2011 NCAA Tournament Preview

By DJ Powers
Photo: Freshman Beau Bennett and the rest of DU will faceoff against Western Michigan in the opening round of the tournament. Bennett is one of several high-profile NHL draft picks playing for the Denver Pioneers. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

It is now down to the Sweet Sixteen and the regional brackets have been set. The tournament is slightly different this year with five automatic bids and 11 at-large bids due to the demise of the CHA at the conclusion of last season. The five teams who have earned the automatic bids are: Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Miami (CCHA), Yale (ECAC), Boston College (Hockey East) and North Dakota (WCHA). Yale is the top overall seeded team.

This year’s tournament features 85 NHL-drafted prospects (although not all of them will play, and players who are out for the season or have not played this year are not included) representing 28 of the 30 NHL teams. In addition, the tournament also features numerous potential free agent and 2011 Draft-eligible players as well.

The East and West regionals kick off the tournament on Friday, Mar. 25 with the Midwest and Northeast regionals beginning on Saturday, Mar. 26. All games will be broadcast on ESPNU and online at ESPN3.com. The teams that will comprise this year’s Frozen Four at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN will be set on Sunday, Mar. 27 at the conclusion of the Midwest and Northeast regionals.

Below is a breakdown of each bracket. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Mar. 23.

East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
#1 Yale University vs. #4 Air Force Academy

The pairing between host Yale and Air Force is a rematch of the Nov. 14 game at Cadet Ice Arena that saw the Falcons earn a come-from-behind victory over the Bulldogs (aka Elis). The game features two of the nation’s top offenses and power play teams going head-to-head.

Yale will be making its fifth overall and third consecutive NCAA Tournament this year appearance after claiming the Whitelaw Trophy as the ECAC Tournament champion. The Elis sport the nation’s top offense that is averaging 4.29 goals per game as well as the top defense that has allowed an average of two goals per game.

Yale features a roster with seven players with ten or more goals coming into the tournament. Sophomore Andrew Miller, an All-ECAC and All-Ivy League First Team selection, leads the Elis with 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) through 34 games. Speedy senior Broc Little and outstanding junior winger Brian O’Neill lead the team with 18 goals apiece.

Ken Agostino (PIT) emerged as one of the ECAC’s most promising freshmen this season and currently leads Yale in rookie scoring with 25 points (11 goals, 15 assists) through 29 games thus far.

One of the keys to Yale’s success this season has been the consistent goaltending of senior and All-Ivy League Second Team selection Ryan Rondeau. The Carvel, AB native leads the nation with a 1.83 goals against average and ranks second with a .932 save percentage. He brings in a 26-5-1 record that includes a co-nation leading six shutouts through 32 games.

Air Force will be making their fourth appearance in the last five years in the NCAA Tournament this season. The Falcons are coming off of a thrilling 1-0 win over RIT last Saturday to claim the Atlantic Hockey Championship crown. The Falcons come into the tournament with the nation’s fourth-ranked power play with a 24.43 percent efficiency rating and an offense that is tied for sixth in the nation, averaging 3.68 goals per game.

Senior Jacques Lamoureux, an All-Atlantic Hockey Second Team selection, leads Air Force with 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) through 37 games. The Grand Forks, ND native also leads the nation with 13 power play goals. Lamoureux centers perhaps the best top line coming out of Atlantic Hockey this season, playing alongside fellow senior Derrick Burnett and sophomore Kyle DeLaurell. The trio has combined for 31 percent of the Falcons’ offense coming into the tournament and all have posted more than 30 points to date.

One of the pleasant surprises coming out Atlantic Hockey this season has been the outstanding play of freshman goaltender and Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie Team selection Jason Torf. The Hermosa Beach, CA native sports a 16-8-4 record that includes two shutouts and a .908 save percentage. Interestingly, Torf’s first victory of the season came against Air Force’s regional-opening opponent Yale.

#2 Union College vs. #3 University of Minnesota-Duluth

The second match in this regional features ECAC Regular Season Champion Union College and Minnesota-Duluth, one of five teams representing the WCHA in this year’s tournament. This year marks the first meeting between the two teams in the NCAA Tournament. Union College and Minnesota-Duluth last met in Nov. 22, 2003 when the visiting Bulldogs defeated the Dutchmen 7-4.

Union College will be making their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the program’s 20-year, D-I history. The Dutchmen earned an at-large berth after compiling a 26-9-4 record. The team is coming off of heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Colgate in the ECAC Tournament Quarterfinals two weekends ago.

