Northeast Regional Preview
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
MANCHESTER, N.H. This weekend in Manchester, the Northeast Regional takes over the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Among the storylines — Boston University's draw. The Terriers, despite being the top overall seed, did not get the lowest overall seed, Bemidji State. Instead, because of various seeding rules, including the mandate to avoid first-round matchups against teams from the same conference, BU was forced to face Ohio State — theoretically more formidable.
BU coach Jack Parker brushed off any controversy, however.
"Bemidji is coming in after winning a tournament and Ohio State is coming in right after having a great second half and beating some real good teams," Parker said. "The coaches are involved and the committee allows the coaches to get involved in decision-making like this and one of the things we wanted to make sure of was that we didn’t have league matchups in the first round, so because they didn’t want to give Notre Dame or Michigan a league matchup in the first round, we get Ohio State and I have no problems with that. That’s the rules and not only do I understand them beforehand, I would vote for them the same way next year."
UNH got swept out of the Hockey East tournament two weeks ago by Boston College. Ohio State had to wait until the last few hours to know their fate in the tournament, and North Dakota brings with it the allure of four straight Frozen Four appearances.
1. Boston University (31-6-4) vs. 4. Ohio State (23-14-4)
After snatching a Hockey East championship last weekend, Boston University looks to continue its hot streak this weekend as the Terriers head into the NCAA Northeast Regional against Ohio State.
Leading the way, Hobey finalists Matt Gilroy and Colin Wilson, who each came back to BU, leaving plenty of NHL offers on the table, hoping to be in ths position.
The Terriers, the tournament’s top seed, is taking on the Buckeyes instead of Bemidji State, the 16th seed. With two CCHA teams (Notre Dame and Michigan) as No. 1 seeds and two CCHA teams (Ohio State and Miami) as No. 4 seeds, something had to give. In this case, it meant the Terriers had to take the theoretically tougher game with the Buckeyes.
“Well, those kind of things happen because they did tweak the process,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “I wouldn’t want to have to play a team in my own league in the first round of the playoffs, a replay of the weekend before it might even be, so because it was two Central league teams fourth and two Central league teams first, it was difficult, it couldn’t be done, so it had to wind up with somebody taking the non-Central league team. As it turned out, it wasn’t that bad because Air Force was not one of the last two teams, Ohio State was one of the last two teams.”
As for preparation, it’s the same no matter who the Terriers play.
Parker admitted that he knew little about either opponent. Of course, that lack of knowledge is a two-way street.
“I don’t know anything about Bemidji and I don’t know much about Ohio State,” Parker said. “I was just starting to learn a bit about Ohio State, but I know one thing about both those clubs, they must be good teams to get in the national tournament. There’s an awful lot of teams playing college hockey and only 16 teams make it."
Ohio State is a bit of a surprise, playing with a young but talented team, and with the goaltending situation unsettled, they Buckeyes started slowly. But before midseason, Dustin Carlson emerged as the No. 1 goalie, and the team went on an 11-game winning streak. Carlson finished with a .920 save percentage, stabilizing a position that has been a weak spot in recent years.
Of the top 10 scorers, only the leading scorer — senior Corey Elkins (18-22—40) — is anything other than a freshman or sophomore. Sophomore Hunter Bishop had 13 goals and led the team with a plus-28. Freshman Zac Dalpe and sophomore Peter Boyd also had 13.
"If there's anything that's been detrimental to us, it's sometimes our team on a Friday night has not been prepared to play, whether it be a long trip or whatever - but there's certanily no excuse for doing the thigns we need to do to be effective," OSU coach John Markell said.
OSU made the NCAAs by a margin of .0002 RPI over Wisconsin, after failing to reach the CCHA semis. But BU better be careful — Ohio State has wins this season over each of the other three No. 1 seeds — Notre Dame, Denver and Michigan. It has also beaten another NCAA team, Miami.
"We want to frustrate them, do our best matching their energy," Markell said. "Obviously they have a lot of skill, and you don't want them to build momentum on that. We're treating it like a game at Michigan — we played very well there the first night."
No. 2 North Dakota (24-14-4) vs. No. 3 New Hampshire (19-12-5)
New Hampshire backed its way into the NCAA tournament. Not the ideal scenario. But that’s okay with head coach Dick Umile.
At least his Wildcats are at the dance.
Things won’t be easy for UNH, as the third-seeded Wildcats have to figure out how to oust North Dakota, a team that has been a fixture in not only the tournament, but the Frozen Four.
“They are obviously a rich program of winning tradition,” said Umile. “Dave Hakstol has done a great job with the program, he has got them back to the NCAA tournament. ... They are a good team, lots of skill, big, strong and we are anxious to play.”
With an unwanted week off last weekend, Umile did his best to keep things as normal as possible.
UNH used last Saturday for a scrimmage, and treated the weekend as a game weekend.
“We took a couple days off,” Umile said. “But that was just right after the quarterfinal series. After that, we tried to have as much of a game like situation as possible last Saturday, a blue/white scrimmage, as much as we could. We got through that weekend and this week were are preparing like a typical week. We have done this before in the past and we have used this time for some guys that are banged up to get healthy. We are going to look at it as a positive.”
But it wasn’t a typical week for the Wildcats.
The smaller ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena combined with the ice at the Whittemore Center ice coming out this week, UNH has had to shift practice locations.
“We would do this anyway,” Umile said of the change in location, due to the ice at the Whitt being removed. “We will go over to Dover and Exeter and have our practices and preparation for that size arena.”
For UNH to have success, the Wildcats need a big weekend from standout James van Riemsdyk, who enters the tournament with 17 goals and 39 points, but wasn’t even a candidate for Hockey East Player of the Year, or any of the All-CHN teams.
Van Riemsdyk hasn’t been the dominant presence like Viktor Stalberg at Vermont. But, a big tournament could quickly silence the doubters.
Umile isn’t as quick to criticize the first-round (2nd overall) NHL draft choice of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“James bring a lot, not just scoring goals,” he said. “He is a kid that works real hard for us. Some nights he might look like he is quiet out there, but he is doing a lot of good things defensively and all of a sudden he will make a great pass or he’ll make a great play, but we a very satisfied with James’ play. Obviously this is a weekend you want everyone playing their best games, especially the seniors, this is their last shot.”
North Dakota over UNH, 4-2
Boston University over Ohio State, 2-0
North Dakota over Boston University, 3-2