Frozen Four Preview: Championship Edition

2013 Frozen Four

2013 Frozen Four – Pittsburgh, PA

 

The 2013 Frozen Four has become more than a battle for the national championship, it’s become a battle for the state of Connecticut.  The Frozen Four semifinals saw both Yale and Quinnipiac advancing with victories, giving each school a shot at their first NCAA hockey title.  This will be the fourth meeting between the conference rivals this year.  The game will be televised Saturday, April 13, on ESPN at 6:00 pm Central.  To learn who will take home the national championship, continue after the jump.

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San Jose Sharks Forward Adam Burish talks all about hockey groupies

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In the midst of Blackhawks mania, I thought it might be a great time to bring back this gem from a couple years ago.

Current San Jose Sharks and former Chicago Blackhawks forward Adam Burish was once named the 26th most eligible single by Chicago magazine. The former Wisconsin Badgers national champion (and Facebook friend to TSB) talked about groupies at the second annual Hawks Fan Convention in Chicago.

Burish was asked “What do you do when a fan approaches you and tries to make out with you?”

he responded,  “What does she look like?”

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A great day for Soldier Field Hockey

Soldier Field Hockey

Since opening on October 9, 1924; Soldier Field hockey happened for the first time in its storied history. 52,000 lucky fans got the chance to be a part of the experience as CCHA rivals 12th-ranked Notre Dame and third-ranked Miami of Ohio began the festivities.

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Frozen Fourum: Frozen Four Preview (North Dakota – Michigan)

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FROZEN FOURUM

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

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


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

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Gophers-Sioux; An Underrated Rivalry

Brett Cloutier-

Over the weekend one of the biggest rivalries took place.

No, it was not the New England Patriots-New York Jets AFC Divisional playoff game.

Nor was it Universal, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Brothers battling it out at the 68th annual Golden Globes.

This rivalry was one in the amateur ranks, and a rivalry that many- even in the sports world- are unaware of the magnitude.

The Minnesota Golden Gopher and North Dakota Fighting Sioux men’s hockey teams took the ice for the 280th and 281st time in this storied rivalry. [Read more…]

Top 10 Minnesota Born Hockey Players of the Decade

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By Peter Christian

In Minnesota, we know hockey. Most kids learn to skate before they even master the whole walking thing. Even though I grew up here and have lived here for more than 20 of my 28 years, I’m still amazed at how many people have connections to world class hockey players. Everyone knows someone who was drafted or who has been invited to the Team USA Development team. Literally, everyone.Backes

My neighbor scored a game winning goal in a national championship game; a buddy’s cousin played with Sidney Crosby at Shattuck-St. Mary; a former crosstown rival is now playing for the Colorado Avalanche. It seems like every Minnesotan has a couple of these anecdotes. Maybe it’s because we as a state keep churning out stud hockey prospects faster than General Mills pumps out boxes of Cheerios. Maybe it’s because we have an elite high school system to develop players.

No matter the reason, Minnesota rinks and ponds are a gold mine for future NHL talent and much of that talent is on display in the NHL right now.

However, with all the recent young talent the state has plugged into the NHL the question is, which Minnesotan was the best during the NHL’s darkest decade?

10.  David Backes  (2006 – Present)

David barely beat out a few other rising stars to get the distinction as the 10th best Minnesotan born player in this decade. Blake Wheeler and Peter Mueller both have impressive but short resumes, but neither add up to Backes’ stat lines since he joined the St. Louis Blues in 2006. He’s a gritty forward who isn’t afraid to get his knuckles bruised and play a little dirty but he has also increased his scoring each year in the league, capping off last season with a fantastic 54 point performance that established him as one of the premier young power forwards in the NHL. At 25, the Minneapolis native has plenty of red lamps and trips to the penalty box in his future.

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9. Mark Parrish (2000-2009)

The Bloomington native and former St. Cloud State standout had his best years early in the decade with the New York Islanders, peaking with a 60 point season in 2001-02. His stats began to tail off a bit after he signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2006 but over the course of the decade he posted 7 seasons with 30 points or more and scored 20+ goals 4 times. His gutsy play in front of the net earned him the reputation as one of the best garbage goal scorers in the NHL during this decade.

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8. Tom Gilbert (2006 – Present)

Gilbert is the least experienced player to make this list with only 203 NHL games under his belt but he has quickly become known for his solid defensive play and handy stick work in both ends. Also hailing from Bloomington, Gilbert reached the 40 assist plateau in only his second full season and provides the Edmonton Oilers with a powerful shot from the point as well as a big framed defenseman that opposing forwards don’t want to get tangled with.

