Friday, March 27, 2009

Let The Games Begin

As the games begin, we come to the end of our capsule previews. Thanks to all of you for reading and for the corrections in the comments. We appreciate them. Personally, I'd like to thank Craig for all his work on this (he wrote half the previews). Thanks also to Deadspin and Puck Daddy for the links and to College Hockey News and College Hockey Stats for, well, existing. Both are excellent resources.

Finally, if you want all of our work in one handy place, here it is in PDF form. You don't want to be embarrassed out at the bar when you don't know who Zane Kalemba is. If you'd rather keep it electronic, here are links to all the previews organized by regional and by school.

Northeast Regional Midwest Regional West
East Regional
Boston University Notre Dame Denver Michigan
North Dakota Northeastern Minnesota Duluth Yale
New Hampshire Cornell Princeton Vermont
Ohio State Bemidji State Miami Air Force

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Northeast #1: Boston University

Boston University Terriers

1 seed vs. Ohio State, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
5:30 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
Hockey East Regular Season Champions
Hockey East Tournament Champions
Record: 31-6-4
Coach: Jack Parker (811-413-101)

Scoring Summary:
3.85 1.95 +1.90

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
33 Colin Wilson 15-35--50
13 Nick Bonino 16-28--44
10 Chris Higgins 12-28--40

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
31 Kieran Millan .923 1.84 25-2-3
35 Grant Rollheiser .897 2.13 6-4-1

Stats via

The 2008-2009 BU Terriers were dominant right out of the gate, winning 6 of their first 7, absolutely steamrolling North Dakota (5-1) and Michigan (7-2). They lost back-to-back games just once this year, being swept at home by Vermont back in November. That weekend represents 1/3 of their total losses this season. In a conference with three of the top teams in the nation this year, the Terriers won the Hockey East regular season title by a single point over Northeastern. BU owns the top overall spot in the Pairwise and is a heavy leader in KRACH as well.

The Terriers have been an offensive juggernaut this year. This season, they've registered 158 goals, good for the national lead. Sophomore Colin Wilson is generally regarded as the favorite for the Hobey this year, leading the team in points, though senior Jason Lawrence has a sizeable lead in goals. They've also been solid in their own zone, #3 in scoring defense, which makes them the #1 team in the country in terms of scoring margin. Kieran Millan, a freshman, has been the clear #1 goalie this year and has a sterling record. In the regular season, he only lost a single game. One. Game. The #2 is Grant Rollheiser, another freshman. Rollheiser gave up the other four regular season losses, and it isn't a Billy Sauer hard-luck case. He gave up 4 in 3 of those on average shot totals.

Quick Hits:

  • O Canada. This year's Terriers carry five Canadians on their roster. Coincidentally, both freshman goaltenders are from western Canada. Kieran Millan is from Edmonton, while Grant Rollheiser is from Chilliwack, BC. Hobey favorite Colin Wilson's hometown is Winnipeg, but he played on the USNTDP Under-18 team, so I'm sure they shun him as a turncoat. I suspect he was actually a spy.

  • 800. No, that's not how many years Jack Parker has been at BU. Just how many wins he has. He recorded his 800th career win this season with a 3-1 win at Merrimack on January 30th. Parker is actually in his 36th season behind the Terriers' bench and has been there long enough to have reached triple digits in ties. He is the NCAA all-time leader for victories at a single school in hockey.

Northeast #4: Ohio State

The Ohio State University Buckeyes

tOSU 4 seed vs. Boston University, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
5:30 PM EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
Record: 23-14-4
Coach: John Markell (265-248-50)

Scoring Summary:
3.39 2.18 +1.21

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
39 Corey Elkins 18-22--40
15 John Albert 11-28--39
26 Peter Boyd 13-18--31

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
41 Dustin Carlson 0.920 2.40 21-11-3

Stats via

Ohio State is the Lloyd Christmas of this year's NCAA Tournament.  Last week, they only had a 9% chance of making the field, but what they were saying is, they had a chance.  The last team in, the Buckeyes won the tiebreaker over fellow Big Ten members Wisconsin and Minnesota, making them the fourth CCHA team in the field.  

The key theme with the Buckeyes this year is youth.  Just five upperclassmen populate the roster of the scarlet and gray, and while senior Corey Elkins lead the team in scoring, he is the only upperclassman among the Buckeyes' top ten in scoring.  This is a team that will be very dangerous next season, but what will they do when they have arrived a year early for the tournament.  The Buckeyes tournament run rests largely on a thirteen game unbeaten streak in the middle of the season, with a slightly sub-.500 record in their final 19 games, including a rough pair of shutouts up in Alaska during the CCHA quarterfinals.  The question will be whether these young Bucks can find their mid-season form and give the Terriers more than they might expect out of the last at-large team.

Quick Hits:

  • Mat Men. Ohio State might be the CCHA team that most desparately longs for a top four seed in the CCHA every year (or a bottom four seed.)  By finishing #5 in the CCHA, the "reward" for the Buckeyes was a series against their in-state rivals Bowling Green.  However, as the Schottenstein Center also is the host of the Ohio State High School Wrestling Championships, the Buckeyes were forced to play the Falcons in the old OSU Ice Arena, a 1,000 seat facility that was the old home of the Buckeyes through 1998.  It marked the second time in three years that Buckeyes were evicted from their new digs by the wrestlers.

  • Wither the Spartans? By making the field, the Buckeyes assured that five of the six teams from the now-legendary 1998 West Regional at Yost Ice Arena made the 2009 field.  Princeton, Yale, Michigan, North Dakota, and Ohio State all played in Ann Arbor that season.  It marked Ohio State's first NCAA tournament berth and also their finest to date.  A 4-0 defeat of Yale meant the Buckeyes faced off with the Spartans of Michigan State on the campus of the University of Michigan in the "what fresh hell is this" game?  The Buckeyes defeated  second-seeded Michigan State 4-3 in overtime to advance to the first, and thus far only, Frozen Four in school history. 

Northeast #2: North Dakota

University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux

North Dakota 2 seed vs. New Hampshire, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
WCHA Regular Season Champions
Record: 24-14-4
Coach: Dave Hakstol (130-70-19)

Scoring Summary:
3.36 2.67 +0.69

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
16 Ryan Duncan 19-19--38
14 Brad Miller  6-29--35
29 Chris VandeVelde 16-17--33

Leading Scorers
# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
31 Brad Eidsness 0.909 2.44 24-9-4

Stats via

One of the WCHA's traditional powers, the Fighting Sioux built off last season's Frozen Four appearance by winning MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the WCHA's regular season title for the first time since 2003-04.  This was a dramatic change from the three game losing skid to open the season, which included a 5-1 drubbing by Boston University in the season opener.  Standing 5-8-1 at the end of November, the Sioux put together a nice four game run in early December, only to bottom out with a fourth place finish at the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, losing to Michigan State and Michigan Tech.  This down point was combined with the loss of senior defenseman Joe Finley, who had missed two months due to the lingering effects of a concussion.

