2011 FROZEN FOUR PREVIEW
North Dakota vs. Michigan
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 evening semifinal between the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Michigan Wolverines.
By: Bryan Vickroy
NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING SIOUX
Midwest Regional Winner, 1st Place WCHA
1. Matt Frattin, SR 36-24-60
2. Corban Knight, SO 14-30-44
3. Jason Gregoire, JR 25-18-43
Between The Pipes
Aaron Dell, SO 30-6-2 1.807 GAA, .924 Save %, 6 Shutouts
Derek Forbort, D (2010 – Los Angeles)
Brock Nelson, F (2010 – NY Islanders)
Corban Knight, F (2009 – Florida)
Derek Rodwell, F (2009 – New Jersey)
Brett Hextall, F (2009 – Phoenix)
Andrew MacWilliam, F (2008 – Toronto)
Joe Gleason, D (2008 – Chicago)
Danny Kristo, F (2008 – Montreal)
Jason Gregoire, F (2007 – Montreal)
Matt Frattin, F (2007 – NY Islanders)
Brad Malone, F (2007 – Colorado)
Brett Bruneteau, F (2007 – Washington)
Ben Blood, D (2007 – Ottawa)
Brad Eidsness, G (2007 – Buffalo)
Mike Cichy, F (2007 – Montreal)
Derrick Lapoint, D (2006 – Florida)
Once again, the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota spent the season as the cream of the crop in the WCHA. NoDak took home both the regular season and playoff titles in the league. The Sioux are seeking their eighth overall national championship, but none since 2000. Once getting into the NCAA regionals, the Sioux continue to show the country how good they were by dispatching RPI 6-0 and Denver 6-1 in the Midwest Regional. North Dakota now makes the trip down I-94 from Grand Forks to a place that the Sioux know they can, and often do, win: the Xcel Center.
Matt Frattin, a Hobey Baker finalist, led the nation in goals scored this past season, and the rest of the team added plenty more to that total. The Sioux were the second highest scoring team in the country, despite playing in the toughest league against fierce competition week in and week out. This is a rarity of a team who can truly go four lines deep. Nine different players totaled 20 points or more on the season, and six different players have more than thirteen goals on the season. The nation’s seventh best power play makes a dangerous team even deadlier, as they had the fourth most opportunities with the man advantage all year. You can’t just shut down one player or line at the end of a game either. Twelve different players have a game winning goal this season.
The Sioux defenseman may not be known for scoring, but they are better than nearly everybody when it comes to playing shutdown, lockdown defensive hockey. North Dakota gave up the third fewest goals per game nationally, and boast, statistically, the nation’s best goaltender in Aaron Dell. First round draft pick Derek Forbort leads a unit who lets their forwards worry about putting the puck in the net, and stays disciplined in all situations of the game. Veterans Derek Lapoint and Chay Genoway also anchor the nation’s fifth best penalty kill. Speed is sometimes an issue, and teams can generate odd man rushes and breakaways against the Sioux, but Dell is the brick wall behind the offensive juggernaut, and is rarely beaten.
West Regional Winner, 1st Place CCHA
1. Carl Hagelin, SR 18-30-48
2. Louie Caporusso, SR 11-19-30
3. Matt Rust, SR 5-20-25
Between The Pipes
Shawn Hunwick, SR 21-8-4 2.260 GAA, .922 Save %, 3 Shutouts
John Merrill, D (2010 – New Jersey)
Luke Moffatt, F (2010 – Colorado)
Kevin Lynch, F (2009 – Columbus)
Chris Brown, F (2009 – Phoenix)
Mac Bennett, D (2009 – Montreal)
David Wohlberg, F (2008 – New Jersey)
Brandon Burlon, D (2008 – New Jersey)
Greg Pateryn, D (2008 – Toronto)
Louie Caporusso, F (2007 – Ottawa)
Matt Rust, F (2007 – Florida)
Ben Winnett, F (2007 – Toronto)
Carl Hagelin, F (2007 – NY Rangers)
The Michigan Wolverines have an NCAA record nine men’s hockey titles, and are looking to add a tenth to their resume, but the third since the 1960’s. As bad as fans in Ann Arbor would like to admit, the Wolverines seem to have taken a page from the Wisconsin teams of recent years. Michigan hosted The Big Chill At The Big House, and have used their big victory at even bigger Michigan Stadium to propel themselves to both the regular season and playoff CCHA titles. Michigan won the West Regional with a 3-2 overtime victory over Nebraska Omaha and a 2-1 win over Colorado College to clinch their spot in the Frozen Four in St Paul, Minnesota.
The nation’s #13 offense, the Wolverines don’t have big gaudy numbers like some other teams, but they know how to put the puck in the net. Unlike other teams in the tournament, this is a team that gets a lot of offense from its seniors. Carl Hagelin and Louie Caporusso drive an experienced squad who know the bitterness of losing too well, and want to leave their legacy at Michigan capped with a title. Beyond the seniors, a lot of very young talent has stepped in and provided depth at the forward position. The Wolverines can struggle at times on the power play, and occasionally can become too fancy with the puck, making extra passes and moves instead of firing shots and creating scoring chances. Must play both ways if they want to neutralize a North Dakota offense and create odd man rushes.
Michigan is a defensive unit that has a number of blue chip prospects mixed with some experienced upperclassmen. Freshman John Merrill is the stud of the group, and has contributed a large portion of the blueline’s offensive contribution. While the rest of the roster doesn’t score much, they keep nearly all pucks out of their own end, giving up the sixth fewest goals in the country. If the Wolverines are on the penalty kill, they are not quite as strong defensively, but are also a threat to score shorthanded, tallying eight on the season. Goaltender Shawn Hunwick will be in between the pipes. But if he struggles when the spotlight comes on, there will be many in Michigan who wouldn’t be surprised. Goaltending has been the Wolverines’ Achilles heel in recent years.
This match up pits the two teams with the most national championships against each other. While Michigan may have the most at nine, North Dakota has been a more dominant program the last decade plus. Both teams have deep rosters, and a lot of senior experience. However, Michigan has had chances recently to pull out victories, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. North Dakota has been, from preseason to now, arguably the strongest team in college hockey. These are two teams who will push each other at both ends of the ice. While I may be considered biased, the WCHA was a much stronger league than the CCHA this year. While anything can happen, I don’t see NoDak slowing down this weekend, especially with so many Sioux fans making the trek to the Twin Cities. Final Score: North Dakota 4 Michigan 2
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 email@example.com .
Leave a Reply