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7. Keith Ballard (2005 – Present)

Ballard is a hard skating defenseman that is working towards being one of the more reliable blue-liners in the game. Since his debut with Phoenix in 2005, Ballard has played in all but 13 games. His durability and consistent scoring presence (20+ assists in 3 of 4 seasons). The Baudette native is a top line defenseman in Florida and the 27 year old has a real good shot at being near the top of this list next decade.

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6. Matt Cullen (2000 – Present)

The picture of consistency, Cullen just keeps bringing the same thing to the table year after year. Not prolific by any means but he is a lock to notch 40+ points and was a big time contributor to Carolina’s Stanley Cup run in 2006 (4 goals, 14 assists). Cullen, born in Virginia, is currently 2nd among active Minnesotan skaters in scoring with 428 points and counting.

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5. Phil Housley (2000-03)

Possibly the greatest Minnesota born NHL player of the modern age, Housley held the record for both points and games played among U.S. born NHL players and is still 2nd on both those lists 7 years after his retirement.  Even looking at only the 3 seasons he played in this decade, the St. Paul native posted respectable point totals to cap a Hall of Fame career (34, 39, 29) and still be listed among the best the Gopher State offered during the decade of the oughts.

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4. Paul Martin (2003 – Present)

Martin won’t ever come close to Housley’s scoring totals but he is a very smooth effortless skater that makes few mistakes. Not blessed with a huge shot, Martin’s gift is to find the open skater and put the puck where it needs to be to create a scoring chance. Martin (from Elk River) will average 25-30 helpers per season and will be a guy to log 25 minutes of ice time to help the Devils or any team who lands him for another 10+ seasons.

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3. Jamie Langenbrunner (2000 – Present)

You could make the case that Langenbrunner could be ranked #2 or #1 and I wouldn’t really argue as he and the next two guys are all extremely talented hockey players. The Cloquet native’s body of work from this decade includes one 70+ point season, two 60+ point seasons, two 50+ point seasons, a Stanley Cup and 48 playoff points in 8 playoff appearances. Langenbrunner is a 15 year veteran of the NHL but at age 34 he could continue to play well into the next decade.

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2. Jason Blake (2000 – Present)

Blake has been playing in the NHL for the entire decade (one of only three on this list) but didn’t really make an impact until the 2002-03 season when he scored 25 times and totaled 55 points. Since 2002, the Moorhead born player has averaged 57 points per season including his career best 69 in 06-07 where he netted 40 goals (10th best in the NHL). The last two seasons have seen Blake increase his assist total increase to career highs (37 and 38) as he continues to be a player who appears to get better with age.

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1. Zach Parise (2005 – Present)

It takes quite a bit for a player who only played in the NHL for half the decade to get the nod as the top Minnesotan for the decade, but Parise’s half decade is breathtakingly staggering when compared to the rest of the group.  In four full seasons the Minneapolis native has increased his goal and assist total to more than that of the last season. Last season he bettered his 2007-08 season by nearly 30 total points, tallying 94 points in 82 games (5th best in the NHL). Parise’s 1.14 pts per game average doesn’t look like a flash in the pan either, as he’s already on pace to beat that this season (1.25 pts/game thru 24 games). His skill set is that of a high profile and clutch scorer who isn’t afraid to put the puck on net.  At only 25, Zach has a very realistic chance to pass Housley as the most prolific scoring Minnesotan depending on how sweet his scoring touch gets.

What’s Your Favorite League Overall?

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By the TSB Staff

October brings the busiest time of the year for sports, and the multitude of choices might cause overload for the fan. It’s a plethora of choices on parallel with the amount of art displayed in the churches and museums of Florence, Italy. When I visited the “flowering city on the Arno River,” I was amazed by how much marble and canvas had been aesthetically crafted across the city, the multitude of options made it hard to choose what I wanted to see it first and fit it all in the time I was allotted. That’s what it currently feels like as a sports fan in autumn, especially so on the weekends. So how do you prioritize which game you want to watch? I unleashed my editorial staff to make their case for each one. –PMB

H. JOSE BOSCH:

College football is, without a doubt, the best sport in America because college football appeals to that small part of all of us that never wants to truly grow up. College football takes us back to the times when the beer was cheaper, the breasts were perkier and the days never ended; they all just blended together in one hedonistic mess.

College football has bands and student sections and cheerleaders and almost all of them are under the age of 25, which makes for a lot more fun for everyone else who is over 25. They look better, cheer better and have a lot more fun. At the best stadiums they create a toxic environment that is America’s closest answer to the mass hysteria you see in South American soccer stadiums. While bags of urine aren’t thrown on the field, bottles of urine certainly roll their way down stadium steps from time to time. And that is almost as awesome.

