Thursday, March 27, 2008

2008 NCAA Hockey Previews: East 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

Finally, ALL of the capsule previews can be found in this PDF. Thanks for reading.

East Regional – Times Union Center, Albany, NY

University of Michigan Wolverines

31-5-4; CCHA Tournament Winner (Regular Season Champion)
Michigan Wolverines

Young Lions
At the beginning of the season, Michigan counted 12 freshmen on its roster, a team record. The Wolverines generally skate nine of them every night, with backup goalies Bryan Hogan and Shawn Hunwick on the bench. Freshman Aaron Palushaj leads the team in assists with 29, while Max Pacioretty has accumulated a 14-20-34 line for himself skating mostly with Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik on the top offensive line in the nation. Matt Rust centers the all-freshmen second line, also featuring Palushaj alongside Carl Hagelin, the first Swede to skate with the Wolverines and the first European since Anton Fedorov in 1994. Scooter Vaughan, Chad Langlais, and Tristin Llewellyn all have logged a lot of ice time as blue-liners. None have scored any goals thus far, but Langlais has 19 assists to his credit, good enough for fifth on the team.

The Red Baron
After playing his last game as a Wolverine, losing in the Frozen Four to Clarkson and winning the consolation game against CC, Berenson became the first collegian to jump directly to the NHL, joining the Montreal Canadiens. He would spend the next 17 years in the NHL, becoming one of the rare players to score six goals in a single game and later winning the Jack Adams award as coach of the year with the St. Louis Blues. Obviously, he was fired shortly after that, so he became an assistant to Scotty Bowman in Buffalo.

In 1984, the Michigan hockey program was in a dire state. John Giordano had simply taken over after Dan Farrell retired from coaching to pursue a career in finance and the team had slumped into the lower ranks of the CCHA. This time, legendary athletic director Don Canham was finally able to get Berenson to agree to take over the program after pursuing him for years.

Berenson claims that, had he known how long the revival would take, he probably wouldn't have accepted the job. It took until 1987-88 before the Wolverines could claim a winning season and until 1991 before they made a return to the NCAA tournament. But since regaining that plateau, Michigan has now set an NCAA record with its active streak of 18 consecutive tournament appearances. Berenson has now coached 1,007 games with the Wolverines with a 642-297-68 record (including NCAA championships in '96 and '98), good enough for second all-time in both categories to Boston University's Jack Parker. Furthermore, Red has coached over 40% of all games that the Michigan hockey team has played in its history. He's also the owner of the only 30-win seasons in Michigan hockey history, and his teams have earned eleven of them.

Thank You, Seniors
The Wolverines may only regularly skate two seniors, but they've gotten incredible production and leadership from them. Hobey Baker finalist Kevin Porter and linemate Chad Kolarik have been instrumental in turning the massive class of freshmen into the #1-ranked team in the nation. Porter is the 87th captain of the Wolverine hockey team and Kolarik is an assistant captain and a vocal leader on the ice and on the bench. After going down with a torn hamstring in a game against Lake Superior State, Kolarik watched from the stands as his team fell to Michigan State in an ugly 5-2 loss. The next night, Kolarik was behind the bench in street clothes, encouraging his teammates, who respnded with their own 5-2 drubbing of the Spartans. The two of them are responsible for all the hat-tricks scored by the Wolverines this year, Porter against Nebraska-Omaha and Kolarik against Western Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Nebraska-Omaha. Between the usual top line of Porter, Kolarik, and Pacioretty, the three of them have more goals than 25 Division I teams. Porter and Kolarik have been together for six years now, two at the US National Team Development Program and four at Michigan, and both are Phoenix Coyotes draft picks, so the tandem could continue well into the future.

St. Cloud State University Huskies

19-15-5; At-large bid from the WCHA
St. Cloud

A Tradition of Excellence and Opportunity and Freezing
Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Cloud State was founded in 1869 as St. Cloud State Normal School and became St. Cloud State Teachers College in 1921. In 1988, small riots broke out during homecoming week. The riots stemmed from students throwing empty beer cans into the sousaphones as the band marched along the parade route. This escalated until National Guard troops were summoned to put down student unrest regarding the manner in which house parties were dealt with by police. This led to SCSU canceling homecoming parades and future homecoming weeks were scheduled later in the year in the hope that the cold would reduce the risk of riots.

