Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2008 NCAA Hockey Previews: West Regional

Here at HSR, this is our favorite time of the year. It's the start of the NCAA hockey tournament with Michigan in position to make a run to the Frozen Four. Throughout the week, we'll be posting capsule previews for the entire field that will only by accident give you any real knowledge about the team. For actual hockey info, head over to INCH's preview of this region. TV schedules can be found at CHN

West Regional – World Arena, Colorado Springs, CO


University of New Hampshire Wildcats

25-9-3; At-large bid from Hockey East (Regular Season Champion)
New Hampshire

Radja, Regan, over and out.
New Hampshire is led by senior forward Mike Radja and senior netminder Kevin Regan, who had previously been teammates at Waterloo of the USHL. A Chicago native, Radja's 19 goals (including six on the power play) lead the team, matching his career high of 19 last season. Between the pipes, Kevin Regan, a Bruins draft pick from South Boston, who unfortunately names Patrick Roy as his favorite player, has played over 80% of the netminder minutes for the Wildcats, boasting a .933 save percentage and three shutouts.

Live Free or Die
New Hampshire has had 24 players named to the All-America team, starting with goalie Rod Blackburn in 1961. Cap Raeder is notable for serving as the U.S. goalie in the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup and served one game as the interim coach of the San Jose Sharks in 2002. Jason Krog, one of five UNH two-time All-America selections, won the Hobey Baker in 1999.

Horrible Single Use Dress, Flowers, Killer Heels, yep we're all set to go here.
Often dubbed the University of No Hardware, New Hampshire is NCAA Hockey's perpetual bridesmaid, having made the Frozen Four in 1977, 1979, 1982, 1998, 1999, 2002, and 2003, only making the finals in 1999, where they lost to Maine in Anaheim (which may be why no one remembers it), and in 2003, losing to the Gophers in Buffalo.




Colorado College Tigers

28-11-1; At-large bid from the WCHA (Regular Season Champion)
CC

We've Been Saving These Up
Colorado College is a crazy quilt of awesome tidbits, and since they didn't make the tournament last year, none of these are repeats. Colorado College has just under 2,100 students, making it the smallest school to sponsor a Division I athletic team (doing so in women's soccer as well). The students attend school on the "block plan", dividing the school year into eight academic terms; a single class is taken for three and one half weeks during each term, equaling four semester hours. The rendering of Sacagawea on the U.S. golden dollar coin was by CC alum Glenna Goodacre.

Strike Up the Band! Wait, Scratch That.
Colorado College's Fight Song "Colorado 'C' Men" (to the tune of the "Washington and Lee Swing") is a classic in the old school tradition, lots of repetition, the words "yes by Gosh", "give 'em Hell", and a passing reference to rolling up old Boulder, though the teams are no longer rivals. It's just a terrific number. Unfortunately, Colorado College has neither a marching band nor even a pep band to play the song when the team scores.

Like Nothing Else at the World
The World Arena, the site of this year's West Regionals, is CC's home rink. It serves as the replacement for another World Arena. From 1948-1957, the Broadmoor Resort's World Arena in Colorado Springs played host to the NCAA Ice Hockey Tournament. In those days just a four-team tournament, two representatives each from the East and West would square off for the national championship. The Tigers, playing just down the street from their campus, would claim titles in 1950 over Boston U and in 1957 over Michigan (who had dropped the Tigers in the final game in both 1952 and 1955).



Michigan State University Spartans

24-11-5; At-large bid from the CCHA
Still fighting with that vim

You're Welcome
The Spartans went on a Cinderella run last year to win the NCAA title as a 3 seed. After being badly outplayed in the CCHA tournament semifinal by Michigan, MSU had to go to overtime against Lake Superior State in 7-6 offensive slugfest in order to even secure a spot in the NCAA field. The Spartans were then sent to the Grand Rapids regional, an hour and fifteen minutes from East Lansing, where they beat BU and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Michigan was "rewarded" with a first-round matchup against North Dakota. In the Frozen Four, the Spartans took down an improbable Maine team before a thrilling final against Boston College, scoring the game-winning goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.

The Goaltender From Omicron-Persei 8
MSU's diminutive goaltender, Jeff Lerg, won the well-deserved Most Outstanding Player title from the 2007 tournament. Beyond his play as one of the best big-game goalies in the nation, Jeff Lerg is a severe asthmatic, a subject that has been profiled in innumerable soft-focus pregame/intermission segments for TV broadcasters. Coach Rick Comley called Lerg a 4.0 student earlier in the year, and he's a finalist for both the Hobey Baker Award and the Sullivan Award, given to the nation's top amateur athlete.

It's Either Carbon Monoxide Poisoning or MSU Has a Third-Period Lead
The Spartans play an effective defensive strategy, but one that can make for deadly boring hockey. In their game against Michigan at Yost this year, MSU staked a 1-0 lead and began lining up four skaters at their own blue line. Against lesser teams, they don't play as conservatively, but MSU knows how they're going to protect a third-period lead. It will be interesting to see how the Spartans react to the Olympic-sized sheet in Colorado Springs, whether their trap can be effective on ice that wide. MSU lost both of their games in Marquette on Northern Michigan's Olympic ice, though the Wildcats were on a hot streak then.



University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

24-15-4; At-large Bid from the CCHA
ND

Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope
Founded in 1842 in northern Indiana by priests from the Congregation of the Holy Cross, under the charter from the state of Indiana, the school is officially named the University of Notre Dame du Lac, which means University of Our Lady of the Lake. This is in spite of the fact that the campus actually contains two lakes. According to a legend, when Father Edward Sorin arrived at the school, everything was frozen. He thought there was only one lake and named the university accordingly. In 1972, Notre Dame became a co-educational university after proposals to merge with nearby Saint Mary's College were rejected.

Righting the Ship
Dave Poulin played for Notre Dame in the early 1980s and returned to his alma mater as coach in 1995. In 1999, Notre Dame had its first winning season in 11 years and in 2003-04, freshman goalie David Brown helped the Irish secure their first NCAA tournament bid. However, following a five win campaign the next year, former Lake Superior State coach Jeff Jackson was brought in to turn the program around. After a 13-19-4 season, Jackson and the Irish roared to a 32-7-3 campaign last year, winning the CCHA Regular and Post-Season titles and earning the #2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, downing Alabama-Huntsville in double overtime before losing to eventual NCAA champion Michigan State in Grand Rapids. Many expected Notre Dame to take a significant step back without Brown in the net this year, but Jackson's team finished fourth in the CCHA, losing a very close CCHA Semi-Final game in overtime against Miami after the Redhawks tied the game in the last five seconds. They then dropped the consolation game against Northern Michigan that actually helped them more for tournament consideration than winning. They just didn't want a tie.

He's Out of Control!
Here at the HSR, we'd like to take some time to discuss our favorite Notre Dame alumnus. The problem is, he's fictional. But President Bartlett, we are thinking of you, even if you needed a right hand man from Michigan. So instead, we'll talk about one of America's most prominent Notre Dame alums: Regis Philbin. According to Guinness, no man has spent more hours on camera than Reeg. Whether it's the host chats with first Kathie Lee and now Kelly, asking if that's your final answer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or making the most appearances on Celebrity Jeopardy! (the real one, not the skit) of any celebrity, Regis is everywhere.