College football reminds us of our own football glory days. Those times in college when we tried to convince our friends that we totally could score a touchdown from five yards out if we were given four downs. Why? Because college football still seems so accessible to the former athlete. We went to class with these guys, ate at the same student union and went to the same parties. So many of them seemed so normal that you almost felt you could be a part of that group.

Who watches an NFL game and thinks they can compete at that level? But, for some reason, even though almost all Division I football players could easily kick our ass, we somehow believe we could hang with them if only some coach from the past had believed in us.
College football also has true upsets and underdogs. It still absolutely sucks for the favorite when they lose a game for two main reasons: without a playoff a loss can mean your national championships hopes could vanish and they don’t have the solace of a big paycheck to come home to. Oh, not to mention they have to walk around campus for a week while everyone else around the critiques why they sucked so much.

If those kinds of raised stakes aren’t enough to pump you up than you seriously have no soul.

College football is the best sport in the country. Period.

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PAUL SCHMIDT:

There’s lots of reasons to love college basketball. There’s the obvious arguments, like the college game is pure, without the obvious faults of the pro game. They always play defense in college basketball, and the wide variety of talent bases and schemes always make for intriguing game play.

There’s two things in my mind that always set college basketball apart from every other sport.  First would be the student bodies and fan bases. Quite simply, college basketball fans are the most rabid and informed of all fans. The arenas are, in general, conducive to making things as loud as possible (I say in general because if you’ve ever been to Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays, well…). Every fan base has its own crazed section: You’ve got the Cameron Crazies, the Izzone, The Paint Crew, The Orange Krush…just to name a small few.  Some stadiums you just don’t sit down.  At Florida, in one half of the stadium you wear blue, the other half orange.  In short, the crowds, the stadiums, the atmosphere and yes, the cheerleaders, all make college basketball what it is in person and at home on TV.

The second…quite obviously…is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  There is nothing quite like it in any other sport. The NCAA has even tried to re-create the same atmosphere with its other sports by holding selection show specials, and amping up the one-and-done atmosphere (most notably with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Baseball and Softball College World Series’), and have only gotten into the same zip code with atmosphere and dedication of its fans once (surprisingly, the NCAA men’s hockey tournament).

Is there any greater day than Selection Sunday, with the culmination of all of the major conference tournaments, and then finding out if and where your team is going in the Big Dance?  Is there any event that really lets you feel like the little guy has a chance to win?   The NCAA Tournament is just the perfect combination of sport, marketing and opportunity.  Maybe it was all by accident — but it certainly was a happy accident.

Let’s say in the next NCAA Tournament, that a 16 seed beats a 1 seed for the very first time. That, right there has not only become the biggest sports story of the year, but one of the biggest news stories as well.  The David-vs.-Goliath story, the anything-can-happen story. The perseverance wins over all story, saying that if you work hard, and put your mind to it, that you can overcome any obstacles and achieve anything.

How many other sports do you know that can accomplish that in just one game?

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PETER CHRISTIAN

My favorite league? Come on. There’s no doubt it’s the NHL. Sure it’s run by some second rate moron who wouldn’t get in to Death Valley Community College if he applied today, and the league’s ratings suffer because the TV contracts they have are about as lucrative as an eyeball on your kneecap. However, from a pure entertainment standpoint it is the clear winner in my mind. I love all sports but hockey is the sport that clicked first for me. I’m happy watching any part of any game of hockey at any level, so it’s only natural that the league that showcases the world’s best talent is my favorite. But that’s not the only reason.

The NHL has a little bit of everything. Flashy players? Check. Gritty, hard hitting action? Check. Jump out of your seat, Holy-Shit-did-that-just-happen moments? You bet.

Hockey combines athleticism, hustle and hard work with a specific skill set that really defines the personality of its players. Hockey players on principle are guys that are extremely loyal and aren’t afraid to take or throw a punch to prove a point all while showcasing their very specific talent of being able to skate on a pair of blades that are less than a quarter inch wide while using a curved stick to handle a rubber disc on ice. Think about that for a minute. I don’t mean to take anything away from athletes of other sports, but when you really think about all that hockey players DO before they even add in the components of the game (checking, poke checks, goalies, offsides and penalties) it is quite the amazing feat.

Currently the NHL is at a tough spot because they have too many teams (from a financial standpoint) but are exactly where they need to be from a talent level. So if you focus on what’s on the ice only, you’ll be happily entertained, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat and you’ll get to see a good mix of scoring, hitting, fighting, strategy and world class skating.

That’s why I love the NHL.

