Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Gameday: It's Time

NCAA West Region
Friday (all times CT):
No. 1 North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac, ESPN U, 7 p.m.
No. 2 Michigan Tech vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State, ESPN 3, 3:30 p.m.
UND/QU winner vs. MTU/SCSU winner, ESPN U, 8 p.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of year.

It's time for one-and-done. It's time for white knuckles and sweaty palms.

It's time for beating hearts, greasy goals and queasy stomachs.

The time for conference championships and game-planning is over.

For the four teams in the NCAA West Regional, North Dakota, Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State and Quinnipiac, it's two wins to Boston and one loss to the golf course.

It's playoff time.

All four teams that will grace the Scheels Arena ice in Fargo, N.D. this weekend are coming off a loss. Another one will mean the end of their season.

All have some big questions that need answers this weekend.

One team, UND, is coming off losses in back-to-back games for the first time in two years. Two teams, QU and SCSU, are facing key injuries. The other, Michigan Tech, is playing in its first NCAA tournament since 1981.

Who will have the answers this weekend?

Let's get to it. Here's your breakdown of what we'll see this weekend.

The Teams

No. 1 North Dakota, 27-9-3, 16-2-2, NCHC regular season champion

Leading Scorers: Jr. F, Drake Caggiula, 16 g, 17 a --33 pts
Sr. F, Michael Parks, 12 g, 20 a -- 32 pts
Jr. D, Jordan Schmaltz, 4 g, 23 a -- 27 pts

16 players with at least 10 points

Jr. G, Zane McIntyre, 27-9-3 (2nd in NCAA in wins), .929 sv pct, 2.05 GAA

3.26 GPG (10th in NCAA), 2.33 goals allowed (10th in NCAA), 19.6% PP, 84.5 % PK, 23-0-2 when leading after 2

Last Action: 3-1 L vs. SCSU, 5-1 L vs. Denver in NCHC Frozen Faceoff

Big Story: What will be the response after losing back-to-back games for first time in two years? Playing in front of a partisan crowd, just 70 miles from home, UND will need to find goals.

No. 4 Quinnipiac Bobcats, 23-11-4, 16-3-3, ECAC regular season champion

Leading Scorers: So. F, Sam Anas, 23 goals, 16 assists -- 39 points
Sr. F, Matthew Peca, 7 g, 29 a (.76 per game, T-14 in NCAA) -- 36 pts
Jr. F, Travis Denis, 15 g, 18 a -- 33 pts

Jr. G, Michael Garteig, 22-9-3, .918 save percentage, 2.00 goals against average, 5 shutouts (T-6 in NCAA)

Split with SCSU 3-2 L, 4-1 in January

2.76 GPG, 2.24 goals allowed (11th in NCAA) 19.6% PP, 87.9% PK (6th in NCAA) +223 in shots

Last Action: 5-2 L vs. Harvard in ECAC semifinals

Big Story: Head coach Rand Pecknold played coy with media on Thursday after his leading scorer, Sam Anas, who was presumed to be out for the regional, practiced with a no-contact jersey.

No. 2 Michigan Tech Huskies, 29-9-2, 2nd in WCHA

Leading Scorers: Sr. F, Tanner Kero, 19 g, 26 a --45 pts
Jr. F, Alex Petan, 15 g, 29 a -- 39 pts
Jr. F, Malcolm Gould, 14 g, 17 a -- 31 pts

15 players with at least 10 points

Jr. G, Jamie Phillips, 28-8-2 (Leads NCAA in wins), 1.71 GAA (3rd in NCAA), .935 sv pct (3rd in NCAA), 6 shutouts (T-2 in NCAA)

3.55 GPG (6th in NCAA), 1.77 goals allowed (2nd in NCAA), 1.77 scoring margin best in NCAA, 21.6% PP (7th in NCAA), 85.4% PK, +307 in shots, 19-3-0 when leading after 2

Last Action: 5-2 L vs. Minnesota State in WCHA Title Game

Big Story: In NCAA tournament for first time since 1981. Are the Huskies just happy to be here?

