Monday, March 27, 2017

48 Hours in Fargo, One Goal Short of Chicago

Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller celebrate
the game winning goal in double overtime vs
North Dakota.
(Photo by Matt Dresens
The first number on the alarm clock started with a four when it abruptly went off Friday morning signaling the start of another trip west to the regionals, my third trek to the midwest in five years for such an occasion. 

After landing in Fargo just two hours before puck drop against North Dakota, I knew I didn’t have time to check into the hotel or otherwise I would have been late. So I changed in the bathroom, booked it down the escalator and out onto the concourse where, to my surprise, there actually was a taxi service. 

I had to instruct the nice driver man three times that I was not trying to go to the Fargo Dome, but instead Scheels Arena. He then said he would take me to Scheels (a Bass Pro Shop type store) and I was again trying to explain to him to him that I was in fact not looking to buy a firearm or hunting gear and I would really like to get to the arena sometime before the opening face-off. Eventually, he got it…

As I walk into the area concourse with a red duffle bag and a shirt and tie on, three to four separate North Dakota fans jokingly asked me “you miss the bus?” After swimming through a sea of Sioux Hawks fans in the lobby, I found a nice spread of deli meats in the press room, fixed myself a pair of turkey sandwiches and double fisted my way with two subs to the press box just in time catch warmups. The timing was perfect and thankfully nothing was delayed. 

The emotions of the first game (ok maybe both games) are why we watch sports. The ebbs, the flows the back and forth of that game was unparalleled. It instantly vaulted onto the short list of most exciting BU’s games I have attended.

You know the story about the game. BU was up 3-1, Kieffer Bellows was slammed through the glass, North Dakota turned that into momentum, scored two tying goals and looked to have won it, but was offsides all before Charlie McAvoy actually won the game in double overtime. 

North Dakota’s Rehtt Gardener, who scored the game’s first goal way back in the first period said “"It was a whirlwind of emotion for sure, we did a really good job of sticking to it, we knew there was a chance, it was close call, I thought we settled ourselves down and played a really good game after that. It's a tough bounce but I thought we answered the only way we could and played as hard as we could."

Jake Oettinger added, “When you thought they ended it, you’re obviously upset, but you see them go look at it and obviously, it took a long time so we knew that we might get another shot at it. I think we took advantage of the opportunity we were given. I can’t say enough about the effort the guys gave. I know a lot of people were counting us out in this game. It was grit, heart and determination we showed tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and I couldn’t be prouder to be a BU Terrier right now.”

The roller coaster that game turned into is almost unparalleled to any BU game I have ever attended. I have never experienced a team full on lose in overtime, have a goal be reversed on a review and then go on to win. The only game that comes to mind is the 2003 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State, where the Hurricanes seemed to have won the national title; fireworks were being shot off and confetti was pouring onto the field, but out of all the chaos, a flag was thrown for pass interference in overtime. The field was cleared and on the next position, Ohio State won the game. Even that wasn’t reviewed, though. It was just a flag no one saw. 

Burnt Boats on twitter summed it up perfectly saying, “I have experienced the thrill of victory and agony of defeat and the game isn’t even over yet.”  

The glory and jubilation lasted for a while before I was sitting at Applebee’s in West Fargo with two kids from WTBU Student Radio when we all look at each other and remember, “shit, we have another game to prep for.” We waited until Duluth scored the overtime winner against Ohio State before leaving. At this point, I had been up for close to 17 hours. Anything for hockey I guess. 
Downtown Fargo and all its's glory. Yes,
that's a multi-colored Bison

Prior to the game on Saturday, I traveled into “downtown” Fargo to check out the town. It was underwhelming, to say the least, but I wasn’t expecting much. It reminded me a lot of the center of Natick, to be honest. I did, however, get a fabulous Bison steak at the Hotel Donaldson at the corner of 1st and Broadway. 

From the HoDo as it was referred to, I made my way back to the arena, where it was once again time for hockey. 

Much like the North Dakota game, you know how this one ended. BU struck first for the first time in 10 games, Duluth tied it in the closing minute of the first, took the lead late in the third, Patrick Harper tied it with roughly three minutes left, and Duluth won in overtime on the power play. 

"They get the power play in overtime which was the right call,” said coach Quinn. “It's a penalty and our penalty kill's been great all year, and we just weren't able to kill the last one. What a great play by them, they make an unbelievable play to keep the puck in, we win the draw and Doyle does a great job firing around, and [UMD defenseman Neal Pionk] made an unbelievable play to keep the puck in and Doyle makes a great block and was a little bit staggered and they smelled blood and they took advantage of it. That's what great teams do and that's why they're going to the Frozen Four, they've been doing that all year long and you have to give them a lot of credit." 

Doyle Somerby, who played his last game as a Terrier on Saturday added, “We've come a long way my four years, the first four years with Coach Quinn and you get 10 wins your first year, you don't really know what to expect after that. To make the tournament three times in a row is pretty special and obviously I wish it ended better and you always want to write the right end of the script, but it was just a tough game."