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TOM LEA

You know that time of year when the weather changes and people start to complain about aching joints and muscle pain. Well, considering that time of year is now, at least in the Midwest, some of you probably don’t need to be reminded.

Anyway, when that time of year rolls around for me, I don’t get muscle or joint aches, I simply get the shakes. And it’s entirely because I am so pumped for the NBA season. I mean, once October rolls around and NBA preseason action starts, I am salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the thought of the start to the regular season. So, as I sit here and write this, a mere 9 days away from tip-off to the Cavs-Celtics game, I am doing so drenched in sweat while fighting with my hands so they stop shaking long enough to allow me to type.

Now, one may ask where I get this borderline psychotic love for a professional association that so many can’t stand. I simply respond, on TNT.

I mean, where else can you get quality play-by-play announcers and the best studio show for each and every telecast? You got guys like Barkley, Marv Albert, Kenny the Jet, the Czar and Craig Sager. If you didn’t know any better and just looked at a picture of those guys, you would think they are the stars of some VH1 celebreality show. Only they aren’t fighting for anyone’s eternal love, they are just fighting to get enough love for one night. And in Albert’s case, doing so while avoiding harassment charges.

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In all seriousness though, you have some of the most athletic human specimens in the world playing a sport that showcases their skill better than any other. When you see how high some of these guys can jump, how quick they can handle the rock and how well they act like they give a shit each and every game- it makes for high quality drama.

And when the playoffs come around, I mean, I seriously go into a 50 day love affair with my TV. I seriously don’t have a social life and any thing I do have revolves around watching the games that night. I’m beyond obsessed. So much so, that I probably need to see a therapist.

In fact, I just bought the NBA league pass for my computer, so I will have every NBA game at the very same fingertips I am writing this piece with. The thought of that is scary enough. But hell, it’s almost Halloween and I’m in that kind of mood. This is the first time I have ever done this and I am having a hard time typing right now because my hands are shaking with sheer excitement.  This season on The Sports Bank I plan on doing a weekly write-up where I will discuss the best games I saw during the week, the funniest thing I saw during the week, developments, surprises, trends, etc. I will also have a counter where I put up the games I watched and the total number I have.

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Points From The Point: Frozen Four Edition

by Bryan Vickroy

Lace up the skates, tape up the sticks, and foil the fists, it’s postseason hockey time!  These 16 teams have a dream, to march into Washington, DC, but only four will be voted into the Frozen Four, no congressional investigation needed.  It’s election weekend in college hockey, and only the winners skate on.

This year’s four region, and hosts are :

East:  Bridgeport, CT  (Yale), Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard

Northeast:  Manchester, NH (New Hampshire), Verizon Wireless Arena

Midwest:  Grand Rapids, MI (Western Michigan), Van Andel Arena

West:  Minneapolis, MN (Minnesota), Mariucci Arena

Per NCAA guidelines, host universities must play “at home.”  This is mostly for ticket purposes, as it ensures that all the games are sold out.  This year, both Yale (East) and New Hampshire (Northeast) get the benefit of friendly faces in the stands.

HIGHLIGHTS

Before we get into all 16 teams, let’s look at a couple highlights of the tournament

Tournament Favorites

Boston University: Overall #1, Ranked #1 in both the polls and Pairwise rankings.  Regular season and postseason champs, Hockey East

Notre Dame:  Spent time ranked at #1 throughout the year.  Lost national title game last year.  Regular season and tournament champs, Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

Darkhorses

Yale:  Balanced, defensive hockey teams who capitalizes on mistakes.  Which players do you shut down?  Played in, and won, big games this season.  Regular season and tournament champs, East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC).

Minnesota Duluth:  Found their stride down the backstretch of the season.  Went from bubble status to trendy national champion pick.  Goaltender and scorers all playing out of their minds.  Can the good vibes continue?  Tournament Champs, Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Players to Watch

Jaques Lamoureux, F, Air Force:  Second most goals in the nation.  A threat to light the lamp every time he touches the puck.  Deadly on the power play.

Ryan Duncan, F, North Dakota:  Won Hobey Baker Award in 2007 as nation’s top player.  Off season, but solid two way forward who can turn it on in open ice.

Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Duluth:  One goal given up in the WCHA Final Five, including back to back shutouts.  Unbeatable in net, but it’s an adventure when he plays the puck outside of the crease.

Jordan Pearce, G, Notre Dame:  In net for all of the Fighting Irish’s 20 unbeaten streak.  8 shutouts and a 1.6 goals against.  Given up more than three goals only three times all season.