But, in classic North Dakota fashion, the Sioux have rallied in the second half of the season to put themselves right in the mix of the NCAA playoff picture.  In the 19 games since 2009 began, the Sioux have won 14, against two losses (to Saint Cloud and Wisconsin) and three ties.  The Sioux's defense is not their hallmark, but they also clearly score enough goals to make you pay for any lapses they may have on the blue line.  The return of Finley, a first round NHL pick, has galvanized the leadership positions of the team while providing stability on defense.  North Dakota's WCHA playoff run in Minneapolis, however, hit the stellar goaltending of Minnesota-Duluth's Alex Stalock, sending the Sioux to the consolation game.

Quick Hits:

  • Close, but no cigar. In Dave Hakstol's four seasons as a player for the Fighting Sioux (1988-1992), he made the NCAA tournament just once.  In his first four seasons as the bench boss for his alma mater, the Fighting Sioux have made the Frozen Four each season, but have not won the title, a drought that extends back to 2000.

  • All in the Family. College hockey is no stranger to family legacies, and North Dakota's team this year is no exception.  It features, among others, David Toews, the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks' rising star (and former UND player) Jonathan Toews as well as Brett Hextall, the son of Ron Hextall, and great nephew of Dennis Hextall, who played at North Dakota in the 1960s. Unlike his dad and great uncle, Brett plays forward.  Finally, freshman forward Mario Lamoureux is the younger brother of Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, the Sioux netminder from 2004-08, and the son of Pierre Lamoureux, NoDak's netminder from 1979 to 1982.  Lamoureux's sisters Monique and Jocelyn are freshman forwards at Minnesota.

Northeast #3: New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire Wildcats

3 seed vs. North Dakota, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
2:00 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN2
Record: 19-12-5
Coach: Dick Umile (443-219-71)

Scoring Summary:
3.03 2.92 +0.11

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
21 James van Riemsdyk 17-22-39
19 Mike Sislo 18-10--28
9 Peter LeBlanc 12-15--27

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
29 Brian Foster .910 2.45 18-10-4

Stats via

The Wildcats have had a decidedly up and down year. They started well, winning non-conference matchups with Rensselaer and Minnesota, then beginning their Hockey East schedule with a big 3-1 win over BU, but they immediately entered a stretch of nine games with only one win, going 1-5-3. Things steadied from there on out, ending with a very respectable 15-8-4 conference record, only to be immediately swept by a down Boston College team 5-3, 1-0 in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

This year's Wildcats are living on a knife's edge. They average 3.03 goals a game, but give up 2.92. That's 21st in the country in offense and 34th in defense. Junior Brian Foster has taken over in goal following the departure of Hobey Baker finalist Kevin Regan and has performed pretty well. He has a solid .910 save percentage, giving up 2.45 goals on 27.22 shots. Not bad, not great. Freshman Matt DiGirolamo is the backup, with an ugly .833/4.66 number in 4 games of action. Sophomore James van Riemsdyk is far and away the offensive leader with a 17-22--39 line. Mike Sislo (18-10--28) is the team's leading goal-scorer, but doesn't come close to van Riemsdyk's assist numbers.

Quick Hits:

  • Power Outage. New Hampshire has been absolutely horrible on the power play, scoring on only 11.5% of their opportunities, which is good for 54th in the country. They've scored a mere 22 power play goals and given up 5 shorties, for a net 8.9% success rate. They've also had a rough go of it on the other end, languishing in 33rd on the penalty kill at 83.3%. Opponents have scored 31 power play goals and given up 7 shorthanded goals to the Wildcats, giving a net 86.9% success rate there.

  • Off the Bubble. There was a time when it was in doubt as to whether UNH would make the tournament and be able to take advantage of their role as host school in Manchester. They were #13 in the Pairwise as late as January 26, following a home-and-home sweep at the hands of BU. But they pulled themselves up, going 8-2-1 to close the regular season and assure themselves of a berth.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Midwest #1: Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame 1 seed vs. Bemidji State, Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
7:30 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN Classic
CCHA Regular Season Champions
CCHA Tournament Champions
Record: 31-5-3
Coach: Jeff Jackson (285-99-39, .708)

Scoring Summary:
3.44 1.64 +1.80

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
11 Erik Condra 13-24--37
22 Calle Ridderwall 17-15--32
25 Christian Hanson 16-15--31

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
 1 Jordan Pearce 0.934 1.61 30-5-3

Stats via

Notre Dame entered the season with high expectations.  Making the Frozen Four as a #4 seed, and having survived a 6-5 OT game with fellow CCHA member Michigan in the National Semifinals, the Irish, playing in their first national championship game, fell to Boston College 4-1.  A 3-3-0 start in October, including a sweep at the hands of Miami in South Bend, dampened enthusiasm for a bit.  Then, the Irish went on an absolute tear, not losing again for 19 straight games (and winning the three shootouts it was involved in) until falling to Michigan 2-1 in South Bend on January 30.  One other loss at Ohio State in their next 11 had put Notre Dame near the top of the national poll for much of the season and helped it finish five points clear of Michigan and Miami in the CCHA this season.  The two games at the Joe for the CCHA semis and finals show Notre Dame's grit, getting a game winner against Northern Michigan less than 30 seconds after Northern had tied the game late in the third period, and then scoring five unanswered goals against Michigan in the CCHA Final to claim their second Mason Cup in three years.

Notre Dame's leadership clearly starts on the goal line with Alaska native Jordan Pearce, their senior netminder.  Pearce, part of Jackson's first recruiting class at Notre Dame, patiently waited for his shot behind David Brown (he of the 30-6-3 record in 2006-07 when Notre Dame was the #1 seed in Grand Rapids only to be upset by MSU) and has been stellar between the pipes for the Irish.  Pearce has been nearly impossible to pierce, allowing just 58 goals all season and posting eight shutouts.  While Notre Dame can score, they do not need to very often with Pearce between the pipes.  (By the way, a personal rant here for a moment:  While Alaska's Chad Johnson has been a lot of the reason for Alaska's turnaround this year (a .939 save percentage is pretty exceptional even if Johnson is just .500 on the season), did the CCHA voters decide that Michigan State's Jeff Lerg deserved a lifetime achievement award for his 9-20-3, 2.94 GAA senior campaign?  I realize that goalies are not just about wins and losses, but Pearce's exclusion from the first two all-CCHA teams this year is mildly unfathomable.  OK, rant over.)

Quick Hits:

  • Housing Starts. Notre Dame hockey will receive a major boost in 2011-12 when a brand new on-campus area will replace the Joyce Center, it of the "pay no attention to that hockey team behind the curtain" as the home of Irish hockey.  A two sheet facility (one Olympic), coach Jeff Jackson's efforts in turning the Irish into perennial contenders in hockey have helped open the checkbooks of potential donors for this new facility.

