So we come to our final bracket, in which the #1 overall seeded BU Terriers reside. BU is 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. So as you can see, they’re going to be tough to beat. Led by the most talented player in the country in Colin Wilson, BU has a great mix of players up front with Wilson, Nick Bonino and Chris Higgins.
Not only do they have those guys, but they have a nice blend of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership. The guy I really love on their team is Senior forward Brandon Yip (19-20–39). Yip had tons of promise coming into BU, and he didn’t really blossom into the superstar everyone (or at least I) thought he would. But there’s no doubt he has been a very solid college hockey player and had himself a great career.
And I would be remiss if I discussed BU without talking about Freshman goalie Kieran Millan. Millan is trying to repeat the trick of crosstown rival John Muse by winning the national title as a Freshman goalie. And Millan’s numbers have been fantastic. Millan led Hockey East in GAA (1.84) and wwas third in save percentage (.932). No doubt BU poses a tough matchup to any team, but they could be vulnerable to a team with a great powerplay, seeing the amount of penalty minutes they take (18.7 per game).
The team assigned the task of beating them is Ohio State, the last at-large team in the field. The 5th place team in the CCHA has beaten some good teams this year (Denver, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami) but are just 4-7-1 against the NCAA tournament field, and have also lost to teams like Michigan State, Western Michigan and Lake Superior State.
The Buckeyes leading scorer is Senior Corey Elkins (18-22–40) but their best player is Freshman Zac Dalpe. Dalpe has had some injury problems throughout the year, but when he is on the ice Ohio State becomes a completely different team. My X-factor for the Buckeyes in this game will be defenseman Shane Sims, a Sophomore who doesn’t get a ton of ink but he’s a very good offensive defenseman.
Although Ohio State possesses the talent to give BU a run, BU is just so much better at every part of the game and I think they’ll take it by a score of 5-2 or so.
The second game places 2 seed North Dakota vs. 3 seed and region host New Hampshire. Yet again North Dakota started out slowly in the first half, but rebounded to win the MacNaughton Cup. They have gotten decent – but improving – goaltending from Brad Eidsness. Eidsness was just 7th in the conference in save percentage this year, but much of that can be attributed to a couple of rough games early in his career. Defensively UND has improved with the return of Joe Finley, but their best player by far is fellow defenseman Chay Genoway. Genoway has improved every year he has been in school and this year took it to another level, being a do it all kind of player for the Sioux. He skates extremely well, moves the puck well, and has a pretty good shot. If he stays for his Senior season he should get some early Hobey pub. Up front the Sioux rely on their depth more than anything, although Senior Ryan Duncan is the only player in the region (and in the whole field) with a Hobey to his name, so he is a definite x-factor.
New Hampshire has hit the skids as of late after being swept by BC in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. Their leading scorer is Sophomore forward James van Riemsdyk, and in pretty much any other bracket he would be the most talented player in the field. Van Riemsdyk has been more of a playmaker rather than a scorer for the Wildcats this year, but I have to believe UNH will be counting on him to put one in the net on Saturday. Goalie Brian Foster has had a bit of a rough year (8th in Hockey East) but his overall numbers are better than Eidsness’s, so tentatively the edge has to go to UNH in goal.
Although UNH has that edge and a slight edge due to playing virtually at home, I think their lack of a tournament pedigree and lack of offensive depth will come back to haunt them and North Dakota will take the win.
In the regional final I am amazingly tempted to take North Dakota, but just can’t pick against BU, who is probably the most complete team in the NCAA Tournament.
For those of you keeping track, that makes my Frozen Four Denver, Notre Dame, Air Force, and BU. 3 #1 seeds and a #4. I kind of want to change my Denver pick, but I have no idea to whom. I’ll be back with some Frozen Four predictions over the next couple of days.
And for the record, my national title pick is Notre Dame.