Best Games

Minnesota Duluth vs. Princeton:  An old fashioned goalie duel.  Expect free hockey in this game, and a lot of tense moments.  Which team’s sniper will solve the puzzle first?

Michigan vs. Air Force:  Expect the scoreboard to light up in this one.  Both teams have first rate scorers who can do damage in the blink of an eye.  Air Force likes a wide open game, and Michigan has the speed to fly with them.

Regional Breakdown

East

1)Michigan vs. 4)Air Force, Friday 3/27 (2:00pmCT)

Scoring, it’s what Ann Arbor is good at:  These Wolverines like to score.  Aaron Palushaj and Louie Caporusso were both in the top 5 in the nation, including a 24-1 record when Caporusso records a point.  A late season hot streak was fueled by the ability of the rest of the roster to step up the pace.  Nine national titles in program history, but none in over 10 years.  Tournament flameouts have become customary, usually starring a goaltender meltdown.  Backstop Bryan Hogan showed the symptoms against Notre Dame in the CCHA title game.  Will the Wolverines fight back this time?

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Shock and Awe:  If anything seems oxymoronic, its jets and ice.  However, the Air Force program has taken off recently.  They started this season 13-0, but leveled off the middle of the season before bouncing back to claim the Atlantic Hockey title.  The Falcons live and die offensively by Jaques Lemoureux, ranked second nationally in points, and nine game winners to his credit.  Goalie Andrew Volkening is riding back to back shutouts.

Air Force has the speed to skate with Michigan, but they don’t have the offensive depth.  Barring a sieve-tastic performance by Hogan, the Wolverines should escape.  Michigan 4-2

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2)Yale vs. 3)Vermont, Friday 3/27 (5:30pm CT)

Home Cookin’:  The best season in school history continues, right down the road.  The Bulldogs host the regional, and hopte to parlay that into a trip to DC.  Yale won both the ECAC regular season and tournament titles.  Smart, strong, and balanced, they have five players over 25 points.  Alex Richards is strong in net for the eighth best defensive team in the nation.  Beware their penalty kill.  Besides being ranked third, sophomore Broc Little leads everyone with five short handed goals.

CanTheyMount a Defense:  Of all the teams in the tournament, Vermont’s stock seems to be dropping the fastes.  After giving up only 18 goals in the 2 months prior to the postseason, they gave up 18 in their last four games.  Viktor Stalber is an adapt scorer, but one man can only do so much.  The Catamounts have success when the pester and pressure opposing teams .  Turnovers and defensive lapses have cost them, then need to refocus or go home to the hippie wonderland that is Vermont.

Stoic Yale uses the home ice to their advantage and continues the dream season.  Take that Harvard!  Yale 3-1

EAST REGION FINAL

1)Michigan vs. 2)Yale, Saturday 3/28 (5:30pm CT)

For all the talent and history, Michigan never seems to fulfill their promise.  Playing on Yale’s ice is even less promising.  Yale drops some knowledge on Michigan, as Hogan fulfills the Wolverine curse and melts down in a big spot.  Skull and Bones is pleased for a field trip to the Frozen Four in the nation’s capitol.

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Northeast

1)Boston University vs. 4)Ohio State, Saturday 3/28 (4:30pm CT)

One for the Other Thumb:  Five titles this season is not enough for Boston U.  Three tournament titles, and both Hockey East championships are not enough.  The Terriers have not won the national title since 1997.  BU is the top overall seed after missing the tourney for the last two years.  #3 offense and defense, and the second best power play in the land.  Top six defenseman are all NHL blue chippers, and support two forward lines better than most top lines in the country.  Tendency to take too many penalties, and give up power plays.  Focus and determination are the only things than can undermine the Terriers.

Lucky Buckeye:  THE Ohio State University enjoys the title of last team in this year.  After a weekend of turbulent tournament games around the country, the Buckeyes graded out higher than Minnesota and Wisconsin.  This team is young, with 22 freshman and sophomores, and still a year or two away.  Have played the top teams all season, and won’t back down against anyone.  Tough to beat when they don’t make mistakes.

The BU blueline is stronger than anyone else’s.  The Terriers shut down the unripe Buckeyes, adding to the recent post season woes of THE Ohio State University.  Boston U 5-1

2)North Dakota vs. 3)New Hampshire, Saturday 3/28 (1:00pm CT)

Five for Fighting (Sioux):  North Dakota is going for its fifth straight Frozen Four.  To do that, the Sioux have to travel cross country and play on home ince in Manchester, NH.  This team is deep and experience, winning the WCHA regular season title.  Played their way out of a possible #1 seed getting swept in the Final Five.  Can NoDak flip the postseason switch?  Two way defenseman Chay Genoway and 2007 Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan lead the scoring.  Son of former Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Ron Hextall, Bret, also adds some offensive punch.