We'll Just Make It Up As We Go Along
St. Cloud State's most famous alumnus is Richard Dean Anderson. The star of Legend, Stargate SG-1, and MacGyver, Anderson is an avowed hockey fan, and has found ways to work his own love of hockey into several of his characters, particularly on MacGyver. Anderson also was romantically linked to Teri Hatcher, Sela Ward, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Katarina Witt.

Let's Go Hockey
In addition to having its mascot and cheerleaders on ice skates and the ignominy of having never won an NCAA Tournament game, St. Cloud State features sophomore forward Ryan Lasch. A 2008 Hobey Baker Award finalist, California native Lasch has 25 goals and 28 assists this season. Lasch ended up in St. Cloud after the strange experience of being cut by his Midget AAA team, and thus spent three seasons in Ontario's Central Junior League, scoring 60 goals in his third season with the Pembroke Lumber Kings and earning league MVP status before coming to the Huskies.

Clarkson University Golden Knights

21-12-4; At-large bid from the ECAC (Regular Season Champion)

A Workman That Needeth Not to be Ashamed
Founded in 1896 in Potsdam, New York as the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial School of Technology, in 1913 the name was changed Thomas S.Clarkson Memorial College of Technology, which was used in a shortened version as Clarkson College of Technology or CCT. Though the name of the school was officially changed in 1984 to Clarkson University, the hockey pep band at Cheel Arena still uses the rallying cry of "Let's Go Tech!" Clarkson's motto leads one to wonder, what kind of workman needeth be ashamed?

Good Knight
Clarkson is powered by the 21 goals of senior forward and Sharks' property Steve Zalewski, while sophomore Matt Beca's 24 helpers coupled with ten goals give him the team points lead. Beca also only has 8 penalty minutes this season and shares the lead in shorthanded goals (4) on a team that leads the nation in shorties. Senior David Leggio has been quite sound in the net for the Golden Knights, boasting a .918 save percentage and five shutouts. The Golden Knights already squared off with the Huskies of SCSU twice this season, splitting the November games at the Cheel.

Rules are Made to be Broken
Among Clarkson's famous non-hockey playing alumni is veteran character actor M. Emmet Walsh. Walsh has over 100 film and television appearances to his credit, including Blade Runner, Blood Simple, and The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh. Walsh is partial namesake of Roger Ebert's "Stanton-Walsh Rule" which states that "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." Ebert later conceded that the rule was violated by 1999's Wild Wild West, which, if you saw it, you'd agree.

Niagara University Purple Eagles

22-10-4; CHA Tournament winner

That All May Know You
Founded in 1856, Niagara is one of three Catholic Universities in this year's NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament, each representing a different Catholic order. Boston College is one of 28 U.S. colleges in the Jesuit tradition, Notre Dame is one of nine U.S. universities that are a part of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and Niagara is one of three American schools in the Vincentian Tradition, (DePaul and St. John's being the other two). The Vincentians claim St. Vincent de Paul as their spiritual leader, the priest who "remade the face of France" in the 16th century.

Tremendous Upside Potential
One of Niagara most prominent alums is Basketball Hall of Famer Hubie Brown. Roommates with Frank Layden at Niagara, Brown has had a long and varied coaching career; assistant coach at Duke and then the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach of the ABA's Kentucky Colonels (whom he led to the 1975 ABA Championship), the Atlanta Hawks (where Brown earned Coach of the Year honors), New York Knicks (head coach during the disastrous 1984 season leading to the Draft Lottery "win" and right to select Patrick Ewing), and, after a long television career, the Memphis Grizzlies (where he would again win Coach of the Year, this time at the age of 70.) A favorite of Bill Simmons, Brown's explanations of a player's NBA prospects at the NBA Draft leads us to believe that every one of us has unlimited upside.

Last Dance?
Due to the dissolution of Wayne State's men's hockey program at the end of this season, Niagara's victory over Bemidji State in the CHA Championship game likely gave the Purple Eagles the last automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament for the College Hockey America winner. The conference will be down to four teams next season, and while there is pending NCAA legislation which may allow this to change, the conference is struggling to find replacement teams. Niagara will be making its third tournament appearance, having defeated New Hampshire in 2000 before losing to North Dakota. In 2004, Niagara was knocked out in the first round by Boston College.

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