Frozen Fourum: Frozen Four Preview (Minnesota Duluth – Notre Dame)

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Frozen Fourum 2011 Frozen Four

 

FROZEN FOURUM

2011 FROZEN FOUR PREVIEW

Minnesota Duluth vs. Notre Dame

 

The world of college hockey descends upon the State of Hockey this weekend to crown a new NCAA hockey champion at the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This year’s field is one of the deepest in recent memory, both in terms of talent and tradition.  Michigan, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, and Notre Dame are all looking to skate their way to a national title on the biggest state in college hockey.  The Frozen Fourum has all you need to be schooled on the college game.  Let’s take a look at the afternoon semifinal between the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

 

By:  Bryan Vickroy

 

MINNESOTA DULUTH BULLDOGS

minnesota duluth bulldogs frozen four

24-10-6

East Regional Winner, 4th Place WCHA

 

Top Scorers

1.  Jack Connolly, JR       17-41-58

2.  Justin Fontaine, SR    22-33-55

3.  Mike Connolly, JR       27-26-53

 

Between The Pipes

Kenny Reiter, SR      14-7-5    2.2294 GAA,  .914 Save %,  3 Shutouts

 

Drafted Players

Justin Faulk, D (2010 – Carolina)

Joe Basaraba, F (2010 – Florida)

Dan Delisle, F (2009 – Chicago)

Max Tardy, F  (2009 – St. Louis)

Drew Olson, D  (2008 – Columbus)

Scott Kishel, D (2007 – Montreal)

 

OVERVIEW

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are seeking their first ever national championship in men’s hockey.  This is their first appearance in the Frozen Four since 2004.  UMD was very strong to start the season, but struggled during the month of February.  But they managed to find their stride again, and solidify themselves a position towards the top of the WCHA.  The Bulldogs then got by a pesky St. Cloud State team in triple overtime to make their way to the WCHA Final Five.  UMD defeated Union 2-0 and Yale 5-2 in the East Regionals, hosted by Yale, to make their way to St. Paul and the Frozen Four.

OFFENSE

The Bulldogs will live and die by how well the FCC line can control the flow of the game.  Justin Fontaine, Mike Connolly, and Jack Connolly all average more than a point per game during their college career.  When they are on, this team is nearly unbeatable.  Since most teams take the effort to shut down the top line, the key to UMD continuing on and winning will be the play of their second line.  The team’s power play has been dangerous, and it was a huge factor in making their way through the East Regional.  They have the 11th ranked power play in the country, with Justin Fontaine tied for second in the nation in PP goals.  If they can get any type of secondary production from players besides the top line, the Bulldogs should outpace just about every team they play.

DEFENSE

The Duluth defense is led by Hurricanes’ prospect Justin Faulk.  He is probably the best known defenseman on any roster at the Frozen Four.  Behind him is a group of unheralded group lead by senior captain Mike Montgomery.   What this group lacks in point production, they more than make up in the defensive basics.  UMD averages nearly 15 blocked shots a game, including more than 40 in the two regional games.  They will take away passing and shooting lanes quickly, and with the skill at forward, aren’t afraid to clear the puck up ice and let their teammates chase it down.  The penalty kill can be suspect at times, but overall this is a top 20 defensive team.  Reiter has been good in net all season, but seems to be stronger down the stretch, lowering his goals against to just over 1.5 a game during recent weeks.

 

 

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

notre dame fighting irish frozen four

25-13-5

Northeast Regional Winner, 2nd Place CCHA

 

Top Scorers

1.  TJ Tynan, FR              22-31-53

2.  Anders Lee, FR          24-20-44

3.  Ryan Guentzel, SR    6-31-37

 

Between The Pipes

Mike Johnson, SO    20-9-4      2.572 GAA,  .906 Save %,  0 Shutouts

 

Drafted Players

Riley Sheehan, F (2010 – Detroit)

Stephen Johns, D (2010 – Chicago)

Kevin Lind, D (2010 – Anaheim)

Bryan Rust, F (2010 – Pittsburgh)

Anders Lee, F (2009 – NY Islanders)

Jeff Costello, F (2009 – Ottawa)

Nick Larson, F (2008 – Calgary)

Sean Lorenz, D (2008 – Minnesota)

Ben Ryan, F (2007 – Nashville)

Joe Lavin, D  (2007 – Chicago)

 

OVERVIEW

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish has been in the mix the last few years for a national title, and with a new arena coming along, are looking to add their first hockey national title, and become a true member of the college hockey elite.  However, this team has not exactly been there before.  This is a roster loaded with a lot of freshman, many of those whom have a chance to be elite players at this level and beyond.  The Irish finished second in the CCHA and were on fire down the stretch, but failed terribly in the CCHA tournament.  However, the Irish found their way again in the Northeast Regional last weekend, outlasting Merrimack 4-3 in overtime, then defeating the host New Hampshire 2-1 to secure their right to skate at the Xcel Center and the Frozen Four.

OFFENSE

For a team with fifteen freshman on it, it’s not surprising that this team was led by freshman in scoring.  Not only freshman, but game changing freshman.  Forwards TJ Tynan and Anders Lee have been dominant all season, despite their age.  Both put up more than twenty goals this season, and nine game winners between the pair.  While the rest of the corp is just as young, this team shows that they do have balance throughout the roster, with seventeen players registering with double digit point totals.  Notre Dame has spent a lot of time on the power play this season thanks to their speed and skill, but have had a lot of trouble capitalizing on the man advantage.  Youth and skill are always key attributes, but in the postseason, the game tightens up, and sometimes the kids do as well.

DEFENSE

More freshman fill out the defensive pairings, but the strength of the unit comes from upperclassmen like Joe Lavin and Sean Lorenz.  With all the talent up front, this is a group whose sole focus is getting the puck out of their end as fast as possible.  The penalty kill is below average for a team of this caliber, but they’ve made up for the deficit with twelve shorthanded goals this year, second most in the nation.  Goalie Mike Johnson will be called on to handled the duties in net, but if this team struggles and gives up goals early, veteran coach Jeff Jackson, who has won multiple national titles with Lake Superior State, won’t be afraid to make a goalie change.

 

 

PREDICTION

While Notre Dame may have the more intriguing professional prospects on their squad, they don’t have the postseason experience that the UMD roster has had throughout its career. Nor do they have the home state advantage that the Bulldogs will bring playing just down I-35 from Duluth.  Talent alone will keep Notre Dame in this game throughout, but in the end, I think that Duluth will impose its will enough at even strength and  through the power play to dispatch of the Irish.  Final Score:  UMD 5  ND 3

 

 

bryan vickroy the sports bank hockey

 

Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms.  He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long.  Look for new articles throughout the week.  He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy.  If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at bryan.vickroy@gmail.com .

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