It was certainly disappointing. I think I can speak for everyone who followed the team this year in saying they were looking forward to Chicago. I for one love the city. I was lucky to attend game two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at the United Center and saw the Bruins win 2-1 overtime and always thought the city would be a fun spot for the Frozen Four. I had it circled on my calendar and thought it was a real possibility, but somethings are not meant to be. Sometimes you come up one goal short. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Duluth Gets OT Winner; Season Comes To End

It was another instant classic, just this time BU was on the other side of the OT winner as Minnesota-Duluth knocked off the Terriers 3-2 in overtime on a power play to advance to the Frozen Four in Chicago.
The agony of defeat.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
1:39 into overtime, Bobo Carpenter was sent to the box for tripping, sending Duluth to the power play. Less than 20 seconds later, Minnesota-Duluth was pouring over the boards celebrating a trip to the Frozen Four. Adam Johnson wristed home the game-winner from the top of the circle after walking in from the point, getting around a hobbling Doyle Somerby, who had just blocked shot, and beat Jake Oettinger high blocker side.

“It's incredibly disappointing for us,” said coach Quinn. “They get the power play in overtime, which was the right call, I mean it's a penalty. Our penalty kill’s been great all year and we just weren’t able to kill the last one on a great play by them.”

BU had killed 27 straight penalties, the most since 2010 before UMD scored in overtime.

Back in the first, Clayton Keller got BU on the board just under eight minutes into the game on a nifty backhand that went top shelf on UMD goalie Hunter Miska. Minutes prior to the goal, Miska stoned JFK on a point-blank bid with a sensational leg save.
Keller's 21st goal of the year.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Duluth tied the game on a wraparound goal with just 17 seconds left in the opening period. BU was trying to set up an odd-man rush the other way, but the pass was broken up and from behind the goal line, Alex Iafallo swooped in and wrapped home his 19th goal of the year.

UMD took the lead with 8:22 left in regulation. Joey Anderson drove hard to the net and fired off a shot that Oettinger kicked back into the slot. Anderson followed his shot and buried it for his 11th of the year.

With their backs against the wall, BU played their best hockey of the weekend following the go-ahead goal. The applied pressure and created chances, but it was Patrick Harper, who tied the game up with just 3:13 left, after a great individual effort. Harper came in with speed and pulled up at the top of the circle, creating a bit of separation for himself to get a shot off that was perfectly placed off the inside crossbar.

“I thought we amped it up a bit after they made it 2-1, but I thought we were playing well leading into that before they got the second goal,” added Quinn. We just remained calm and kept grinding away, eventually, you might get a break and might able to beat him. Harper makes a heck of a play coming down and cutting in. He’s got such a quick release and that thing got into the net in a hurry.”

Despite the comeback, it was not meant to be.

It was a fantastic weekend out here in Fargo. It was everything you wanted in the playoffs: a roaring crowd, comebacks, and overtime. Yes, it was a disappointing result a really tough way to have the season end, but I had a wonderful time covering the team this year. Thanks to all who followed along. I’ll have a year-end write up sometime in the next few days, but other than that, see back here in October.  

Minnesota Duluth Preview - West Regional Final

It's a quick turnaround for the Terriers this afternoon in the West Regional final in Fargo, North Dakota. They will face Minnesota Duluth for the right to play in Chicago, in two weeks, at the Frozen Four.
Evan Rodrigues scores the game-winning goal with 2:24 left on the power play against UMD, 
sending BU to the Frozen Four in 2015 

Two years ago, BU dropped Duluth 3-2 in an epic Northeast Regional final in Manchester to send the Terriers to the Frozen Four in Boston.

Yesterday, both BU and Duluth played thrilling overtime games leaving no rest for the weary tonight. Willie Raskob delivered the game winner 11:58 into overtime with a bomb from the point to send Duluth past Ohio state 3-2, despite leading the Buckeyes 2-0 after two periods.

Duluth’s goalie Hunter Miska was sensational between the pipes, turning aside 40 shots, including three or four highlight reel saves.

“We’ve grinded through games and even when you’re not at your best every game, we found ways to win and tonight was no different,” said Duluth coach Scott Sandelin after the game. “We gave up the lead and played on our heels and relied on some great saves from our goaltender to keep it tied and fortunately made a play in overtime to get the win. Certainly excited about moving on and obviously BU is a very good team—like everybody this time of year.”

UMD has lost just once in their last 18 games, going 14-1-3 since January 13th. In that stretch, they beat North Dakota three times, including last weekend in the NCHC championship game. The only loss came at the hands of Western Michigan on February 4th, a 7-4 defeat in Kalamazoo. Duluth is currently riding a six-game win streak and has scored 32 goals in the month of March alone. UMD has scored the 8th most goals in the country with 133. Penn State had the most at 153.

