Thursday, March 27, 2014

Who’ll be the King of Queen City? NCAA HOCKEY TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

After six months of hockey, two of the four teams in this weekend’s NCAA Midwest regional in Cincinnati, their season’s final buzzer will sound.

The tournament kicks off at 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday from U.S. Bank Arena when the two teams who started the NCAA campaign way back on October 5, Ferris State and Colgate, take the ice to see who can keep their season alive.

At 7 p.m. in the other half of the regional, former WCHA conference rivals the Wisconsin Badgers and North Dakota renew past pleasantries.

The winners of the two semifinal matchups will play each other the next night for the right to head to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.


These two teams have gotten to know each other a bit this season, playing each other three times, two of which Colgate won.

The Raiders, coming off a 5-2 semifinal loss to eventual ECAC tournament champion Union, are a young team, led by a group of five sophomores with 26 or more points. Dynamic twins Tyson (10 goals, 23 assists – 33 points) and Tylor Spink (14g, 16a – 30 pts) spark the young forward corps.

Colgate is young between the pipes, as well, as freshman Charlie Finn paced the 20-13-5 Raiders with a 16-7-4 record, 2.40 goals against average and a steady .916 save percentage.

Colgate will look to slow down the nation’s 10th ranked scoring offense in Ferris State. The Bulldogs, who fell in the WCHA Final Five championship game to MSU-Mankato 4-1 this past Saturday, are led in goals (16) and points (32), by senior winger Garrett Thompson.

Junior netminder C.J. Motte, a Hobey Baker finalist, has been a stalwart in the net for Ferris State this season, notching 27-8-3 record, good for fifth best in the country, a 2.25 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

The Pick
DDC was impressed by the Raiders in 2-2 tie (shootout win) against then No. 2 Minnesota back in January. The Spink Twins are a heck-of-a duo. 

Ferris was among the best teams in the college hockey this year, winning the WCHA regular season title and reaching the No. 2 ranking in the country on December 30. Since then, including a 3-0 loss to Colgate, the Bulldogs are a respectable 14-8-0, but feasted on a weak WCHA schedule. DDC thinks Colgate’s youth takes over as the RAIDERS WIN, 4-2.


Sweet fate finds these once bitter rivals on the same ice.

After a 5-0 win over Western Michigan in the NCHC third-place game this past Saturday, UND needed two things to happen to make their 12th-straight NCAA tournament. 1) Have UMass-Lowell beat New Hampshire in the Hockey East final and 2) have Wisconsin beat Ohio State in the Big Ten final. 

The River Hawks downed the Wildcats, easily. Check.

But, things looked bleak for the Green and White as the Badgers trailed the Buckeyes 4-2 with just over 6 minutes left to play in St. Paul.

Twenty-eight seconds later, UND had a pulse.

Wisconsin tied it with back-to-back goals.

DDC, as many UND fans, watched this back-and-forth battle head into overtime, pacing around a downtown Minneapolis apartment with three other crazed fans, knowing that their favorite team was one bounce away from dancing or depression.

Then, with just under eight minutes gone in the extra frame, Senior Mark Zengerle scored the game-winner in a net-front scrum for a 5-4 Wisconsin win.

Cheers could be heard from Minneapolis to Grand Forks and back to St. Paul.

The win gave the Badgers the inaugural Big Ten tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the regional.
It gave North Dakota a chance.

Friday’s tilt renews a rivalry that is 163 games old. Simply put, these teams know each other very well.

Wisconsin’s Zengerle leads a trio of highly-touted forwards in Sophomore Nic Kerdiles and Senior Michael Mersch into the first-round matchup. Zengerle’s 43 points leads the team.

Junior goaltender Joel Rumpel, a Hobey Baker Top 10 finalist, paces a defensive group that allows 2.50 goals a game. Rumpel’s winning percentage this season (21-5-1, .756) is second best in the nation. His goals against average (2.03) and save percentage (.930) are both in the top 10 nationally.

For UND, sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi leads the team in all scoring categories with 14 goals, 22 assists and 36 points.

North Dakota’s defensive scoring has been a major story this season as three 'D' men, sophomore Jordan Schmaltz (6g, 17a – 23 pts), senior captain Dillion Simpson (7g, 15a – 22 pts) and junior Nick Mattson (4g, 17a – 21 pts), have all more than 20 points on the year.

After battling senior Clarke Saunders for playing time early in the season and a short bump with an injury, sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg has been stellar in the net for UND this season.

Gothberg’s 2.05 goals against average is 9th in the nation and since Nov. 30, has gone 16-4-1. During that stretch of 21 starts, Gothberg owns a 1.76 goals against average, a 9.31 save percentage and his first three shutouts of his collegiate career.

The Pick
This is a tough pick. Rivals on the grandest stage – the NCAA tournament.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is attributed to the famous quote: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Although the stakes are clearly not as high as Pearl Harbor, DDC thinks the Badgers have done just this.

UND was just 6 minutes away from watching teams play this weekend. DDC thinks UND brings a new energy to the Queen City and gets a clutch performance from Gothberg in the pipes and skates to a slugfest win. UND WINS, 4-3.

Although I like Colgate and how they’ve played down the stretch and throughout this season, DDC thinks UND will be too motivated from beating their rival the night before to drop this one. Gothberg leads the charge again as NORTH DAKOTA SKATES TO PHILLY, 4-1.


No. 2 Notre Dame knocks off No. 1 Minnesota in the Gophers’ backyard. DDC hasn’t seen a killer instinct from Minny yet this season, as they consistently played down to their opponents all season. Goaltender Adam Wilcox is a legitimate stud this season, but it isn’t enough. IRISH EYES ARE SMILIN’, 4-2.

One name to learn for this post-season run: Connor Hellebuyck.

No. 2 UMass-Lowell stymies No. 1 Boston College in Worcester behind a continued out-of-this-world effort from the sophomore netminder against the best player in college hockey, Johnny Gaudreau.

Still don’t believe DDC? Hellebuyck’s goals against average: 1.73, best in the nation. Hellebuyck’s save percentage: .943, best in the nation. Hellebuyck’s shutouts this year: 6, second in the nation. 

No more questions. RIVER HAWKS SOAR, 3-1.

DDC has seen Union play a few times this season. Up front, they are good; defensively, they are great.

Junior Shane Gostisbehere is a Hobey finalist and senior Mat Bodie is third in the country in defenseman scoring. Goalie Collin Steven’s goals against average of 1.96 goals a game is fifth in the nation. This grouping is flat out good.

Providence’s Jon Gillies is no slouch in net, but DDC doesn’t think even he can keep pace with Union’s 'D' corps. UNION DUTCHMEN TOP THE FRIARS, 5-2.