  • Losing Lockert. The Irish lost their radio voice of seven years this season when Mike Lockert passed away at the age of 44.  A radio veteran, Lockert's affiable style was widely commented upon, as was the rarity of an African-American play-by-play voice for college hockey.

  • Awkwardly Phrased. Last season, the Detroit Red Wings' Brett Lebda became the first "Notre Dame player to skate in the CCHA" to win the Stanley Cup.  This also means he is the first "Notre Dame player to skate in the CCHA to win the Stanley Cup to drop the Cup at Cheli's Chili Bar and cause a significant dent to the Cup."

    (By the way, some research indicates that Bill Nyrop, who won three Cups with Montreal in the 1970s, was the first Notre Dame player to win the Stanley Cup. He played at ND before they joined the CCHA)

Midwest #4: Bemidji State

Bemidji State University Beavers

4 seed vs. Notre Dame, Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
7:30 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPN Classic
CHA Regular Season Champions
CHA Tournament Champions
Record: 18-15-1
Coach: Tom Serratore (138-117-29)

Scoring Summary:
2.82 2.68 +0.15

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
19 Matt Read 13-22-35
13 Tyler Scofield 18-14-32
29 Brad Hunt 9-22-31

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
 1 Matt Dalton .918 2.25 17-10-1
35 Orlando Alamano .870 4.21 1-5-0

Stats via

Bemidji State hockey is in a perilous place right now. The Beavers were a charter member of College Hockey America in 1999, the same year they made the jump to D-I hockey, and now they find the conference imploding. Down to four teams at the start of the year, Robert Morris and Niagara will jump ship for Atlantic Hockey after next season, leaving BSU and Alabama-Huntsville with few options. The Beavers are petitioning to join the WCHA and have received some encouraging news, but it's far from a done deal. But in what's almost certainly the last penultimate year of the CHA (and their NCAA auto-bid), the Beavers won both the regular season crown and the Peters Cup to earn their third trip to the D-I tournament in program history.

Any way you slice it, the Beavers don't look like a team that's going to make a lot of noise in the tournament (They draw Notre Dame, first of all). KRACH calls them the #36 team in the country, #46 in strength of schedule. Their scoring margin against that schedule is only +0.15, so they've been winning by the skin of their ever-growing teeth. But it's the tournament, and anything can happen in one game.

Sophomore goalie Matt Dalton's numbers look solid: .918 save percentage and 2.25 GAA. He even has 3 assists. Senior Orlando Alamando probably won't be seen except on an emergency basis. On offense, sophomore Matt Read is the leading scorer with a 13-22--35 line. Senior Tyler Scofield leads the team in goals with 18. Freshman defenseman Brad Hunt has made a significant offensive impact as well. He's tied for the team lead with 22 assists to go with his 9 goals.

Quick Hits:

  • Kingmakers? In both previous trips to the NCAAs, Bemidji State was knocked out in the first round by the eventual tournament champion. In 2006, up in Green Bay, Wisconsin handled the Beavers easily, 4-0. But the previous year Denver was forced to go to overtime to earn a 4-3 victory

  • The Peters Principle. The Bemidji State program is one with a long history of success at the lower levels of college hockey, and all much of it can be dated from the arrival of R.H. "Bob" Peters in 1966. Peters had become the coach at North Dakota in '64-'65 and taken the Sioux to the Frozen Four, where they placed 3rd. The next year, they missed the tournament and Peters decided to head north southeast to Bemidji State. Starting in 1968, the Beavers reeled off four straight NAIA national titles and added additional titles in '72, '79, and '80 before jumping to D-II in 1982. It didn't take long to find success, as Bemidji turned in a perfect 31-0-0 season en route to the 1984 D-II crown. The Beavers then proceeded to bounce back and forth between D-II and D-III, winning a total of 5 D-II titles and 1 in D-III. Peters then shepherded the team through its transition to a full-fledged Division I program in 1999. He stepped down following the 2001 season with a 744-313-51 overall record to become the CHA commissioner.

  • Wasted Opportunity. Sportscasters everywhere bemoan that they will not be able to beat into the ground the fact that Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore is the brother of Air Force coach Frank Serratore.

Midwest #2: Northeastern

Northeastern University Huskies

Northeastern 2 seed vs. Cornell, Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
4:00 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPNU
Record: 25-11-4
Coach: Greg Cronin (78-84-21)

Scoring Summary:
2.98 2.20 +0.78

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
19 Wade MacLeod 14-21--35
 3 Ryan Ginand 20-12--32
26 Joe Vitale  7-20--27

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
31 Brad Thiessen 0.932 2.09 25-11-4

Stats via

Northeastern officially qualifies as this year's "Wow, where did they come from?" team in the realm of college hockey.  Having finished sixth in Hockey East last season after a late-season swoon, Greg Cronin's squad put the pieces together this year with a strong showing early on, with just three losses before the end of 2008.  As the Hockey East schedule stiffened, the Huskies kept up their strong play, paced every minute of every game by netminder Brad Thiessen.  

Their NCAA tournament berth is Northeastern's first since 1994. A bid for their first ever Hockey East regular season championship fell flat on the last day, missing out by one point to #1 team in the nation Boston University, the same BU program which had derailed Northeastern's efforts to take home their first Beanpot championship since 1988 with a 5-2 victory back in February.  Boston U has been a thorn in the side of the Huskies this season (admittedly, a common thread this year), as the Huskies have gone 0-2-2 against them during this campaign.  The recurring theme of this week will be whether Northeastern has the mettle in the big games that it's going to need.  The Beanpot final loss, and the upset by the RiverHawks of UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East semis have raised the spectre of concern.  It'll be up to the Huskies to show up, because there's no other solace waiting for them should they fail.

Quick Hits:

  • Feels Like the First Time. In winning the Hockey East player of the year award this season, Huskies goalie Brad Thiessen became the first Northeastern player to snag the honor. Thiessen has played every minute in net for the Huskies this season.  His coach, Greg Cronin, winner of just three games in 2005-06, his first season at Northeastern, was named Hockey East's Coach of the Year.

  • And we think of Yost as "old". Matthews Arena (formerly known as Boston Arena), the home of Northeastern hockey, was built in 1910 and is considered to be the oldest surviving indoor ice hockey rink in the world.  The original home of the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics, and the WHA's New England Whalers, it is also the original home of SEVEN Boston-area college hockey programs, as well as the host of the 1960 Frozen Four and the original home of the Beanpot.

