Wednesday at the Frozen Four
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. The teams are set, the venue is beautiful, and the cherry blossoms are in bloom: It’s Wednesday at the Frozen Four here in the nation’s capital. Each of the four teams is allotted one hour practice slots throughout the day. Here were the highlights:
Bemidji State Beavers
Practice Grade: B
Make no mistake: Bemidji State is for real and they are playing for keeps. The Beaver’s were nary to waste a minute of their hour of ice time at the Verizon Center on Wednesday, as Coach Tom Serratore kept his players busy with a variety of full ice transition drills. Were there times when Serratore’s team didn’t look its sharpest, sure, but wouldn’t you have some jitters the afternoon before your Frozen Four debut? Overall, the team worked out the kinks as the practice progressed, and employed an overall pace and skill level rivaling any “big school” program.
Drill of the Day: 2-on-2 in the neutral zone
Serratore pulled the nets up to the respective blue lines and ran a high octane 2-on-2 in the neutral zone, Bemidji States’ drill of the day. With a new puck coming every whistle, speed, transition, and accuracy was rewarded in spades. Most impressive was the honor displayed by the Beaver players; yes, they pushed the pace, but never to a point where another player was in jeopardy. Tomorrow’s game is the one the team has been waiting for since its transition to Division I, and nobody wanted to see a fellow teammate sidelined for unnecessary reasons.
- In transition between drills, the Beavers skated circles around the center faceoff circle instead of skating full circles around the ice.
- The Beavers players are already wearing their emotions on their sleeves. During practice, literally every goal scored during drills was rewarded with a military-like “Huah” by fellow players.
- Practice jersey colors: dark green, white, and without numbers.
Practice Grade: A
Miami must have not gotten the memo that tomorrow is the Frozen Four; either that, or they just don’t care. In sharp contrast to the no contact practice of Bemidji State, Coach Enrico Blasi ran a much more physical regiment during his team’s hour long session. The RedHawks also focused on creating game-like situations, with a large portion of its drills involving two full lines of players. Most surprising was the coaching staff’s reaction to the team’s hardnosed play – it seemed the more physical it became, the more encouraging the staff was; it will be interesting to see if the disparity in practice methods will have any bearing on tomorrow’s game.
Drill of the Day: The mishmash
It was like a scene from a Tarantino flick – if you weren’t watching closely, you’d be lost. Blasi combined shooting with passing with juggling for the RedHawks drill of the day. Using the entire ice, the following occurred simultaneously: 1) One timer practice with the defensive corps one end of the ice; 2) Saucer passing, one touch quick passing, which at one point was being conducted as players knelt on one knee, and some T.J. Oshie-reminiscent puck juggling in center ice; and 3) various 1-on-1 shooting drills on the other end of the ice. The squad’s fluid execution made the drill(s) all the more impressive.
- Two players stood out amongst the crowd, but for very different reasons. Gary Steffes displayed amazing hand-eye coordination during his center ice juggling act, while Justin Mercier established himself as the team’s most physical player, as he won one-on-one battles throughout practice.
- All of Miami’s coaches were wearing matching black hats.
- Practice jersey colors: red, black, white, and with numbers.
Practice Grade: C
If coach Kevin Sneddon’s Vermont Catamounts squad is nervous about its first Frozen Four appearance in more than a decade, they sure didn’t show any signs of it during their Wednesday practice. Relaxed throughout, Sneddon appeared to err on the side of under working his players in preparation for tomorrow’s faceoff against Hockey East cohort, Boston University, going so far as to end formal drills with 8 minutes and change left in the practice. But don’t be fooled by this Vermont squad, as the skill and precision displayed by the Catamounts matched all that has preceded it today.
Drill of the Day: 3-on-0 shootout
It was a microcosm of the calm and collected vibe of Vermont’s team practice, and it’s why Sneddon’s 3-on-0, first to score three goals, was the Catamount’s drill of the day. Pretty simple stuff: three players facing off against a goalie in opposite zones; first threesome to tally three scores wins. The kicker – it’s single loss elimination, winner take all. Interestingly enough, the two finalist groups were comprised wholly of the team’s defense. Who said blue liners can’t light the lamp?
- Vermont was the only team to complete its practice without a game of “House,” which pits 6-8 players against the goaltender. Players line up on each side of the slot, with the shooter at the top of the circle, creating the outline of a house. Players get one point per puck scored, rebounds count, and goalies get one point per covered puck or per puck cleared to the boards. Usually, first to 15 wins.
- Practice jersey colors: black, red, grey, yellow, green, white, and no numbers. The team was divided between defense in black and forwards in color, with matching jerseys for line mates.
Boston University Terriers
Practice Grade: D
Boston University is either that good or thinks it’s that good, because the team’s practice on Wednesday hardly qualified as such. There’s no questioning a legend like Coach Jack Parker, who obviously knows his players best, but sans a sustained 3-on-3 full ice transition drill, Parker’s Terriers hardly broke a sweat. Halfway through the skate, the team had a shootout, which was showcased by some highlight reel goals, but after that, players sort of went off on their own, some leaving, some shooting around, some simply standing and chatting at center ice. It’s no secret Boston is the favorite, but today the team’s talent certainly wasn’t on display.
Drill of the Day: It would be unwarranted to name a drill for Parker’s Terriers, as little was accomplished during the team’s hour session. There were bouts of sizzle from the squad, but they were sandwiched between long spells of lackluster play. Again, Boston is an extremely talented squad, and near unbeatable when firing on all cylinders; it will just have to be seen if Parker is saving his team for tomorrow’s faceoff against Vermont. For Terrier fans’ sake, let’s hope so.
- Parker pulled straggler players off the ice with 4:22 remaining in practice, saying something about showering before the team press conference.
- Boston stretched between every drill. Granted, they only completed a few drills, but it was still interesting to see them come together at center ice multiple times.
- Practice jersey colors: red, white, navy, goalies in blue, and without numbers.
Bemidji State: Most Excitement
Miami: Most Intense
Vermont: Most Relaxed
Boston University: Least Effective
Best individual effort: With only one team sporting numbers, it was impossible to tell.
Team Practice Hobey Baker: Miami
The team practiced like they were playing a playoff game. They were fast and physical, and utilized their hour the most efficiently. Blasi did well on this day; Gwoz would be proud.
Bemidji State 4 – Miami 2
Boston University 3 – Vermont 2 (2OT)
Hobey Baker: Colin Wilson, Boston University
Boston University 3 – Bemidji State 1