Scouting the Bulldogs:
Senior Ryan Iafallo leads the scourging pace with 47 points off of 18 goals and 29 assists in 39 games played. Yesterday, he picked up two assists, including one in the overtime winner. Adam Johnson is second at 36 points by way of 17 goals and 19 assists. Duluth has scoring depth, coming into this game with seven players with 22 or more points.

In goal, Hunter Miska has a .919 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average in his first collegiate campaign. Nationally, Miska is the 18th ranked goalie in the country. Jake Oettinger on the other hand, is 9th.

History:
As stated before, BU and UMD met in the 2015 Northeast Regional Final and that marks the only time these two schools have ever faced each other in the NCAA tournament.

In fact, BU and Duluth have only played six games head to head all time, with BU holding a 4-2-0 record.

Photos From North Dakota

FARGO - Finally had time to throw these together into a slide show. Photos from yesterday's game.

Friday, March 24, 2017

McAvoy Double OT Winner Sends BU Past North Dakota

Charlie McAvoy and the BU Terriers silenced a packed house at Scheels Arena in Fargo with a thrilling double overtime win in the opening round of the NAA West Reginal. 

Charlie McAvoy reacts after scoring the game-winning goal
in the second overtime.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
With a 3-1 lead and roughly ten minutes to play, BU was in the driver's seat, despite getting heavily outplayed by North Dakota. Then the game hinged on a single play. Along the near wall, Kieffer Bellows took a heavy hit from Mike Gornal that shattered the glass. Coming out of an extended maintenance break, North Dakota scored two goals in just over two minutes to tie things up.

First, Ludvig Hoff beat Jake Oettinger up over his shoulder for his fourth goal of the year to cut the BU lead to one. Not long after, Christian Wolanin tucked one, five-hole on Oettinger that sent the hometown crowd into a frenzy.

The real fun was just beginning, though. After surviving a furious ND attack, BU was able to force overtime thanks in large part to Jake Oettinger making stop after stop all night, not just in the third period.
Doyle Somerby celebrates after his
first period goal.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Minutes into OT, the Hawks looked to have scored the game-winning goal. It came on a scramble play at the side of the net and both benches emptied; North Dakota’s in jubilation and BU’s in depression. But it wasn’t official and after a lengthy review, the play was ruled offsides. I have still yet to actually see the replay.

“They get the goal in overtime and everybody thinks the game is over,” said Coach Quinn. “We thought that it might be offsides. You know, it seemed the longer it [the replay] took the better chance we were gonna have another chance to live another day. When the linesman buckled his helmet coming out of the box, we knew we were gonna get another chance.”

Not long after the goal reversal call, Kieffer Bellows rang the post with a turnaround swat at the puck in mid-air. He cleanly beat UND goalie Cam Johnson, but the post had other plans.

Other than that one chance, BU was barely surviving the first overtime. They registered zero shots on goal in the first extra session and had to kill a penalty in the closing minutes of the frame just to extend the game.

And extend it they did. Along the near wall, Clayton Keller patiently held the puck and created some time and space for himself. Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy was crashing backdoor. From the bottom of the circle, Keller found him all alone in the bottom of the far dot and from there, McAvoy punched home the double overtime game winner. It was McAvoy’s fifth of the year.

“I kinda stood up at the blue line and waited for Clayton to come up that wall there,” mentioned McAvoy. “I know he’s a dynamic player so when you put it in his hands you know there's a good chance something good’s gonna happen. I kinda just watched the play and observed, you know, saw a lane going to the net and I figured he would find me open and that’s exactly what he did.”

Way back in the first period, North Dakota opened the scoring with 2:56 left in the stanza on Rhett Gardner’s eighth goal of the year.

BU then looked to one of it's most unlikely goal scorers to tie things up 2:05 into the second. Doyle Somerby scored his first goal of the year back door off an unreal feed from McAvoy to get the Terriers on the board.

28 seconds into the third, Clayton Keller made a crafty play behind the net to create a passing lane to find Bobo Carpenter for a slam dunk finish out in front. Roughly four minutes later, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was sent in alone down broadway thanks to a marvelous saucer pass from Patrick Harper in the neutral zone. From in tight, JFK tucked home a forehand to give BU a commanding 3-1 lead that would later slip away.

The Terriers were outplayed in every sense of the word, but still came out on top. Jake Oettinger was phenomenal in net, turning aside a career-high 56 shots. In total, BU was out attempted 145-67. Brandon Hickey had a staggering 17 block shots.

“Hicks has been a horse for us on the back end all year,” added BU goalie Jake Oettinger. “It’s no shocker to me that he had that many blocks tonight because he lays his body out every night”

BU awaits the winner of Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State for a chance to play in the Frozen Four in Chicago.