Midwest #3: Cornell

Cornell University Big Red

3 seed vs. Northeastern, Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
4:00 EDT, Saturday, March 28, ESPNU
Record: 21-9-4
Coach: Mike Schafer (265-148-49)

Scoring Summary:
2.59 2.00 +0.59

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
14 Riley Nash 13-21--34
15 Colin Greening 14-15--29
27 Blake Gallagher  6-20--26

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
30 Ben Scrivens .933 1.77 21-9-4

Stats via

On January 19th, Cornell was at the top of the Pairwise. They'd had a near-perfect 13-1-3 start, losing only to North Dakota as part of a split in Grand Forks, and BU had stumbled just enough to cede the top spot. After a start like that, it was almost impossible for them not to falter, even without knowing that the toughest part of their schedule still lay ahead. The Big Red skidded to a 5-6-1 regular season finish, including two losses to Yale, one to Princeton, and an 8-1 shelling by St. Lawrence. Then, in their first game of the ECAC playoffs, they stumbled out of the gate in a 1-0 loss to Rensselaer and their tournament hopes hung by a thread. They responded the next night (without suspended coach Mike Schafer) with a solid 4-0 win and a 4-1 victory in Game 3. In the ECAC semi-finals in Albany, a 4-3 double OT win over Princeton secured their first NCAA berth since 2006 before falling 5-0 to Yale in the final.

It's defense that's gotten the Big Red to where they are. Cornell is the #4 team in terms of scoring defense, only giving up 2.00 goals per night. Goalie Ben Scrivens is stopping 93.3% of the shots he's seeing, and his GAA is down at 1.77. Nobody else has played significant time in net.

On offense, things haven't been brutal, but Cornell has the worst scoring offense in the tournament (39th overall). They average 2.59 goals per game, which gives them a much better +0.59 scoring margin – better than Vermont, Bemidji State, and New Hampshire among tournament teams. Top scorers Riley Nash and Colin Greening have been on separate lines for much of the season, but a rash of injuries could force a change there. Senior forward Derek Punches, 5th on the team in career goals, has had a particularly hard-luck year with a 0-0--0 line in 19 games.

Quick Hits:

  • Zero. Cornell has had not one, but two games this year end in a 0-0 tie, one at Quinnipiac and one at Clarkson. These were the only times the Big Red were held scoreless in the regular season, but added a pair of blankings in the playoffs. At the same time, they held their opponents scoreless a total of 7 times.

  • Results. Following Cornell's 1-0 loss to Rensselaer in their first game of the ECAC tournament, coach Mike Schafer ripped the officials for calling what he perceived to be a much looser game, and he made sure to do it to a group of reporters. For his actions, Schafer was suspended for the next night's game. Schafer has done this before, however, and it's yielded results: He was suspended in 2002 for comments about hitting from behind, but in 2003 penalty minutes for those hits went up dramatically in the ECAC (H/T: CHN)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

West #1: Denver

University of Denver Pioneers

1 seed vs. Miami, West Regional (Minneapolis, MN)
4:30 CDT, Friday, March 27, ESPN2
Record: 23-11-5
Coach: George Gwozdecky (496-340-67)

Scoring Summary:
3.33 2.36 +0.97

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
16 Anthony Maiani 11-30--41
9 Rhett Rakhshani 15-21--36
28 Patrick Wiercioch 12-21--33

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
1 Marc Cheverie .923 2.30 23-11-5

Stats via

I don't know exactly what to make of Denver. The only game I've seen them play was a home game against Alaska-Anchorage that went to overtime. The Seawolves tied the game on a shorthanded goal with 2:27 left in the game, then won it in the waning seconds of OT when Denver basically stopped playing, allowing a horrible giveaway and a perfectly executed 2-on-1 from Anchorage.

That's not the Denver team that's played most of the season. The Pioneers have been up around the top of the WCHA for much of the year, and were only eclipsed by a red-hot North Dakota team at the very end of the season. The WCHA is down and a team that was dead in the water team in January just passed them for the regular-season title. But Denver thrashed Notre Dame to open the season, and other than a 3-game skid in November, they haven't lost back-to-back games. And they followed that up with a 7-game winning streak. They've cooled recently, playing a lot of OT games (8) since January and got pasted 4-0 by Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA final.

The big worry is that the Denver Post is reporting that the Pioneers have lost top goal-scorer Tyler Ruegsegger for the remainder of the season and that another big cog, Jason Tyler Bozak, has had his return from a December knee injury pushed back to the opening round of the NCAA tournament. But it's the tournament, and you just have to manage four in a row. Denver has a tough row to hoe, but it's possible.

Quick Hits:

  • Coach: DNC (School's Decision). Coach George Gwozdecky was suspended by DU for one game earlier this season. Gwozdecky had been ejected during a January 24 game against North Dakota after jumping up on a dasher board to yell at the officials, then walking across the ice to confront referee Todd Anderson. After his ejection, he watched the game from the press box and communicated with his assistants on the bench via headset, a violation of NCAA rules.

  • A Change In Direction The University of Denver was originally founded in 1864 as the Colorado Seminary by one John Evans. Evans is better known as the namesake of Evanston, Illinois, as he had previously founded Northwestern in 1851.

West #4: Miami

Miami University RedHawks

Yale 4 seed vs. Denver, West Regional (Minneapolis, MN)
4:30 CDT, Friday, March 27, ESPN2
Record: 20-12-5
Coach: Enrico Blasi (187-138-28, .569)

Scoring Summary:
3.11 2.19 +0.92

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
11 Carter Camper 20-19--39
20 Pat Cannone 11-24--35
17 Andy Miele 14-14--28

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
30 Cody Reichard 0.912 2.16  7-7-2
31 Connor Knapp 0.904 2.09 13-5-3

Stats via

Miami's fast start this season made it look as if they had not missed a beat since last season.  Losing just twice before the new year, 2009 got off to an exceptionally rocky start for the RedHawks, who lost five straight, including a sweep at the hands of Michigan, before righting the ship with a seven game unbeaten streak.  That, however, was followed by a three game winless streak.  The sour note that Miami finished on, dropping a three game CCHA playoff quarterfinal series against Northern Michigan, in Oxford, put Miami on the brink of missing the NCAA Tournament.  However, the Pairwise was kind to the RedHawks, and they will make their way to Minneapolis to face Denver in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.  

Miami is pretty much the Carter Camper show.  The sophomore forward was one of five second-yearmen named to the all-CCHA first team and was the fourth leading scorer in the league.  On the backline, Connor Knapp was named to the CCHA all-rookie team and while he is not Jeff Zatkoff, few are and he has provided stability as the RedHawks' primary goalie.  Miami is one of the few teams in the tournament that did not play last weekend (Ohio State and Bemidji State are among the others), so it will be interesting to see if the extra week off provides them with any benefits.

Quick Hits:

  • And the student becomes the master. In what will likely become the NCAA tournament storyline you'll most want to strangle to death by the end of Hockey Christmas, did you know that Miami's first round matchup with Denver will feature Miami coach Enrico Blasi facing his coach from his playing days at Miami, George Gwozdecky?  If you didn't, well now you do.