No. 3 St. Cloud State Huskies, 19-18-1, 11-12-1, 6th in NCHC

Leading Scorers: Jr. F, Joey Benik, 16 g, 22 a -- 38 pts
Jr. F, Jonny Brodzinski, 20 g (11 power play goals leads the NCAA), 17 a -- 37 pts
Jr. F, David Morley, 17 g, 11 a -- 28 pts

So. G, Charlie Lindgren, 18-17-1, 2.26 GAA, .919 sv pct

2.76 GPG, 2.39 goals allowed, 23.7% PP (5th in NCAA), 80.0% PK (44th in NCAA)    

Last Action: 3-1 W vs. North Dakota, 3-2 L vs. Miami in NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game

Big Story: Forward Kalle Kossila and defenseman Andrew Prochno likely to return from injury.

The Picks

No. 1 North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac

Will forward Sam Anas play against UND?

Earlier this week, the Bobcats looked like they would be without their most dynamic player, Sam Anas for this first-round showdown with UND.

A red, no-contact jersey and a no comment postgame presser from coach Rand Pecknold later, Anas looks like he could be ready to go.

Gamesmanship? Why not?

Before last weekend's mess-of-a-weekend for UND, the Green and White looked to be a no-brainer pick to make it to the Frozen Four in Boston with what will be essentially a home game just 70 miles from Grand Forks.

What a difference a weekend makes.

Two uninspiring losses later, can North Dakota bounce back?

Defense and goaltending have been the name of the game all year for the Green and White, but this weekend, UND must find a way to be desperate offensively. In losses to St. Cloud and Denver, a lack of energy was evident and 2 goals on the weekend showed that. UND failed to generate any kind of sustained offense in front of their opponent's net and we're held to perimeter shots that missed the net or were blocked by traffic.

DDC's take is that there is just too much senior leadership on this team to allow for another soft performance. North Dakota failed to find rebounds down low in two games last weekend. Expect to see this change.

UND finds a way to get to the paint and knock home some rebounds with a hard-working, Sioux-like victory.


No. 2 Michigan Tech vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State

SCSU Jr. Forward
Jonny Brodzinski

This is a tough one as DDC really likes both of these teams. St. Cloud State looks like it may get two key cogs, forward Kalle Kossila and defeseman Andrew Prochno, back in time for this weekend.

On the other side of the ice, Michigan Tech is a very well-balanced team, featuring a goaltender in Jamie Phillips that is in the top three in the NCAA in every important statistic. Up front, forward Tanner Kero is a Hobey Baker finalist for a reason.

St. Cloud State showed a tenacious trap game last weekend against UND and got two goals in 30 seconds at the end of the first en route to a victory that essentially got them into the NCAA tournament.

Offensively, SCSU has a dynamic power play that is lead by junior forward Jonny Brodzinski. If MTU can keep St. Cloud's power play off the ice, DDC likes them to advance.


North Dakota vs. Michigan Tech, West Region Championship

UND Jr. Goaltender
Zane McIntyre

One player that DDC did not mention in his pick of the UND vs. QU is certainly an important one --

The Thief River Falls, Minn., native was visibly frustrated during UND's loss to Denver last weekend, as the netminder was hung out to dry many times last Saturday afternoon. However, all season long, when UND needed a big stop, the Hobey Baker finalist was the man for the job. And as it often does in the NCAA tournament, goaltending will be the difference in this one.

The Huskies have seen their netminder take control of his fair share of games this season, too. This one will be a treat to watch.

Throughout his three-year career at UND, McIntyre has certainly had his ups and downs, but has shown the ability to shutdown any opponent.

Tech is looking to stake claim to a renewed program and find its way to Boston, but McIntyre won't let it happen.

Big time players find a way to put their team on their back and Zane McIntyre will show his mettle on Saturday, finding an elite level in victory.


We're all ready. Bring on the Big Dance.