This marks BU’s longest game since game three of 2001 Hockey East Quarterfinals, a 4-3 loss to Providence with 4:44 left. This was the longest NCAA tournament game for the Fighting Hawks.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

North Dakota Preview - NCAA Tournament Round One

The waiting, the mock brackets, the constant checking of the PaireWise and league standings is finally over. As you know, 7th seeded BU will be headed west to play 10th seeded North Dakota, the host of the Fargo-West Regional in the NCAA tournament.

Brandon Hickey onetimes a Cason Hohman pass for a first period
power play goal against North Dakota in the 2015 Frozen Four
in Boston. 

This marks the fourth time since the field expanded to 16 teams in 2003 that BU has been shipped west. They went in 2007 to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and St. Paul, Minnesota in both 2012 and 2016.

The North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hawks had a late season push, winning six of their last eight games. This helped them to get off the bubble and shore up a three seed. NoDak swept St. Cloud in the opening round of the NCHC tournament and dropped top-rankled Denver in the semis, before falling in dramatic fashion to Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in the NCHC championship game. The Bulldogs, who play the late game in Fargo on Friday night against Ohio State, scored the game-winning goal with just 51 seconds left on a five on three.

The Hawks started the year on a tear, winning five straight out of the gate, before slumping and failing to find the win column in their next six games. A year ago, North Dakota won the national championship with a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the title game.

A key for BU will be starting well. The Terriers have given up the first goal in their last nine games, going 4-4-1. Coach Quinn has said a few times over the stretch that even though his team gave up the first, he liked the way the team was playing.

Last week was a different story. “The past few weeks we’ve playing with fire and we played with an inferno tonight,” said Quinn after the 3-2 loss to BC in the Hockey East semis. A quick start will help reduce some of the noise level and atmosphere inside Scheels Arena that will undoubtedly be packed with green and white.

Scouting The Fighting Hawks
Sophomore Shane Gerish leads all skaters in points scored with 37, by way of 21 goals and 16 assists, but has been relatively quiet as of late, registering only four points in his last ten games. Freshman standout Tyson Jost, along with Dante Fabbro were the only two collegiate representatives on the Canadian World Junior Team. This year at North Dakota, Jost has posted 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 32 games played. Brock Boeser, another WJC representative, this time for the US, is third with 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points.

In total, there will be 13 players who have participated in the WJC tournament in this game. BU has ten of them.

In goal Cam Johnson, who was marvelous in North Dakota’s title run a year ago, has seen a bit of a dip in production. Last year, the Flint, Michigan native boasted a .935 save percentage with a 1.66 goal against average and was a finalist for the Richter Award. Johnson comes into this game with a .904 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average.

History
BU and North Dakota have played six times in the NCAA’s, with BU’s 5-3 win in the 2015 National Semifinal being the most recent. The teams have only met once in the regionals, that was 2005 in Worcester with North Dakota winning 4-0 on their way to the national title game in Columbus, Ohio where they lost to Denver.

The two teams met in the 1997 national championship game. BU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Peter Donatelli and Chris Drury, but they were overmatched in the second period as North Dakota scored five goals in the frame. BU scored once with the goalie pulled, but ND picked up an empty net goal and winning 6-4 in Milwaukie.

BU, and the then Fighting Sioux also clashed in a three-game series at Walter Brown in the 1990 NCAA tournament. The Sioux won game one 8-5, but the Terriers rallied winning the next two (5-3 and 5-0) and advanced to play Michigan State in the second round.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

No Dice; BU Comeback Too Little To Late

Despite pumping 22 shots on BC goalie Joe Woll in the third period and scoring two extra attacker goals in the last two minutes, BU was unable to overcome a sluggish second period that saw the Eagles scored twice on their way to a 3-2 win and a birth in the championship game.
Bobo Carpenter is stuffed on a second period power play
shot by BC goalie Joe Woll
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
BC’s two goals in the second both came from a bit of a distance. First, Julius Mattila wristed home his eighth goal of the year from above the circle to Jake Oettinger’s glove hand 1:58 into the period. By all accounts, it was a rather weak goal for Oettinger to allow.

Midway through the frame and with BU on the power play, BC turned the tables and took a Terrier turnover in the neutral zone and went the other way. From the top of the dot, Ryan Fitzgerald ripped home his first of two on the night, shorthanded.

“I thought the shorthanded goal really changed the complexion of the game,” said Coach Quinn. “ We had a good first period, we played well, we had some great scoring chances. The second period starts, we give up a goal we’d all like to have back and to me, the back-breaker was the second goal, the shorthanded goal.”

BC scored just 58 seconds into the third period on Fitzgerald’s second of the game from Chris Brown and Matty Gaudreau on a nice passing sequence.

The Terriers finally came to life midway through the third and played with a bit of deprecation and effort, something that was clearly lacking in the second period. They had a pair of power plays that generated some good looks, but still, nothing was getting past Woll, who made 42 saves on the evening.

Finally, Jordan Greenway poked home a chance from the top of the crease to cut the BC lead to 3-1 with 2:24 left and Jake Oettinger off for the extra attacker. Clayton Keller seemed to lose the handle on the puck at the side of the cage and the puck centered to Greenway in a scrum, where he was able to force it past Woll for his 10th of the year.