  • Because we're not above this. This is actual text featured on Miami University line charts: "When referring to Miami, please only use Miami University or Miami.  Please do not use Miami of Ohio, University of Miami of Ohio, etc.  The latter are not proper names for our institution.  Thank you." (HT: MGoBlog)

West #2: Minnesota Duluth

University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs

Minnesota-Duluth WCHA Tournament Champions
2 seed vs. Princeton, West Regional (Minneapolis, MN)
8:00 CDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Record: 21-12-8, WCHA Playoff Champions
Coach: Scott Sandelin (143-172-45)

Scoring Summary:
3.00 2.23 +0.77

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
37 Justin Fontaine 15-32--47
18 MacGregor Sharp 25-22--47
22 Mike Connolly 12-26--38

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
32 Alex Stalock 0.926 2.10 20-12-1

Stats via

Minnesota Duluth (it's really hard not to hyphenate it, but apparently, that is the preferred style) may be the Dante Hicks of this year's tournament, they're not even supposed to be here today!  Except, that's not really fair, because they have been in the Pairwise mix all season, despite a rough stretch in the WCHA.  But finishing strong can help make your case, and that's just what UMD did.

Finishing seventh in the WCHA in the regular season, the Bulldogs (named after the 148th Fighter Wing stationed in Duluth) swept fourth place team Colorado College (in Colorado Springs), then beat Minnesota in the 4 v 5 game in the Twin Cities, then North Dakota, and then Denver to assure themselves a spot in the tournament with an automatic bid.  In doing this, the Bulldogs became the first WCHA team to win three straight games to take the conference tournament title (in 34 previous tries), largely due to the lockdown defense of goalie Alex Stalock and the Bulldog blueliners, allowing just  three goals in that span, and posting back to back shutouts in the WCHA semis and finals.  Their reward will be a trip back to the Twin Cities (admittedly, to Mariucci in Minneapolis instead of the Xcel in Saint Paul) where they will get to face Princeton, with the potential to face Denver again in the second round.

Quick Hits:

  • Four Timers Club. It is only fitting that the Bulldogs will open against Princeton, Hobey Baker's alma mater, in the first around of the tournament.  For along with "The U" (which in college hockey parlance means Minnesota, not Miami), Minnesota Duluth has been the home of four of the 28 winners of the Hobey Baker Award.  Defenseman Tom Kurvers and right wing Bill Watson in 1984 and 1985 respectively, making them one of only two schools to claim back to back winners (Maine is the other one in 1992-93) and then-left wing Chris Marinucci in 1994 and right wing Junior Lessard in 2004.  Bet heavily on a UMD player winning in 2014, it just seems like one of those things. 

  • A Quarter Century Ago... The closest that Minnesota Duluth has ever come to winning the NCAA Championship was in 1984, and it arrived there in one of the strangest ways.  The Bulldogs first faced off against Clarkson in a two-game total goals series in Duluth, winning the first game 6-2.  However, in the second game, the Knights scored six as well, meaning that Duluth's three goals in the losing effort was good enough to move them forward to Lake Placid for the national semifinals.  There, they beat North Dakota in overtime to advance to the national championship game against Bowling Green where they would fall in four overtimes to the mighty Falcons by a score of 5-4.  Freshman goalie Rick Kostl made 55 saves, tying an NCAA tournament record, which would stand only one year until Chris Terreri's 62 save effort for Providence the following season.  BU's Rick DiPietro, by the way, holds the tournament record with 77 saves against St. Lawrence in a four overtime game in the 2000 East Regional.

West #3: Princeton

Princeton University Tigers

3 seed vs. Minnesota-Duluth, West Regional (Minneapolis, MN)
8:00 CDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Record: 22-11-1
Coach: Guy Gadowski (144-168-32)

Scoring Summary:
2.79 2.03 +0.76

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
9 Dan Bartlett 16-11--27
16 Brett Wilson 10-15--25
6 Lee Jubinville 10-11--21

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
32 Zane Kalemba .935 1.74 22-9-1

Stats via

Princeton is making their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, this time as an at-large selection. Last year's squad went up against North Dakota in the first round and hung tough with the Sioux for a while, but were ultimately outmatched. They return a lot of the key players from that team, notably juniors Lee Jubinville and goalie Zane Kalemba. In fact, the Tigers depend on their veteran talent. Their top five scorers are all upperclassmen and the average age of the team is a downright elderly 22 years, 5 months. Dan Bartlett is their leading goal-scorer with 16, while Brett Wilson leads the team in assists with 15 and is second in penalty minutes with 44. As you might guess based on that, Princeton is the least-penalized team in all of men's D-I hockey, taking only 10.6 minutes per game. You might also guess that, with goal totals like that, Princeton is winning with defense, and you'd be right. Kalemba is the #2 goalie in the country by save percentage, just .005 behind Alaska's Chad Johnson (and .001 in front of Notre Dame's Jordan Pearce and Mercyhurst's Ryan Zapolski). This puts Princeton at fifth and Kalemba at 3rd in scoring defense.

Quick Hits:

  • The Princeton "Offense". Princeton didn't put a lot of pucks in the net this year, ranking 31st in the nation on a goals per game basis. The only tournament team that was worse? Cornell, at #39. However, with their tough defense and Zane Kalemba in net, the Tigers rank 12th in scoring margin.

  • They'll Thank You Not to Refer to Princeton That Way. Famous fictional Princetonians: Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock, Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil Terwilliger, the eponymous Doogie Howser, The West Wing's Sam Seaborne, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictionalized version of Hobey Baker, Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise.

Monday, March 23, 2009

East #1: Michigan

University of Michigan Wolverines

1 seed vs. Air Force, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
3:00 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Record: 29-11-0
Coach: Red Berenson (673-309-68)

Scoring Summary:
3.62 2.05 +1.57

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
8 Aaron Palushaj 13-37--50
29 Louie Caporusso 24-25--49
25 David Wohlberg 15-15--30

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
35 Bryan Hogan 0.915 1.97 24-5-0
36 Billy Sauer 0.919 2.06 5-6-0

Stats via

Bizarrely, this qualifies as a hard-luck season for the Wolverines, despite the shiny Pairwise ranking they've secured. In the first period of the first game of the year, 2007-2008 INCH Defenseman of the year Mark Mitera went down with a torn ACL. After the next night's game, fellow blueline anchor Steve Kampfer suffered a fractured sckull in an off-ice attack. Freshman defenseman Brandon Burlon missed 8 games at the beginning of the year with a high ankle sprain. In two critical late-season CCHA games, Michigan had a total of four controversial goal calls go against them in 3-2 losses versus Notre Dame and Ohio State. In each game, a goal that appeared to be kicked in was allowed for their opponent, while Michigan had a goal of their own waved off (Versus Notre Dame, an early whistle. Versus OSU, no available replay angle to overturn a call that a puck was gloved in). Luckily for the CCHA officials, the effects of these games were largely rendered moot when Michigan gave up 5 unanswered goals in the CCHA tournament final to Notre Dame and lost 5-2.

