One of my favorite times of year is coming up. This weekend begins the March Madness NCAA Hockey Tournament. This year saw some surprises (Princeton) some repeat conference winners and advances (Michigan Tech) a new power house (Notre Dame) a conference which had surprise high seeds and surprise snubs in the tournament (Big Ten) a pair of very strong conference performances from teams what weren’t the best but up there seed wise (Air Force and Boston University) and I’m still trying to digest a Frozen Four tournament that will not have Boston College, North Dakota and Minnesota. First round begins March 23rd and 24th, the second round will be on the 24th and 25th. This means after March 25th our Frozen Four will be set! The semi-finals will two weeks later be on April 5th with the finals occurring on April 7th . For some perspective on this, last year saw number one seed Minnesota ousted by Notre Dame who made it to the Frozen Four before losing to eventual winner Denver. Two years ago number one seed St. Cloud State lost to Ferris State in the first round, in this frozen four atmosphere ANYTHING can happen.
Regional Semi-finals (March 23rd/24th)
St. Cloud St. vs. Air Force.
Air Force. 2nd game of the whole tournament and I’m already introducing some anarchy. Air Force had a dominating win in the Atlantic Conference and I think they are the giant slayer. Furthermore St. Cloud State has shown a pedigree of losing in some big moments (a few big games against Denver & Minnesota Duluth and then in the 2ndround of the conference tournament). Air Force’s defense will hold on for a close win here.
Minnesota State vs. Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota State. THE best offense in the country not to mention the 4th best defense in the country goes against the 17th best offense and 7th best defense. I’m trusting in State’s CJ Suess who is 15th in the NCAA in points and more importantly has 4 game winning goals this year. Connor LaCouvee is the 3rd best goalie and will be a brick wall in net for Minnesota State.
Ohio State vs. Princeton.
Ohio State. Look Princeton had an excellent Cinderella story coming through the ECAC (and beating 3 of the top 4 seeds en route) to the conference win. Ohio State’s Tanner Lacynzki and Mason Jobst will be a formidable challenge on offense but Princeton is no slouch with Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner. The main difference will be in net where Ohio State is much stronger. Sean Romeo will help Ohio State advance.
Denver vs. Penn State.
Denver. I feel for Penn State. I think a puck movements or slight game changes during the season and they are coming in as a 1 seed. They certainly got better as the year came along but they continue to fall just short in the big moments. Denver meanwhile ran through the NCHC and looks like one of the best cohesive units right now. Denver comes in as the 9th best offense and 3rdbest defense as they are 12-4-4 over their last 20 games.
Cornell vs. Boston University
Cornell. The old adage of defense wins tournaments. Well, it at very least gets you past the first round as Cornell boasts the 2nd best defense in the land. Matthew Galajda has been unbelievable winning 21 of the 28 games he’s played with a 1.49 GAA and a .940 save percentage. He will be tested by Bobo Carpenter who has the 14th most goals in NCAA this year.
POLL: Saturday will mark the first time that Boston University and Cornell have met in the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament since 1972, do you still consider them to be rivals?— ESPN Ithaca (@ESPNIthaca) March 21, 2018
Michigan vs. Northeastern.
Northeastern. This matchup is RIPE with NHL talent Northeastern has Jeremy Davies, matt Filipe, Adam Gaudette, Cayden Primeau, Ryan Shea, Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens while Michigan has Nicholas Boka, Joseph Cecconi, Jack LaFontaine, Cooper Marody, Luke Martin, Nick Pastujov and Brendan Warren who are all NHL draftees. A potential to see 12 NHL draftees duking it out in the playoffs should provide serious entertainment.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan Tech
Notre Dame. Here is the issue. ‘I’ think this is a trap game and Michigan Tech is underrated for how strong they have played over the last month (coming through and winning the WCHA title for a second consecutive year). I ALSO think that Notre Dame has been somewhat ‘lucky’ skirting through some very close wins this year, especially against Ohio State and Penn State. What I’m interpreting as luck could very well be the skill that this team embodies to shine when it’s needed most. I’m going to assume it’s that characteristic that drive Jake Evans (who leads NCAA in scoring) and Cale Morris (2nd in NCAA in Sv % with a .954) to continue to win. Please don’t let me down now that I’ve bought in Fighting Irish.
Providence vs. Clarkson.
Providence. This might be the first round matchup I’m looking forward to the most. Providence has the 17th best offense and 11th best defense. Clarkson has the 14th best offense and best defense. Clarksons’s Sheldon Rempal leads NCAA in goals and Jake Kielly leads all goalies in GAA (1.53) while Providence has Eric Foley (6th in NCAA points) and Hayden Hawkey who is 23rd in GAA (2.48). While Providence is has the 4th best PK unit, Clarkson has the best power play in NCAA.
Regional Finals (March 24th/25th)
Air Force vs. Minnesota State.
Minnesota State. 3rd best offense facing the 26thbest defense will be the difference in this game. CJ Suess, Zeb Knutson, Jake Jaremko and Marc Michaelis is a strong offensive power.
Ohio State vs. Denver.
Denver. It’s been a great year for Ohio State but Denver’s Henrik Borkstrom, Troy Terry, Dylan Gambrell, Ian Mitchell and Logan O’Connor provide a needed depth to survive in the tournament. Ohio State has the best PK unit; unfortunately Denver takes the fewest penalties in NCAA, the matchup favors Denver’s strengths.
Cornell vs. Northeastern.
Northeastern. I’ve been bullish on them all season, prior to losing to Providence in the Hockey East tournament, they were on a 7 game winning streak. If Cornell takes any penalties (which they are in the league average of doing) they face the 2nd best PP unit hosting Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette, two of the most lethal power play scorers around.
Notre Dame vs. Providence.
Notre Dame. I’m thinking as the tournament gets deeper, Cale Morris is going to be playing stronger and stronger carrying Notre Dame to each subsequent round. Providence is not as deep scoring wise as other teams in this tournament and if Notre Dame can shut down Erik Foley and Jacob Bryson they have a good chance at a Frozen Four appearance.
Semi-Finals (April 5th)
Minnesota State vs. Denver.
Denver. In an excellent Frozen Four matchup which would feature 2 of the top 5 offenses, it’s Denver’s power play (5th best) which punishes Minnesota State’s undisciplined play.
Notre Dame vs. Northeastern.
Notre Dame. If the other half of this frozen four is all offense, this one is all defense. Two of the top 9 defenses battle. I think Garret Cockerill, Dylan Sikura, Jeremy Davies and Nolan Stevens test Cale Morris but he’s able to shut them down and bring Notre Dame to the finals.
Finals (April 7th)
Denver vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame comes through in the finals as Notre Dame wins it’s firstNCAA Hockey Title.
Who do you think wins it all?
This poll is closed
St. Cloud State
Other (a 3 or 4 seed)