1:02 later, Keller cashed in on a dagger to Woll’s blocker side, making it a one-goal game with 1:22 left. It would be the closest the Terriers would come.

“We did some crazy things there with the goalie pulled twice,” added Quinn. “We had chances to tie it, but again, I mentioned this the past few weeks, playing with fire and we played with an inferno tonight.”

With 9.8 left, BU had and offensive zone draw that BC center Ryan Fitzgerald turtled on, completely covering up the puck, but no whistle was blown for delay of game and the clock ran out. Following that, a complete line brawl broke out that had Brandon Hockey and Casey Fitzgerald getting into the closest thing to an actual fight I've seen in a college hockey game.

Tomorrow night, BC will be playing for their lives against Lowell in the Hockey East Championship game. They must win to make the NCAA’s. BU is safe and will in all likelihood be shipped west to Fargo.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

BC Preview -- Hockey East Semifinals

BU is back in the Garden after missing out a year ago, after falling to UMass Lowell, and will take on Boston College Friday at 8:00. The Terriers and Eagles both finished in a first-place tie in the league standings and both swept their respective quarterfinal series’ to set up a clash on Causeway Street.

From The Vault
Justin Maiser scores in double overtime in first ever semifinal matchup 
between BU and BC back in 2003, sending the Terriers to the finals to 
face New Hampshire. 

Boston College made quick work of Vermont in the 3-6 matchup. BC started out hot, scoring eight seconds into game one, and they didn't let up. In total, BC outscored the Catamounts 14-4 over the two nights.

Head to head, unless you live under a rock, you know that BU is 3-0-0 against BC this year. The Terriers swept a January home and home series with 2-1 and 3-0 wins. BU also won the opening round of the Beanpot with a 3-1 victory.

Special teams have played a huge role in the three prior meetings. BU has held BC to just one power play goal in 11 opportunities over three games. The Terrier PK has continued to be strong and was a large part of advancing past Northeastern last weekend. BU held the second most efficient power play in the country goalless on seven chances.

Last weekend, BU went 4 for 8 (50%) on the power play, while BC was equally impressive, going 5 for 11 (45.5%).

Scouting the Eagles
Austin Cangelosi and Matty Gaudreau both are tied for the team lead in points with 34. Cangelosi leads the team in goals scored with 20 and has added 14 assists. Gaudreau has just eight goals but has notched an impressive 26 assists. The ever dangerous Colin White is right behind those two with 33 points by way of 16 goals and 17 assists. Bruins Prospect Ryan Fitzgerald, Scott Savage, Mike Kim and David Cotton are other players to watch.

In goal, Joe Woll continues to be steady, holding a .913 save percentage and 2.61 goals against with a 16-12-3 record in 32 appearances.

History

The Terriers and Eagles have met four times before in the semifinals, with BU owning a 3-1 record. The first meeting was in 2003 and in this instant classic, Justin Maiser compiled a hat-trick, scoring late in the second, again in the final three minutes to tie the game, and once more in double overtime to win send the fifth-seeded Terriers past #2 BC 6-5. In addition, Sean Fields made 46 saves in 85 minutes of play. BC’s lone win came in 2007 when the Eagles dispatched the Terriers with a convincing 6-2 win while a heavy March snowstorm blanketed Boston. Thanks to three goals in 43 seconds from Zach Cohen, Brian Strait, and Colin Willson, BU slipped past BC 3-2 in 2009. Finally, BU was able to dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole to win 6-3 in 2013. Danny O’Regan notched a pair of goals and Sean Maguire was phenomenal in net.

The Early Game
Lowell and Notre Dame will face-off in the early game. This year, the final four features the top four teams in the league based on points and the only real surprise out of last weekend was it took top-seeded Lowell three games to get past 10th-seeded New Hampshire. In fact, It was the only series to go the distance, but Lowell advanced with wins in games two and three. I was on hand in Lowell for a game three massacre of the Wildcats, an 8-2 one-sided affair.

I think this game has the potential to be a defensive struggle. Both teams have exceptional goalies in Tyler Wall and Cal Peterson, but it's hard to pick against the River Hawks this time of year in the Garden. Lowell has advanced to the championship game the last four seasons and I don’t see this year being any different. Lowell by a goal, 3-2.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Brackets One Week Out

We are less than a week out from selection Sunday, so here’s my projected bracket, acting as if the season has ended and this is the final PairWise.

1. Denver
2. Duluth
3. Harvard
4. Western
5. Minnesota
6. Boston University
7. Union
8. Lowell
9. Cornell
10. Notre Dame
11. North Dakota
12. Providence
13. Penn State
14. Ohio State
15. Air Force
16. Boston College

25. Canisus (AHA)
28. Michigan Tech 37. Bowling Green (WCHA)

Conference Leaders based on win% (projected tourney winners): Canisus (AHA), Minnesota (B1G), Union (ECAC), Lowell (HE), Denver (NCHC), Tech and Bowling Green are the final teams left in the WCHA tournament.