At the beginning of the season, this Michigan team faced the daunting task of replacing the production of last year's entire top line. Chad Kolarik and Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter were lost to graduation, while freshman Max Pacioretty left to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. Those players were responsible for 78 goals and 80 assists on a team that won the 2008 GLI, CCHA regular season title, CCHA conference tournament, and fought its way to the Frozen Four before a heartbreaking overtime loss to Notre Dame.

While the current Wolverines are off by about 10 goals from last year's total at this time, they've tightened up their defense in equal measure. Following a 9-7 start to the year with a depleted defensive corps, the Wolverines have come on strong, posting a 20-4-0 record since, which includes the dubious pair of games previously mentioned. The previously mentioned beating by the Irish in the CCHA final raises some doubts, but the Wolverines had seemed to be on a roll. They have both the offense and the defense to hang with any team in the nation, it's just a matter of putting it all together.

Quick Hits:

  • Binary Results. Michigan is the only team in the country without a tie in its record. Michigan never even went to overtime, making it the only team in the CCHA not to use the shootout to determine a game result.

  • Statistical Fluke. At the beginning of the season, senior goalie Billy Sauer, who last year set the school record for save percentage in a season, was in a Friday-Saturday rotation with sophomore Bryan Hogan. During the first 16 games, Sauer and Hogan put up similar numbers in net. However, in the games Hogan played, the Wolverines scored 37 goals, while Sauer received only an anemic 10. The rotation was abandoned. In the second half of the season, Sauer started 3 games and won them all: 1-0 @ Bowling Green, 4-2 vs. Nebraska-Omaha, and 4-0 vs. Ferris State.

  • The Cold War II: Colder War. Michigan and Wisconsin will face off next February at a game to be played in Madison at Camp Randall Stadium. A sellout crowd would bring 83,000 fans to the game, shattering the record set by Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in !2001. Discussions are also underway about holding a game at Michigan Stadium in December 2010 following the completion of renovations to the Big House. A turnout of 110,000+ would put the record out of the reach of all but a handful of stadia around the world.

East #4: Air Force

United States Air Force Academy Falcons

Air Force #4 seed vs. Michigan, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
3:00 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Champions
Atlantic Hockey Tournament Champions
Record: 27-10-2
Coach: Frank Serratore (219-293-39, .433)

Scoring Summary:
3.69 2.13 +1.56

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
21 Jacques Lamoureux 32-20--52
13 Brent Olson 12-29--41
 4 Greg Flynn  7-33--40

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
 1 Andrew Volkening 0.926 1.97 27-10-2

Stats via

Don't look now, but it's an Atlantic Hockey team that's not a 15 or 16 overall seed.  At the beginning of the season, Air Force was looking to add to its string of Atlantic Hockey playoff titles, no matter how much a team in Colorado Springs stretches the definition of "Atlantic".  Air Force got off to the hottest start in the country, winning 15 straight before falling to Denver in late November.  While the Falcons could not keep up the fast start, those wins allowed the possibility for the Falcons to actually earn their way into the tournament even without an automatic qualifier.  Getting Jacques Lamoureux, a Hobey Baker finalist, back in the lineup after his redshirt season following his transfer from Northern Michigan certainly gave the Falcons some added scoring punch, as he netted a best in the nation 32 goals for the Falcons, who notched their first Atlantic Hockey regular season title. Rolling through Sacred Heart in the third game of the quarterfinal series (after Sacred Heart forced a game three), the Falcons made the pairwise moot by posting back to back shutouts against Bentley and Mercyhurst.  Their reward is a trip to Bridgeport to play top-seeded Michigan in the opening game of the 2009 NCAA tournament.

Quick Hits:

  • V for Victory. Vic Heyliger had been the prime mover behind the establishment of the Frozen Four and than proceeded to win an amazing six NCAA championships as coach of the Michigan Wolverines before retiring from coaching in 1957 due to health problems. Heyliger, a severe asthmatic, had noticed how much easier it was for him to breathe in the thin, dry air when his teams played in the NCAA tournament, then always held at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and moved there. He returned to coaching with the U.S. national team in 1966 and then oversaw the fledgling Air Force team from its inception as a Division II program in 1968 until his permanent retirement in 1974, compiling a record with the Falcons of 85-77-3. This included the only game between Michigan and Air Force in the teams' history, back in 1973, a 7-6 overtime win for the Wolverines at a tournament in Flint (H/T Michigan College Hockey). As a program, Air Force has only had four coaches since the team gained varsity status.

  • Secretary of Defense. Air Force netminder Andrew Volkening will be a player to watch for the Falcons.  In last season's NCAA Northeast Regional against top-seeded Miami,  Volkening made 30 saves, including one named ESPN's "Play of the Day" in forcing the Redhawks to overtime, whether the Falcons would eventually fall, earning Volkening All-Regional Team honors, the first Cadet to be so honored.  His sub-2.00 goals against average is testament to his athleticism and will likely provide many fits for the Michigan offense in the opening game.

East #2: Yale

Yale University Bulldogs

Yale 2 seed vs. Vermont, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
6:30 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
ECAC Regular Season Champions
ECAC Tournament Champions
Record: 24-7-2
Coach: Keith Allain (27-31-7, .469)

Scoring Summary:
3.39 2.18 +1.21

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
26 Mark Arcobello 17-18--35
14 Broc Little 15-20--35
16 Sean Backman 20-13--33

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
31 Alec Richards 0.926 1.97 19-4-1

Stats via

Yale looked to build upon last year's winning season, their first since 2003, with a strong campaign this year.  Despite losing five forwards to graduation, the Bulldogs got off to a hot start in November (Ivy League game limits mean a later start for Ivy hockey teams), and lost just five  ECAC games all season, earning both the ECAC regular season and Ivy League titles.  Yale seems to have a touch of a team of destiny this season.  Their win over Saint Lawrence in the ECAC semifinals in Albany saw the Bulldogs/Elis come back from a 3-2 defecit, starting with a "garbage goal" (as described by CHN), and then the game winner 22 seconds later off a giveaway.  Yale put the icing on the cake in Albany with a 5-0 rout of Cornell to claim their first ECAC playoff title.  Yale will be hosting at the Bridgeport Regional.

Quick Hits:

  • It's been a while. Yale's #2 NCAA tournament seed is their highest ever and 2009 marks just Yale's third trip to the NCAA tournament.  Their first, in 1952, saw them fall to Colorado College at the old World Arena in Colorado Springs (CC would lose to Michigan in the final).  In their most recent trip, 1998, Yale fell to Ohio State 4-0 in a West Regional game at Yost.  (Not saying it's a causation thing, but as a Michigan fan, you have to like that Michigan is 2-for-2 in titles in years that Yale makes the tournament.)

