriers 2-1 in the second game. Both teams know each other well and there will be no surprises in this one. If Providence is able to contain the offense of Boston University they could have a chance in this one. This will be a pressure cooker for the young Boston University squad and the question is whether they’ll be up to the task. Providence seems to be the team of destiny in this years NCAA tournament  and has a more experienced squad. Defense beats offense in this title game and in an upset, I’m leaning to Providence College in a one-goal win. Jon Gillies has a strong outing for the Friars.

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