Every league in the NCAA must have one team in the field and that is determined by league title winners. So here we are assuming the conference leaders (above) have won their respective conference championships. That means Air Force and Boston College are out and Canisus and either Bowling Green or Michigan Tech are in.

1. Denver
2. Duluth
3. Harvard
4. Western

5. Minnesota
6. BU
7. Union
8. Lowell

9. Cornell
10. Notre Dame
11. North Dakota
12. Providence

13. Penn State
14. Ohio State
15. Canisus
16. Tech/BGSU

Regionals
The field is then broken into four groups or the four regional with the goal of "bracket integrity", i.e 1vs16, 2vs15 and so on. There can not be inter-conference match-ups in the first round and hosts of regionals must be placed in their host city no matter what their ranking is. Brown hosts in Providence, North Dakota in Fargo, New Hampshire in Manchester, and Miami in Cincinnati. Teams can also be moved to "boost attendance" (see Providence playing in Providence two years ago.).

Fargo
1. Denver vs 16. Tech/BGSU
8. Lowell vs 9. Cornell

Cincinnati
2. Duluth vs 15. Canisus
7. Union vs 10. Notre Dame

Providence
3. Harvard vs 14. Ohio State
6. BU vs 11. North Dakota

Manchester
4. Western vs 13. Penn State
5. Minnesota vs 12. Providence

North Dakota must play in Fargo, so they are flipped with Cornell. Other than that, there are no other necessary moves, but we all know the committee will move teams for attendance reasons, so here’s what I got: Minnesota to Cincinnati, BU to Manchester, Union to Providence, Providence to Providence, and Cornell to Manchester

Fargo
1. Denver vs 16. Tech/BGSU
8. Lowell vs 11. North Dakota

Cincinnati
2. Duluth vs 15. Canisus
5. Minnesota vs 10. Notre Dame

Providence
3. Harvard vs 14. Ohio State
7. Union vs 12. Providence

Manchester
4. Western vs 13. Penn State
6. Boston University vs 9. Cornell

The idea of bracket integrity is completely thrown out the window in the system. In addition, the other idea that the tournament has a “national flavor” is a joke. Teams are shuffled around so much to boost attendance that it practically becomes and east vs west tournament. Solution? you know where this is going if you have followed for a while… first round (at least) games on campus.

It shouldn’t be that hard to line up teams 1-16, play a first round best of three series on campus and then the next weekend play a “super regional” before the Frozen Four. Attendance will inevitably go up by virtue of there being more games. The NCAA will still get it’s money (we all know that’s the most important factor) from the super regional at a neutral site. Have one in the east and one in the west. First round followed by the super regional and then the Frozen Four in back to back to back weekends and get rid of that dumb weekend off between the regionals and the FF. It would be the best way to find the best team and boost attendance.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Going Gardening, BU Completes Sweep of Huskies

BU will be back at the Garden for the first time since 2015 after dropping Northeastern 3-2 in game two and completing a two-game sweep of the Huskies in almost identical fashion to last night’s game… Just without the overtime.

Coach Quinn jokingly opened his press conference by asking “Should we just replay last night’s press conference?”

BU fell behind 2-0 on goals by Biagio Lerario and Nolan Stevens in the first. From the left-wing dot, Lerario ripped home his first goal of the year off the crossbar, up over Jake Oettinger’s shoulder to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead 2:23 into the game. Later in the frame, Matt Fillipe threaded a pass to Stevens in the slot and from there, the junior forward poked it past Oettinger to make it 2-0.

“I thought we played much better in this first period than we did last night,” added Quinn. “I wish we’d start better, I thought we were really sloppy with the puck. It was turnovers that were really causing us problems and I thought as the game went on we managed the puck better.”

Again, it was a strong night of special teams for BU, scorring twice on the man advantage and a perfect 3 for 3 on the kill.

“We have a great goalie,” said Quinn on why his team was so successful on the kill. “Listen, they had chances. It wasn’t like we hemmed them in and they didn’t have chances. You need a little puck luck too.”

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson found pay dirt on a nice redirection of a Clayton Keller pass to get BU on the board with 5:22 left in the second on the power play.

NU once again held a 2-1 lead going into the third, but 3:01 into the final period, Nick Roberto tied things up. From the far side dot, JFK found Roberto at the top of the near side circle, where he was able to collect the pass and torch NU goalie Ryan Ruck blocker side for his fifth goal of the year.

It once again looked like things might go to overtime, but JFK drew a hooking call with just 1:34 left to send BU back to the power play.