  • Connecticut is famous for its hockey whalers. Ingalls Arena, the home of Yale hockey, was completed in the 1958 and was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, he of the Gateway Arch and  the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York.  The nickname of the arena is "The Yale Whale", which is not merely clever rhyming, but the fact that the curved shape of the roof and the presents the appearance of a whale.  Named for a David Ingalls, Sr and David Ingalls, Jr, both Eli hockey captains, it currently is undergoing its second major renovation, which should be done by the beginning of next season. (In a another random connection to Ann Arbor, it was the size, shape, and design of the Yale Bowl that served as the primary influence on Fielding Yost when he first envisioned what he wanted Michigan Stadium to look like.)

East #3: Vermont

University of Vermont Catamounts

3 seed vs. Yale, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
6:30 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Record: 20-11-5
Coach: Kevin Sneddon (153-92-49)

Scoring Summary:
3.05 2.61 +0.44

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
18 Viktor Stålberg 23-20--43
3 Peter Lenes 14-16--30
14 Brian Roloff 10-17--27

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
29 Rob Madore 0.911 2.36 13-9-4
31 Mike Spillane 0.886 2.88 7-2-1

Stats via

Vermont has had a long, long road back to the NCAA tournament after their most recent appearance in 1997. The next two years were already rough ones until the wheels completely came off in 1999-2000. A walk-on goalie went to the administration with concerns about hazing, which continued to happen. After an investigation by the state attorney was sharply critical of the university's handling of the matter, the final 15 games of the season were cancelled. Somehow coach Mike Gilligan kept his job and led the Catamounts to a 14-18-2 record the next year before a disastrous 3-26-2 campaign in 2001-02. Current coach Kevin Sneddon stepped in for 2003-04 and promptly went 9-22-4, but righted the ship the next year and has had a winning record in every season since then.

Far and away, the Cats' scoring leader is junior Viktor Stålberg (of Gothenburg, Mass., appropriately Sweden). He's their only player even close to 20 goals and the only one to reach 20 assists. On the other side, junior defenseman Patrick Cullity has piled up 88 penalty minutes. Rob Madore is the clear #1 goaltender. His save percentage looks halfway decent, same with the goals against average, but nothing spectacular. Despite being the #7 team in KRACH, Vermont hasn't been dominating their opponents. The Catamounts only win by an average of 0.44 goals a night, which is about the same as Alaska's numbers (granted, Vermont has played the 9th toughest schedule in the nation and Alaska the 26th).

Vermont was in the hunt for a #1 seed for much of the season, but torpedoed those hopes down the stretch. They finished the Hockey East season with a loss to New Hampshire, then followed that up with a sweep at the hands of Mass.-Lowell in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament. So they'll either be "well-rested" or "rusty".

Quick Hits:

  • Land Grant. Justin Morrill Hall commemorates one of the most important obscure policiticians in American history. In 1857, he sponsored the Morill Land-Grant Colleges Act. The act was introduced with the purpose "to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life". There are currently 76 land grant institutions, including the University of Vermont (though it was founded in 1791).

    P.S.: Here's a photo of Craig at Justin Morrill Hall in 2007, because he's a dweeb.

Hockey Christmas 2009

The 2009 edition of Hockey Christmas is but 4 days away. The conference tournaments are over (mercifully, in some cases), and the bracket is set. At 3:00 EDT, the puck drops in Bridgeport on Michigan vs. Air Force, kicking off the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament.

It doesn't get the publicity that the basketball tournaments do, but it'll get plenty of attention around here. This will mark the third year in which we here at the Hoover Street Rag preview the entire 16-team field. The previews are getting longer (and, we think, better), so each team gets its own post this year, We'll be posting one regional a day through Thursday. We hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Wooooo! That was awesome! I mean, it looked bad at first, then Clemson stalled out and we pulled ahead, but let them back in it and barely made it into halftime with a 3-point lead. Then there was the part where we were just crushing them in the second half, pushing the lead out to 14 for a bit, falling back, then hustling it back up to 15, which was awesome, but then there was that gut-wrenching avalanche of turnovers off the Clemson press and freshmen launching 3-balls waaaay early in the shot clock and then more turnovers and I thought it was all going to end in tears when those threes started raining down on us, but MANNY was huge all night and he got the and-1 on his drive to the hoop and Novak hit one big free throw to finish it off and then WOOOOOOO. MUPPETS!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quiet Period

Sorry for the lack of stuff lately. Geoff and I were at the game Saturday night, fantastic stuff all around.

Right now, we're hard at work at the now traditional NCAA Hockey Tournament capsule summaries. We're trying to not half-ass it this year, but that requires a little more research and time. So look forward to those next week. For right now, good luck to the men's basketball team against Clemson tomorrow night. It's a dance long worth waiting for, one can only hope.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

John Beilein = Capt. Ramius?

"When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result his men were well motivated." --Captain Marko Ramius, The Hunt for Red October

Michigan 73, Iowa 45.

Michigan will face #2 seed Illinois tomorrow night in Indianapolis at 6:30 PM.

Quemar los barcos!

One Hurdle Left

The first Michigan basketball game I ever attended was in the late '90's – '98, I think – and I don't remember all that much about it. It was a home game at Crisler and Louis Bullock was the face of the team. I think we were playing UCLA, for some reason, and Michigan won, but it was kind of a letdown. My love of college hoops had been fading for a while. It was a big deal when I was a second-grader allowed to stay up late so I could watch Michigan clinch its lone NCAA tournament crown back in 1989. I watched the Fab 5 slice and dice through the Big 10 all the way to the brink of two more championships. In 8th grade, when we were out of our house while it was being remodeled, I did my homework on my grandfather's screened-in porch while listening to the post-Webber crew on WJR.

But the game started to slip away from me. As so many others have said, the Robert Traylor Wolverines were an unloveable bunch. Little by little the extent of the Ed Martin scandal began to come out, and it became easy to drift away from basketball and over toward hockey. In my time as a student ('99-'04), I attended exactly zero regular-season basketball games. The Ellerbee teams were a joke, and the Amaker ones still had the cloud of post-season bans and scholarship reductions hanging over them. When they managed to get something right (Jamal Crawford), it wouldn't pan out.

I started paying more attention when Daniel Horton joined the team, following along with the Daily's coverage and watching on TV when I could. I was excited enough by the NIT berth that I attended the Missouri and Oklahoma home games, although I had to hit refresh on ESPN for the Hawaii score while I sat in the Media Union doing Controls homework. Even if it was only the race to be the 65th-best team in the country, the NIT championship win over Rutgers felt like Michigan basketball was finally back. Of course, we know how the Amaker era ended. We weren't back. It's only a trip to the NCAA tournament that can end this program's decade in the wilderness. It's a chance to put aside banners in storage and record-book asterisks. It's the chance to start a new era of Michigan basketball, founded on the backs of kids from Detroit and Flint and the cornfields of Indiana. But first we have Iowa.

Burn the ships.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

38 Words

As a college hockey fan, I feel fortunate that I have three very extensive, go-to sites for college hockey:

They are, in no particular order:

College Hockey News

So when one of them says something just plain silly, I feel bad in calling them out, but these 38 words deserved it:

From today's INCH 4x4 (which previews what they think the NCAA Tournament will look like when it is revealed.)