New Hampshire House of Horrors:  The University of New Hampshire hockey team gets to play close to home.  They might not want to.  The Wildcats have lost twice in Manchester when hosting postseason play, and have lost four straight NCAA games.  Which team will be loet out to play:  the one who ended the regular season with six wins in seven tries, or the team who got sept out of the Hockey East tourney, mustering one goal.  Must have James van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick in 2007, focused and involved.  If they don’t play a full 60 minutes, they’ll be walking home.

NoDak fans travel as well as any group in the country, all sports included.  Fargo residents may have to evacuate, but they’ll all probably be in New Hampshire already The Sioux also show up in the postseason.  UND 4-2

East Region Final

1)Boston University vs. 2)North Dakota, Sunday 3/29 (4:30pm CT)

BU is so strong on the back end that everyone will have trouble scoring.  NoDak doesn’t have the scoring of years past, and are playing an unproven freshman goalie.  Terriers march to a Frozen Four while NoDak waits for the next boat back to campus.

Midwest

1)Notre Dame vs. 4)Bemidji State,  Saturday 3/28 (6:30pm CT)

Glove Save Jesus:  Quick, name the only thing worth watching under the Golden Dome the last few years:  a junktastic Harangody jumper, a limp Clausen fade route, or a Jordan Pierce glove save?  The skating leprechaun wins!  Coach Jeff Jackson, who came over from two titles at Lake Superior State, has led the Irish to a #1 seed after losing the title game last year.  This team has three players with five game winning goals, no other team in the country has more than one.  Gritty and scrappy, a proven group of winners who bring the first true hope of a championship for the millions and millions of true Notre Dame fans since Lou Holtz slobbered on the sidelines.  An NBC contract for this team can’t be far behind for this budding powerhouse.

Eager Beavers:  Bemidji State is a team without a family, or perhaps a dam.  Their conference is dissolving after this year and admission into the WCHA has been a slow progress.  They’ve played games all over the country, including against the US National Develepmont team.  A lethal powerplay, and the stat of an 11-1 record when forward Matt Read scores.  Goliath is their task, and they’re up for it. They almost beat eventual champ Denver in overtime in 2005.

As Jebediah Springfield said, “A noble spirit embiggens every man.”  The Beavers have the spirit, but Notre Dame has Jesus.  The Irish should lay the lumber and win convincingly.  Notre Dame 5-1

2)Northeastern vs. 3)Cornell, Saturday 3/28 (3:00pm CT)

The Team that Almost Could:  An historic season at Northeastern that for just a few moments could be so much more.  They led Hockey East wire to wire, until the final weekend.  Boston U beath them in the last second to claim the conference title.  Then they gave up a goal in the final minute in the Hockey East semis.  Add in a Beanpot Final loss, and the Huskies have shown a soft spot in the big games.  A first Frozen Four would be a good way to erase those stage fright doubts.

Cram the Books and the Boards:  Cornell hockey gives its fans another reason to mock other schools:  lower test scores, less intelligent, and less impotent.  Defense is legendary at the Ivy League school, and they are ranked fourth nationally.  Goaltender Ben Scrivens is the admissions officer here.  He had seven shutouts this year, and a goals against under two.  Seventh least penalized team in the nation, but not afraid to throw the extra elbow or slash around.  They’re smart enough to get away with it.

A game that theologians and purists will enjoy.  Hard hitting and defensive, Cornell answers the hard questions and makes Northeastern a fool at the big boy’s table again.  Cornell 3-2

Midwest Region Final

1)Notre Dame vs. 3)Cornell, Sunday 3/29 (7:00pm CT)

An academic bowl is held, and a hockey game breaks out.  Notre Dame is too tough and determined not to make the Frozen Four and win a championship.  NBC adds another zero to the end of the contract, and the bandwagon fills for the trip to DC.  Charlie Weiss asks for a couple scoring plays.

WEST

1)Denver University vs. 4)Miami (Ohio), Friday 3/27 (3:30pm CT)

P-IR-neers:  Denver managed to get a #1 seed despite finishing second in both the regular season and WCHA tournament.  Fought injuries throughout the season, but deep enough to withstand long absences from top scorers.  Freshman defenseman Patrick Wiercioch runs the point on a formidable power play, and has played his way to their top defenseman.  Struggled against other tournament teams, most of those in conference foes.  Focus on the first game, and a shot at possible redemption awaits in the finals.