Charlie McAvoy started the power play setup with the puck at center point before moving it to Chad Krys at the top of the left circle. Krys then worked it down to JFK along the goal line, where the Swede tried a stuff attempt on Ruck that was stopped. The ensuing rebound kicked out to Krys in the low circle and the freshman defenseman was able to hammer home his fifth goal of the year with just 24.9 seconds left to give BU a 3-2 lead.

“It's been a good couple days for us on the power play,” mentioned JFK. “It’s gonna be important in these games to have a power play that’s working and be able to score goals like this one and last night.”

NU coach Jim Madigan had a 40-second press conference following the game and was clearly frustrated with the late penalty call, saying “I really can’t talk much more about the game. I can’t talk about this series without two calls that really didn’t go our way and for me, that was the difference in the game and in the series.”

BU will play either Boston College or New Hampshire depending on the Lowell-UNH result tomorrow night. A Lowell win and BU and BC will be the late game. A UNH win will pit the Wildcats and Terriers in a rematch of the 2015 semis.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Greenway OT Winner Caps BU Comeback; Terriers Take Game 1

The game had everything anyone could want from a playoff game including a dramatic comeback, unlikely goal scorers and above all an overtime game winner.
BU celebrates after Jordan Greenway's overtime game
winning goal.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
3:11 into overtime with BU on the power play, Jordan Greenway buried a shot from the left wing dot past Ryan Ruck’s blocker to give BU a 1-0 series lead. Clayton Keller started the rush through the middle and from the mid slot, dished off a pass to Greenway who did the rest.

“It was certainly a great hockey game, playoff hockey right from the start,” said coach Quinn. “Obviously they [NU] got out of the gate fast and furious and we looked like a team that hadn’t played in a while. We did a really good job of keeping it 2-0, Oettinger made some really big saves and towards the end of the first, we started showing some life. I thought we played a really good second period, got a big power play goal. I really loved the way we played in the third.”

As Quinn eluded to, it was a slow start for the Terriers. NU jumped on the board a little over seven minutes in on Zach Aston-Reese’s 31st goal of the year. Dylan Sikura doubled the Husky lead two and a half minutes later on a nice passing play where Jeremey Davies was able to connect with Sikura backdoor for an easy finish.

NU nearly made it 3-0 minutes later, but BU goalie Jake Oettinger was there to make a sprawling save and keep the Terriers in punching distance.

Ryan Cloonan had a strong game after moving up
to fill the hole left by Bobo Carpenter's injury 
in the first period. Here, he drives the net hard
on one of a few solid rushes by the sophomore
forward still looking for his first goal of the year.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
BU finally struck back on a power play goal by Dante Fabbro midway through the second. Kieffer Bellows won an in-zone faceoff that sent the puck up top to Brandon Hickey at the left point. From there, the junior defenseman worked it over to Fabbro on the right side and from beyond the circle, wristed home his 6th goal of the year.

The Terriers still needed one more and it came from one of the more unlikely sources. Pat Curry won a battle in the near corner that freed him up to make a centering pass to Chase Phelps who was uncovered in the slot. With no one even remotely close to him, Phelps received the pass and wasted little time depositing his third goal of the year past Ryan Ruck five-hole with 10:32 left.

“It was a great goal to tie it by Phelps,” added Quinn. “Curry did a great job forechecking, makes a great pass, Phelps doesn’t stick handle it and just gets rid of it.”

Down the stretch, BU had to kill off two NU power plays with less 8:00 to play. All night, BU had held the potent Husky power play in check, but never was that more apparent than the two kills late in the third. In total, BU limited the nation’s second best power play to just four shots on four power plays.

“That power play is as good as you will see and I thought we did a fantastic job killing,” said Quinn.

BU lost both Bobo Carpenter and John MacLoud in the first period and neither returned to action.

On the final goal, BU was on the power play after Clayton Keller drew a hooking call from Jeremy Davies with a strong rush through the middle. NU coach Jim Madigan was none too pleased with the call, saying “three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and BU getting a power play in overtime.”

Clearly, it was a reference to the call in the 2015 Beanpot championship game that led to Matt Grzelcyk’s game-winner on the man advantage. Earlier this year, though, NU was given a power play in overtime in NU’s come-from-behind 4-4 tie in November.

Game two is tomorrow night back here at Agganis.

NU Preview -- Hockey East Quarterfinals

For the first time since 2011, BU and Northeastern will square off in the Hockey East quarterfinals with BU looking to advance to the Garden after missing the semis when Lowell bounced them in the quarters a year ago. NU, on the other hand, is trying once again trying to make a miraculous run to the NCAA tournament. To do so, they will again have to win the league title.

From The Vault
Patrick Harper celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal
against NU in November, a 3-0 BU win.
(Photo by Matt Dresens) 
A week ago while BU was off, Northeastern advanced past the first round with two convincing wins over UConn in the 8vs9 match-up. On Friday, NU won 3-1 and then closed out UConn 6-2 at home.