MINNEAPOLIS: West Regional
Michigan could end up in GR, but I'd like to see them face North Dakota in Minneapolis to make up for those times when the Wolverines were a No. 3 seed at Yost and advanced to the Frozen.

Now, let's break this down piece by piece:

1). They don't like Minnesota's chances of making the tournament. As I understand it, this stems from the potential hit that Minnesota will take if Alaska-Anchorage gets smacked out of TUC world this weekend by Denver, never mind their tough series with the Huskies of St. Cloud State. So, while reasonable, it completely ignores how much it will change the dynamics if Minnesota makes the field.

2). "but I'd like to see them face North Dakota in Minneapolis to make up for those times when the Wolverines were a No. 3 seed at Yost and advanced to the Frozen."

Now, let us be clear here: In 1998, Michigan was a #3 seed in the old six team regional system, played at Yost. It beat #6 seed Princeton 2-1 and then played #2 seeded (and defending national champion) North Dakota and won a rather epic come from behind 4-3 to advance to the Frozen Four in Boston. NO ONE DENIES THIS!

In 2006, Michigan was a #3 seed in the current four team regional system. It lost to #2 seed North Dakota 5-1 at the Ralph. North Dakota then went on to beat Holy Cross to advance to the Frozen Four in Milwaukee.

Some (like me) might say that this would even up the score of Michigan/North Dakota hosting. (Especially after the 8-5 smackdown in Denver in 2007.)

Now, if Denver had a problem, they have a case, after the 2002 (old style) West Regionals at Yost where #4 seeded Michigan beat St. Cloud before upsetting #1 seeded Denver to advance to the Frozen Four.

If Colorado College has a problem, they would have a case after the 2003 (current style) Midwest Regionals at Yost where #3 seed Michigan upset #2 seeded Maine, then top national seed Colorado College to advance to the Frozen Four.

But what I don't understand is the logic here. Because Michigan teams in 1998, 2002, and 2003 were the beneficiary of the NCAA's rule that if a host team qualifies for the tournament, they must be placed at their host regional, the 2009 edition should be made to suffer for it? That some how, playing in Minneapolis would benefit North Dakota more than it would Michigan should both win their opening round game. In pondering this today, my presumption has become that the bigger ice at Mariucci Arena would benefit WCHA team North Dakota over CCHA team Michigan, which has only played on Olympic sized ice four times this season (five if you count the weird 200 x 90 configuration at Boston U.) Are they presuming that the fans in Minneapolis would be less hostile towards fellow WCHA team North Dakota than then would a CCHA team (but fellow Big Ten team) Michigan? Is there perhaps something of which I am not thinking?

So, really, I don't know what it is, I don't know what INCH's argument is, but to be rooting for some sort of karmic vengeance to be wrought upon Michigan just seems kind of beneath the writer's objectivity.

(Addendum: 11:00 AM Thursday, March 12, 2009)

An argument can be made that the writer is saying Michigan should be sent to Minneapolis, not to play North Dakota, but rather because they feel that Minnesota will make the field, and it would only be fair to have a highly seeded Michigan face a lower seeded host team in their own arena after the benefits of 1997, 2002, and 2003.

This is not a better argument, but at least somewhat more cogent. Still, under this thesis, my earlier points stand, as well as for a new one since the author has created confusion by presuming Minnesota will make the field in the comment, but then not putting them in the field in the 4 x 4.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CCHA Tournament Odds

Now that the brackets have all been set for the second round of the CCHA tournament, I started thinking about what Michigan's chances are of advancing to the Joe. Western stole a game off of us, so they aren't to be taken too lightly, but they aren't a good hockey team either.

One of the neat things about the KRACH ratings system (as previously discussed) is that you're supposed to be able to compare teams' KRACHs to give you an expected winning percentage. Using a little (fairly simple) probability theory1, it's then possible to predict the chances each CCHA team has of winning its series and predicting the chances of a sweep or whether Game 3 is on the horizon.

Chart? Chart.

  Notre Dame
vs. UNO
vs. Western
Miami vs.
Alaska vs.
Ohio State
Team 1 KRACH 540.3 391.3 238.9 137.0
Team 2 KRACH 115.2 89.9 136.9 216.9
T1 sweep 67.94% 66.13% 40.41% 14.99%
T2 sweep 3.09% 3.49% 13.27% 37.56%
P(Game 3) 28.97% 30.38% 46.32% 47.45%
T1 series win 91.82% 90.83% 69.86% 33.35%
T2 series win 8.18% 9.17% 30.14% 66.65%

Well then. Notre Dame and Michigan are both-near locks to advance. Miami is fairly solid, though KRACH doesn't take into account how hot Northern has been lately, so that's probably a bit high.

Likewise, it's really down on Alaska, and it's kind of unfair, though not without its reasons. Alaska had a brutal and short list of non-conference opponents, losing to anyone with half a pulse. They did get a tie against a very good Northeastern team, but that was a. the season opener and b. in Alaska. Non-conference games are disproportionately valuable in any college hockey ranking system, so Alaska's KRACH got hammered by losing to Maine and getting swept by Anchorage. This is reflected in the fact that OSU is a 2:1 favorite to advance.

Realistically, I'd put it at more like a 55% chance that the Buckeyes make it through. The first game in the series is often a very tough one for a team that's just arrived in Alaska. Couple that with a well-rested Chad Johnson in goal and I like the Nanooks' chances in Game 1. If they take that game, suddenly the numbers say they're a 5:3 favorite to advance.

Projecting a little further out, the question then turns to what are the chances of each of these teams of hoisting the Mason Cup? Well, we'll assume that each team will have to play the toughest possible schedule (by KRACH) to claim the championship. For example, Michigan has to beat Western, then Miami, then Notre Dame. Northern would have to beat Miami, then Notre Dame, then Michigan on its theoretical path. Let's go to the chart:

Probability of winning...
Notre Dame 91.82% 65.52% 38.00%
Michigan 90.83% 56.40% 23.69%
Miami 69.86% 36.61% 11.23%
Alaska 33.35% 12.16% 6.41%
Ohio State 66.65% 31.71% 9.08%
Northern 30.14% 6.09% 1.58%
Western 9.17% 1.31% 0.36%
UNO 8.18% 1.86% 0.61%

Way to go, Captain Obvious. Yeah, I know. It's shocking to learn that Northern, Western, and Nebraska-Omaha are ridiculous longshots to win it all, and that their best shot at the finals is to buy tickets at the group rate. It is interesting, however, to see that Miami's such a longshot, and that we're slightly better than a 50/50 bet to make the finals. We'll see how this all plays out on the ice.

1 – If you really want the math, leave a comment2.
2 – If you really want the math, you almost certainly know how to do it already. And are a dork.