Road to the Frozen Four

*Originally posted at PuckScoop

FrozenFourLogo

The road to DC kicks off today, and this year’s edition of the NCAA Hockey Tournament is loaded up with quality teams and promises the potential of an upset or two just when you aren’t expecting it.

While you won’t find incredibly in-depth breakdowns and analysis from me (I recommend checking out Hoover Street Rag for such things), here is a quick ‘who’s who’ of this year’s tourney, as well as some opportunities for me to look pretty stupid come Monday morning.

Northeast Region

BU

  1. Boston University – 31-6-4
  2. North Dakota – 24-14-4
  3. New Hampshire – 19-12-5
  4. Ohio State – 23-14-4

The Skinny: BU comes into the tournament as the number one overall seed, and is an offensive juggernaut. They are the 3rd ranked offensive and defensive team in America. They are also the 2nd best team in the country on the power play, and 11th on the kill. However, the Terriers got the shaft a bit, as they will have to play this regional in New Hampshire, with the UNH Wildcats the three seed and playing in their own backyard.

The Spoiler: Even though New Hampshire gets the home ice advantage, I still think North Dakota has the best chance at knocking off BU to advance. The Sioux always seem to get hot heading into the tourney, and if they can push the right buttons, they could punch their ticket to DC.

Result: BU is too much and too talented and skates their way to DC with a win over North Dakota.

Midwest Region

ndhockey

  1. Notre Dame – 31-5-3
  2. Northeastern – 25-11-4
  3. Cornell – 21-9-4
  4. Bemidji State – 18-15-1

The Skinny: Notre Dame does everything well, except score. Jordan Pearce is disgusting in net, and their defense is impeccable. The Irish are fresh off of winning the CCHA regular season and playoff championships, and will be tough to contend with.

The Spoiler: I have to go with Northeastern here. The only way I see Notre Dame getting beat is by a team that plays tough, gritty hockey, and Northeastern fits the bill. If they can grind down the Irish and get some cheap, dirty goals, the upset could happen.

Result: Despite my claims that Northeastern stands the best chance of pulling an upset, I like Notre Dame to beat Cornell and take the Midwest.

West Region

du

  1. Denver – 23-11-5
  2. Minnesota Duluth – 21-12-8
  3. Princeton– 22-11-1
  4. Miami – 20-11-5

The Skinny: Denver has struggled with injuries, Duluth has hot goaltending, Princeton is heating up and Miami is anything but predictable. Consistency is not the strong suit of these squads, so this region could offer some surprises.

The Spoiler: Any of these teams have the ability to foil Denver’s top seed, but Minnesota Duluth has arguably the hottest goaltender in the country right now in Alex Stalock. If he stays hot, an upset could be brewing.

Result: Duluth rides Stalock’s hot goaltending to a minor upset over Denver and advances to DC.

East Region

Forwards Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin play for Michigan against the Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha on Friday, February 13, 2009. The Wolverines won 8-3. (ARIEL BOND/Daily)

  1. Michigan – 29-11-0
  2. Yale – 24-7-2
  3. Vermont – 20-11-5
  4. Air Force – 27-10-2

The Skinny: Michigan limps into the East regional after taking a thumping from Notre Dame in the CCHA Championship. However, the Wolverines pack a dangerous scoring punch, and are usually well-balanced on defense. However, several inconsistent performances this season are cause for concern, as any of the other three teams are balanced enough to cause problems for the maize and blue.

The Spoiler: Tourney experience can never be substituted for, and Air Force has plenty of it. If they can lock down the Michigan offense and get solid goaltending, don’t be surprised to see them pull an upset or two.

Result: It’s a dogfight the entire way through, but Michigan tops Vermont to make the Frozen Four for a second year in a row.

Semifinals

  • After a 7-2 beatdown from BU earlier in the season, Michigan makes the right adjustments and hangs tough with the Terriers. But in the end, too much scoring talent leads BU to the title game
  • Notre Dame’s tough defense keeps Duluth at bay and the Irish do just enough to solve the riddle of Alex Stalok and get back to the national championship game.

Finals

  • Again, BU has too much firepower up front, and the Irish find themselves watching another team from Boston take home a national championship.
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