Coming into this weekend, NU is riding an 11- 3-0 hot streak since January 20th, with their only losses coming at the hands of Lowell and Harvard in back to back games. A large part of the Huskies success stems from their power play that is currently working at a 28.95% clip, good for second in the country only behind Ohio State at 31.65%.

Earlier this year, BU took three points from the Huskies in November. The Terriers looked to be in control of game one holding a 4-3 lead late before NU pulled the goalie and tied things up with 55 seconds left. The next night, BU shut out the Huskies 3-0 at home.

Scouting the Huskies
Where does all the offense come from? Well, having the top scorer in the nation certainly helps. Zach Aston-Reese has a Division I high 62 points by way of a very balanced 30 goals and 32 assists in 36 games. In two game against BU this year, he notched three points. While Aston-Reese may get the attention for setting the high water mark in scoring, he is one of three Huskies with more than 50 points. Dylan Sikura currently has a line of 20-36-56 and Adam Gaudette has notched 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points.

The downfall of the Huskies maybe in net. Ryan Ruck is 18-12-4 with a 2.94 goals against and an 8.96 save percentage.

BU Notes
Brandon Hickey will back on the blue line for the Terriers this weekend according to the Daily Free Press.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Week Off Thoughts

With a share of the league title, as you know, BU had the weekend off as they secured a first-round bye in the Hockey East Playoffs. Next weekend they will be hosting eighth-seeded Northeastern in a best of three series, thanks to a UNH series win over Merrimack least night.

Me being me and having nothing better to do with myself on the first weekend of spring break, I was at Lawler Rink last night for game three of that series. Merrimack cruised to a 4-0 win and it looked almost certain that the Warriors would be coming to town next weekend. UNH had other plans.

The Wild Cats flipped the score around in game two, winning by an identical 4-0 score and advanced to play top-seeded Lowell with a 5-2 win last night. UNH struck early and took advantage so some brutal Merrimack turnovers to complete the comeback of an identical first round matchup from a year ago.

Elsewhere around the league, it was all chalk. Vermont swept Maine with two non-competitive games, Providence did the same over UMass and Northeastern rolled over the other “Husky” team in two games.

Outside the Merrimack vs UNH series (7 vs 10), the first round was a total snooze-fest, begging the question, why even have the first round?

Hockey East used to do it right when the league had only ten teams. The top eight made the Quarterfinals with the top four hosting a best of three series and the bottom two broke out the Lemon Pledge and dusted off their Callaway’s.

It was a phenomenal system that led to real drama in the last weekend of the season. Take 2004 for example. BU had to win at UNH on the final day of the year to claim the eighth spot in the tournament. In thrilling fashion, David van der Guilk shoveled home a game winner in overtime to land BU in the tournament. A loss or tie would have had Merrimack as the eighth and final seed. BU went on to upset top-seed Boston College in the Quarterfinals and fell to Maine 1-0 in the Semis.

Sorry, but if you finish ninth in the standings, you don’t deserve to make the playoffs. It completely devalues the regular season.

Moving on to a little preview of Northeastern…

Even though they are technically a lower seed and BU took three of four points vs NU opposed to being swept by Merrimack, I still think that NU is the tougher matchup for the Terriers.

The Huskies have one of the nation’s best power play units in the country at 28.95% and Zach Aston-Reese is the nation’s leading scorer with 62 points.

On the plus side, since NU’s pairwise is nine ticks higher than Merrimack at 21, two wins against the Huskies could potentially help more than two wins over Merrimack in keeping BU in the East come selection Sunday.

A full preview will be up Friday

Around The League - Predictions
Unlike the opening round, the Quarterfinals do have some intriguing matchups. Lowell-UNH being the outlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if the other three series go three games.

Looking first at 3. BC vs 6. Vermont, both teams are right on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. BC, despite tying for the league title, is on the outside looking in with a current PWR of 19. Vermont is right on the cutline at 15. Both may have to win Hockey East to get and without a doubt have to make the Garden to have any shot at the National Tournament. Three weeks ago, the two teams played to back to back ties at Conte. I see the Cats in three. BC is just going in the wrong direction at this point.

Moving to Notre Dame and Providence. Again, both teams are on the bubble of the NCAA’s. Providence should make it as they currently sit at 11, but ND is certainly not a lock at 13. The Irish host this best of three series in the 4vs5 matchup. Two weeks ago Notre Dame took three points from the Friars in South Bend and looked strong against BU. Cal Peterson gives ND a huge edge in net, I’m taking the Irish in three.

1. Lowell vs 10. UNH will not be a series. Lowell is once again on a roll going into the Hockey East tournament and currently is riding a seven-game win streak that dates back to their loss at BU on January 28th. Lowell in a sweep and it could be the final two games for Dick Umile at UNH.

Hate doing BU predictions, but I think this series will look a lot like the PC-ND one. BU has a huge advantage in net with Jake Oettinger over Ryan Ruck and with the potential of getting Brandon Hickey back on defense, I think that is enough to slow down the NU offense. BU wins game one and three.