Score to Soar:  No other team in the tournament lives or dies by their scoring.  The Redhawks have scored five or more goals in 9 games, but when scoring fewer than three goals they’re 4-11-3.  Struggled down the stretch, but have shutout both Michigan and Notre Dame this year.  Keep the puck out of their hands and they struggle.  Miami averages almost 11 more shots per game than their opponent.  Can they shout out another #1 seed this year?

Denver is getting healthy at the right time, which doesn’t bode well for the Redhawks of Miami.  Special teams can only keep you in a game for so long.  Denver can score with the best of them.  DU 3-1

2)Minnesota Duluth vs. 3)Princeton, Friday 3/27 (7:00pm CT)

Duluth, Duluth, Duluth is on Fire:  The hottest team in the country is Minnesota Duluth.  After coasting their way through most of the season, they Bulldogs locked down on defense in the last month, and started to roll.  MacGregor Sharp has as much game as his name, tied for second in the nation with 25 goals.  Goalie Alex Stalock has been unbeatable in the last three weeks, single handedly winning the WCHA tournament.  Has the offense and goaltending to beat anybody.  Biggest threat may come from Stalock himself, as he has struggled playing the puck outside of the net, giving up goals on the turnovers.  Keep him in net and he’s magnificent.

InZane in the Net Frame:  Princeton brings scoring balance to a whole new level, with 11 players with at least nine goals.  Backstopping the Tigers is, possible the best goalie in the nation, Zane Kalemba.  This team doesn’t take penalties, and makes teams work for everything.  Multiple overtime games in the ECAC tournament.  Kalemba can keep a game going, someone needs to make sure to end it on a happy note.

Get your popcorn ready, and expect to get your money’s worth.  Also expect to get some extra sessions.  A goalie duel at its best, where even mistakes won’t be enough to win a game.  Stalock keeps the lift bridge down and himself anchored in net.  UMD 1-0

West Region Final

1)Denver University vs. Minnesota Duluth, Saturday 3/28 (7:00pm CT)

A rematch of the WCHA championship game from a week ago.  They switch sides of the river, but it won’t make a difference.  Staylock stayz blazing and continues his Patrick Roy portrayal.  Let freedom ring, but not the goal horn.  UMD to the Frozen Four.

So upon further review, the Frozen Four should looke like this:

-East:  Yale

-Northeast:  Boston University

-Midwest:  Notre Dame

-West:  Minnesota Duluth

Thanks to it being the postseason, these games can be found on one of the multitude of sports channels available these days, though I think most are supposed to be on the ESPN family, as well as the CBS Sports channel.  Catch some games, you won’t regret it.

Keep it real, and as the immortal Red Green says, “Keep your stick on the ice.”

Points from the Point

by Bryan Vickroy

Howdy doodily sports fanarinos!  A little something new for your sports palette:  a dosage of authentic, All American college hockey!  How and why? Well the higher-ups understand the greatness of hockey and felt a constitutional duty to educate the public.  So a guru I became.  No I’m not Canadian.  No I’m not a Minnesotan, though I have plenty of street and ice cred there.  I have played hockey all my life, and even coached a little bit.  Most importantly, I posses the most important hockey attribute: a head of luxurious McDreamy hair.  I am the dynamo of volition, so without further ado, Let’s Play Hockey!

Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Year End Review

Affiliated Schools:

Alaska Anchorage    Minnesota Duluth

Colorado College Minnesota State

Denver North Dakota

Michigan Tech St Cloud State

Minnesota Wisconsin

The 2008-09 season in the Wild Wild West felt a bit off.  The illustrious programs like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, all started the season in horrible form.  Nonconference drubbings led to a perception that the league was down this year.  Yes and no.  The league wasn’t so much down as it was in flux.  The defections of one and done freshman over the years had eroded the conference greats’ rosters.  The first few months of the season were spent filling freshman and junior transfers into different holes.  Minnesota started the season with 12 freshmen.  The top three teams from last year were all starting  new goaltenders.

North Dakota, coming off four straight Frozen Four appearances, was under .500 until 2009.  Wisconsin, after sneaking into the postseason with a losing record, didn’t get a win until their eighth game of the season.  The high octane Gophers never won more than two games in a row all season.  It seemed parity had caught up to the big boys, and the standings saw the likes of Alaska Anchorage, St Cloud State, and Minnesota Duluth atop the standings.

This may not have been a banner year for the WCHA, but it still received three bids to the NCAA tournament, and its status as a super conference will never be questioned.  These rosters are full of young kids who got lots of playing time, and will most likely be back next year.  It looks like next season will be a shootout, just like the good ‘ol days.

