Bracket Breakdown: Northeast Regional


The Northeast Regional is, top to bottom, the most competitive one out there. It features a regular season champ, and two tourney champs. Two of the teams have tournament experience from last year, and two have Frozen Four experience. The teams are deep, experienced, and talented on both sides of the puck. In short, this region’s winner will be sufficiently tested and that much more ready to win a national title.

1. Boston College (25-10-3)

How Qualified: Hockey East Champions

NCAA Titles: 3 (last in 2008)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 29 (last in 2008)

The Eagles achieved a rare feat this year: they scored the most goals in conference play (99) and allowed the least (61), yet failed to win the regular season championship. BC’s weakness, if anywhere, is defensively. Although they are 11th nationally in scoring defense, there is a mini-goalie controversy in Chestnut Hill, or at least as much of one as their has been in Jerry York’s tenure. After being pretty much the guy the past two years, John Muse has given way to Parker Milner at least partially this year, as Milner has played 801 minutes in net for the Eagles this season. And their numbers are quite similar: they feature identical .909 save percentages and their GAAs are within .1 of eachother. Milner’s is .1 lower, so it could be a case of it not regressing due to him playing less minutes than Muse, but it could also be because the Eagles are more comfortable playing in front of Milner. We’ll probably never know, however, as Muse is likely to get the minutes in net.

Offensively the Eagles are led by Sophomore Cam Atkinson, whose 24 goals were 6th nationally (although he was 11th in goals per game). Freshman Chris Kreider had just 1 goal in the first half of the season but spurred on by a great WJC, he finished the year with 14 goals (tied for 3rd on the team) and 21 points. Kreider is big, has a good shot, and is one of the better skaters in the country. He could be the difference in a tight game. BC is the third highest scoring team in the country, and they do it with great depth: they have 7 double digit scorers.

Their defensive corps has taken a hit with Patrick Wey ruled out for the tournament due to a mono diagnosis. He was probably their best defensive defenseman, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the winner of Yale-North Dakota, assuming they get by Alaska.

4. Alaska (18-11-9)

How Qualified: At large

NCAA Titles: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

First off, congrats to the Nanooks on their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. They’ve been knocking on the doorstep for a couple of years now and it’s good to see them finally get in. In the past, Alaska was known as a trapping defensive team. That is less true this year, but calling the Nanooks high scoring would be lying. They have only three double digit scorers. Senior Dion Knelsen was 4th in the conference with a goal per game, and Andy Taranto (17-24–41) was named CCHA Freshman of the year. Beyond those two and Dustin Sather (11-14–25) however, it is slim pickings.

So instead, the 36th ranked offensive team will rely on goaltender Scott Greenham. He hasn’t been Chad Johnson, but Greenham has a very respectable .918 save percentage and 2.20 GAA. The latter of which is 10th in the country. He has experience, as he has started every single one of Alaska’s games this year.

The fact that Alaska stays out of the box (10.1 PIM per game) and has decent special teams (19th ranked PP and PK) could help them out, but being outclassed talent wise by BC and having a flight from Fairbanks to Worcester (roughly 4,000 miles) leave the Nanooks in a tough spot.

2. North Dakota (25-12-5)

How Qualified: WCHA Champions

NCAA Titles: 7 (last in 2000)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 25 (last in 2009)

The story has been the same for the Sioux over the past few years: a slow start in the first half leads them to be written off by analysts and fans alike, then a strong second half propels them to NCAA tournament favorite status. This year is no different as the Sioux are 12-1 over their last 13 games, including a three game run to win the WCHA’s auto-bid last weekend, becoming just the 2nd team to do so from the play-in game.

Up front, the Sioux have been much better as of late, scoring over 4 goals per game on their recent 13 game stretch. Jason Gregoire leads the team in goals with 20, and Senior Chris VandeVelde leads the team in points with 40, but this is a team that is very deep up front. Brett Hextall has 9 goals and 8 assists in 14 games since combing back from an injury, and, no surprise, the Sioux have played much better since then. Evan Trupp just had a 3-3–6 weekend for the Sioux, despite being quiet for most of the year, and perhaps none of them are as talented as Freshman Danny Kristo, the WCHA’s Freshman of the Year.

Sophomore Brad Eidsness has been solid in net with a .915 save percentage and a 2.09 GAA, but he has gotten a ton of help from his defensemen. The Sioux’s top four defensemen (Jake Marto, Ben Blood, Andrew MacWilliam and Derrick LaPoint) have been great lately. Looking at a shot chart from last weekend, maybe 95% of the opponents shots were to the outside of the circles. Brad Eidsness hasn’t been great, but because of his defense, he hasn’t had to be.

3. Yale (20-9-3)

How Qualified: At large

NCAA Titles: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 4 (last in 2009)

The highest scoring team in the country this year (4.09 gpg) will have to do it without Sean Backman (21-14–35), as the Senior was hurt in an off ice incident, and is done for the season. Still, Yale has tons of firepower left with Broc Little, who led the country in scoring .81 goals per game (26 overall), and Brian O’Neill (14-25–39). Thomas Dignard also provides some punch from the blueline (6-20–26), but without Backman Yale is a team full of table setters and one short on finishers.

Yale has rotated goaltenders for much of the season, with 4 different netminders getting time in net. Senior Billy Blase (10 gp, 2.37, .901) will likely get the start against North Dakota, but don’t be surprised to see Freshman Nick Maricic (14 gp, 2.95, .888) as well.

Yale ran into Brown’s Mike Clemente in their quarterfinal series loss, but while they outshot the Bears comfortably, they won’t be able to do so against the Sioux or the Eagles. Ironically, the nation’s highest scoring offense might have a problem scoring enough to advance.

Region prediction: North Dakota over Boston College