Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Pick(s) -- Frozen Four Semifinals

Frozen Four National Semifinals, Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, FL:
Both games on ESPN 2.

Semifinal No. 1 -- Boston College vs. Quinnipiac, 4 p.m.
Semifinal No. 2 -- Denver vs. North Dakota, 7:30 p.m.

The ice is fresh, the teams are rested and the hype is high.

It's win or go home.

Boston College versus Quinnipiac. Denver versus North Dakota.

It's time for the Frozen Four from Amalie Arena in Tampa.

In semifinal No. 1, the top seeded Bobcats are looking to permanently stamp their names on the college hockey landscape. The Eagles are trying to continue their decade plus of dominance and advance to the title game for the seventh time since 2001.

In semifinal No. 2, legendary rivals Denver and UND faceoff for the sixth time on the year. Thursday's contest is by far the biggest. Can the Green and White snap out of their national semifinal funk and head to the title game? Can the Pioneers upend their NCHC foe and advance to the championship for the first time since 2005?

DDC has delved into both Thursday semifinals and is ready to give you his picks as to who will move on to Saturday's national championship game.

The Pick(s)

Semifinal No. 1 -- Boston College vs. Quinnipiac

To say these two teams are evenly matched statistically is nothing short of an understatement.

Both are in the top 5 in scoring offense and top 7 in scoring defense. Both sport top 9 power plays and top 5 penalty kills. Both have game-breaking goaltenders that are near the top of the stats pile. Both are undefeated on the season when leading after two periods.

While QU Michael Garteig is certainly a solid netminder, Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko is a Hobey Baker Hat Trick and Mike Richter finalist and with his huge size and excellent mobility, is an absolute force. Demko has a ridiculous 10 shutouts on the year and gives the Eagles the slight edge in the nets. He will need to keep that going against the Bobcats if BC plans on playing on Saturday night.

So, where does the advantage lie?

As it often does come playoff time, DDC sees this game won with special teams as it's all but a toss up 5-on-5 and one stat stood out most to DDC when looking at this matchup -- BC is fifth in the country in penalty minutes, averaging 14.4 per game.

Despite that high number of PIMs, the Eagles are fourth in the NCAA in penalty kill. On the other side, Quinnipiac has the fourth-best power play.
Quinnipiac So. F, Sam Anas
is DDC's pick for semifinal
No. 1's game breaker.

This is where DDC thinks the Bobcats capitalize.

QU junior forward Sam Anas and senior forward Travis St. Denis have been game changers this season with the extra man as the pair is tied for second nationally with 10 power play goals a piece.

DDC sees one of these two potting a big-time extra man goal in a big-time spot to move the Bobcats on to Saturday.

Semifinal No. 1's game breaker: Quinnipaic forward, Sam Anas. Look for the dynamic forward to net the game winner on the power play late.


Semifinal No. 2 --  Denver vs. North Dakota

Hold on one second. DDC needs a Xanax. Ok, thanks. Let's make a pick.

DDC noted in his preview of this game that the rivalry is a mere side note, but the familiarity of these two teams, particularly in 2015-16, is very important. Denver knows UND is loaded offensively and sports a dynamic D-corps that is capable of taking over a game. The Green and White knows the Pioneers are tremendous on the rush and have a top line that can score with anyone in the country.

So, much like in the first semifinal between QU and BC, where does the advantage lie?

DDC believes it's in the line matchups.

North Dakota has the advantage of the last change being the higher seed and this has proved incredibly important for the Green and White down the stretch.

Throwing out the Frozen Faceoff 1-1 tie, in the other four contests between the two this season, the team with the last change got home sweeps.

When UND swept Denver in Grand Forks in December, the Green and White were able to pair their top 4 defensemen against DU's top line. Then, when the Pioneers got their sweep of UND in Colorado in February, the newly minted Pacific Rim line of Danton Heinen, Dylan Gambrell and Trevor Moore got good matchups and took advantage.

With the last change on Thursday, UND will have the opportunity to group their top D-men and their "Heavy Line" of Luke Johnson, Rhett Gardner and Austin Poganski against DU's top line. The Heavy Line was the difference in the Midwest Regional as the trio went to work with a monster forecheck against Northeastern's top forwards and the vaunted CCM Line of Michigan that denied time and space.

UND Sr. F, Drake Caggiula
is DDC's pick for semifinal
No. 2's game breaker.
With the Heavy Line occupying the time of DU's Pacific Rim, UND's CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz should have more opportunities to create and pace the North Dakota attack.

If UND can lock it down defensively and get solid netminding from Cam Johnson like they did in Cincinnati, they should have plenty enough scoring to move on.

Semifinal No. 2's game breaker: UND forward, Drake Caggiula. The senior has had a penchant for big goals in his career and DDC sees Caggiula netting the Green and White's fourth goal to put away the Pioneers.



There you have it. Who will be left standing after the semis? Check back later to see who's moving on and who's going home. Thanks for reading.

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