This past weekend brought the WCHA Final Five to the world’s most revered ice sheet, the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  At stake was the conference automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  For the first time in the history of the event, a team won three games in three days to earn the automatic bid.  Minnesota Duluth held the potent offenses of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Denver to one goal TOTAL in the three games.  Tournament MVP, UMD goalie Alex Stalock recorded two shutouts, and secured the Bulldogs their first trip to the postseason since 2004.

Going into the tournament, North Dakota and Denver had assured themselves as postseason locks, while Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, and Wisconsin were all considered bubble teams.  UMD got the job done, while Minnesota and Wisconsin both fell flat in their first games.  Minnesota had a shot at as the last team in, which would have forced them to play in the West Regional on their home ice, Mariucci Arena.  However, events transpired in other tournaments, popping Minnesota’s bubble, and leaving them as the last team out.

WCHA Year End Awards

All WCHA Team

(Stats in conference play only)

Forward:  Ryan Stoa, Minnesota, Junior (19 G, 17A, 36):  The leader of the Gophers had a hunger for the great light this season, leading the league in goals and overall points.  Streaky at times, but brought a veteran leadership to the minions of freshmen on the Minnesota roster this year. (2nd Round, 2005, Colorado)

Forward:  Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Duluth, Sophomore (10 G, 24 A, 34):  Led conference in assists with nearly one per game as a sophomore.  Nearly all the offense for a plucky, defensive minded team with only two other players over 20 points.  (Eligible for 2009 Entry Draft)

Footlocker.com

Forward:  Ryan Lasch, St Cloud State, Junior (15 G, 15 A, 30):  Played on one of the top lines in the WCHA.  This California kid, who was a Hobey Baker finalist last season, notched more than a point per game production.  Besides eight powerplay goals, tallied four game winners, tops in the conference.  (Undrafted)

Defenseman:  Jamie McBain, Wisconsin, Junior (6 G, 22 A, 28):  No not THE McBain, that’s Rainier Wolfcastle.  This McBain was the elder on a youthful Badger team who caugh fire midseason. The league’s top scoring defenseman quarterbacked one of the most powerplays in the league.  (2nd Round, 2006, Carolina)

Defenseman:  Patrick Wiercioch, Freshman, Denver (8 G, 18 A, 26):  Ran the powerplay, averaged more than a point per game, and a plus/minus of +8.  All as a true freshman.  Picked up the offensive slack for a team that battled injuries this season, and still finished in second place.  Established himself as a top flight defenseman in a very short time.  (2nd Round, 2008, Ottawa)

Goalie:  Alex Stalock, Minnesota Duluth, Junior (2.23 GAA, .920 Save, 3 Shutouts):  Led the league in goals against and shutouts, second in save percentage.  Played the part of Patrick Roy over the last three weeks and carried a defensive minded team to a postseason berth on his shoulders and canary yellow pads.  Needs to stay in the net to be most effective, not playing pucks in corners. (2005, 4th Round, San Jose)

Player of the Year Award

Jamie McBain, Defenseman, Wisconsin:  Tough call between Stoa and McBain, but head to head, conference finish, and the fact that in my world defenseman (like myself) are demigods give the nod to Jamie McBain.  He kept the team from falling off a cliff after its 0-6-1 start, leading them to a solid third place finish.  Gave an old school identity and grit to a team that lacked defensive balance at times.  Is the conference finalist for the 2009 Hobey Baker Award.

Freshman of the Year Award

Jordan Schroeder, Forward, Minnesota (11 G, 24 A, 35):  Such a tough call.  As impressive as Wiercioch was for Denver, Schroeder was even more impressive for The U.  Playing of the top line, he fed Stoa and Jay Barriball more than Homer Simpson at the Frying Dutchman.  Continues the legacy of fabulous Gopher freshman.  Native of Prior Lake, MN, played for the US National program in Michigan before coming back home to Minneapolis.

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Coach of the Year Award

Dave Hakstol, North Dakota:  For a team who has been to four straight Frozen Fours, this year’s version of the Fighting Sioux seemed to be frozen until 2009.  However they must have made a mighty good New Year’s resolution.  Since the calendar has flipped, the Fighting Sioux have lost only two of 19 games in 2009.  Roster turnover and a starting freshman goalie caused early season drama, but the team turned it around and took home the McNaughton Cup as regular season champs for a record 14th time.

Now that you are in an enlightened state, let me know what you think.  We’ll let the Zamboni take a couple laps, and try it again with the NCAA Tournament preview in the next couple of days.  We’ll give you a look at all 16 teams, all four regions, and the most anticipated games of the other March Madness, as college hockey begins its assault on the Frozen Four.

Keep it real, and as the immortal Red Green says, “Keep your stick on the ice.”