This year’s Frozen Four is one that has blow-out potential, mixed in with possible intrigue. Two teams, Bemidji State and Miami, meet in the first Frozen Four for each of them, while the top overall seeded Terriers meet Hockey East foe Vermont in the second semi. While on paper BU appears to be the heavy favorite, Vermont is probably the last team they want to see in the semis, as I’ll get to later.
If BU can win their semifinal over Vermont, casual college hockey fans will have a team to cheer for in the finals, either the upstart Beavers or the RedHawks, although being out west I do know that a lot of fans are jealous of Miami’s success and resulted reputation over the past couple of years, so Vermont or BU could have some extra fans come Saturday night.
4. Miami vs. 4. Bemidji State
Taking a look at these teams’ nonconference wins is one of the most depressing activities as a college hockey fan. But they both went on a two game winning streak to advance to Washington DC. A month or so ago, Miami wasn’t even playing as they were ousted in the first round of the CCHA playoffs and their season appeared to be over. Their defense served them well in their first two NCAA Tournament games, and you can bet their battle with Bemidji State will be one of solid forechecking. Miami’s defense has to focus on shutting down Bemidji’s top line or Read, Scofield and Francis. If they can limit the chances from those three, the Beavers other forwards will be hardpressed to put the puck in the net.
It appears that after an entire season of rotating goalies, Miami has settled on Cody Reichard, who has less wins but better numbers, to take them to the title. In net for Bemidji, Matt Dalton will have to continue his inspired play if Bemidji is to steal another game.
Prediction: Which first timers will I take? I think Bemidji is too much of a one line team, so I like Miami 3-1.
1. Boston U. vs. 3. Vermont
BU must be saying to themselves, “Why these guys?” Earlier this season Vermont became the first team in over a decade to sweep BU at BU. Led by Viktor Stalberg, Vermont has the firepower to score with BU, but can they stop them? BU leads the nation in goals scored, and Vermont is just 16th nationally in defense, allowing 2.55 goals per game. One way Vermont can hold on is with the power play: BU has taken quite a few penalties, and some not particularly smart ones, as of late, and Vermont has the talent to put some in the net, although they are converting at just under 17% for the season.
If Vermont takes too many penalties however? Forget it. BU’s power play is sensational at 22% (2nd nationally) and Vermont’s penalty kill has struggled all season, as they are ranked 42nd in the country. Although Freshman Rob Madore has been very good in net for the Catamounts (2.25 GAA, .916 save percentage) the edge has to go to Kieran Millan and his 1.85 GAA and .923 save percentage. Millan also has some help, with Hobey hat-trick finalist Matt Gilroy and all-Hockey East performer Kevin Shattenkirk amongst their stable of tremendous defensemen.
Prediction- Based on the way the tourney has gone so far I am tempted to pick Vermont, but I gotta go with a 4-2 BU victory, setting up an all Red and White finals.