Union College has become one of the best stories coming out of the ECAC this season. The Dutchmen possesses a superbly balanced team that is equally potent on both offense and defense. Union College currently rank fifth in the nation with an offense that is averaging 3.69 goals per game and ranked second with a defense that has allowed 2.10 goals per game. Where the Dutchmen have been particularly dangerous this season has been on the power play. Union College sports the nation’s top power play that is clicking at just over 31 percent.

The key behind the Dutchmen’s strong defense has been the sensational play of sophomore Keith Kincaid. The Farmingville, NY native sports a 25-9-3 record that includes three shutouts appearing in all 37 games to date. Kincaid, the recipient of the ECAC’s Ken Dryden Award as the league’s top goaltender and an All-ECAC First Team selection, currently ranks fourth in the nation with a 1.98 goals against average and is tied for 17th with a .920 save percentage. His .716 winning percentage ranks seventh.

Upfront, Union College is led by junior Kelly Zajac. Zajac, the brother of current New Jersey Devil Travis Zajac, is the Dutchmen’s top point producer with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) through 38 games. The Winnipeg, MB native was named to the All-ECAC Second Team after posting 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in conference play this season. Zajac is also poised to potentially tie or break the school’s single-season scoring record. To do so, he would need three points to tie and four to set a new record.

Excellent freshman Daniel Carr leads Union College with 20 goals. The Sherwood Park, AB native also leads the team in rookie scoring with 35 points playing in all 39 games to date. He was selected to the ECAC All-Rookie Team after posting 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in conference play this season. Carr, who is eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft, has been especially good on the Dutchmen power play. His 12 power play tallies lead the team and ranks tied for second in the nation.

Minnesota-Duluth will be making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance this year and first since 2009. The Bulldogs earned at-large berth after finishing 22-10-6 overall. The team is coming off of a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Bemidji State in the WCHA Tournament Final Five Quarterfinals last weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth is one of only two teams (Miami is the other) in this year’s tournament that features three players who are ranked in the top 15 nationally in points. Leading the Bulldogs is one of the nation’s most dynamic and lethal line combinations that features junior and Hobey Baker finalist Jack Connolly, senior Justin Fontaine and junior Mike Connolly. The trio has accounted for 44 percent of the Bulldogs offense this season, and all have posted 49 or more points. Jack Connolly, an All-WCHA First Team selection, leads the team with 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) playing in all 38 games thus far. His 55 points currently rank tied for fourth in the nation, while his 39 assists rank second. Mike Connolly, who was also selected to the All-WCHA First Team, leads Minnesota-Duluth with 26 goals and ranks third on the team with 49 points through all 38 games to date.

Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs lost freshman Dylan Olsen to the pros when he opted to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks at the conclusion of the World Junior Championship back in January. His now-former defensive partner Justin Faulk (CAR) has blossomed into one of the cornerstones of a very solid Minnesota-Duluth defensive corps, logging upwards of 25-30 minutes of ice time per game. The South St. Paul, MN native earned spots on both the All-WCHA Third Team and the WCHA All-Rookie Team after posting 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 35 games. Faulk, who was a member of the Bronze Medal-winning US team at recent the World Junior Championships, has also proven to be invaluable cog on the Bulldogs power play as well. Of his eight goals, six have come on the man-advantage.

West Regional (St. Louis, MO)
#1 Boston College vs. #4 Colorado College

Boston College will look to successfully defend their 2010 National Championship when they open regional play versus Colorado College on Friday. This year marks the fourth time that the two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament, and the first since 1998.

Boston College is making their 30th overall and eighth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Eagles comes into the tournament after capturing both the Hockey East regular season and tournament championships. The Eagles will also be looking to claim their third national title in the last four years as well.

Boston College features a talent-rich team that is as dangerous offensively as they are defensively. The Eagles bring the third-best offense into the tournament that is averaging 3.82 goals per game and the sixth-best defense that has allowed 2.28 goals per game. The Boston College roster features five players with 30 or more points, including two with 50 or more.

The Eagles are led by their speedy, high-scoring top line of junior and Hobey Baker finalist Cam Atkinson (CBJ), and seniors Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney. The trio has combined for 33 percent of Boston College’s offense thus far. Atkinson, an All-Hockey East First Team selection, leads the Eagles with 51 points (30 goals, 21 assists) playing in all 38 games to date. His 30 goals rank second in the nation. Where Atkinson has continued to be a dominant force has been on special teams. Of his 30 goals, eight have come on the power play and four have come shorthanded. His four shorthanded tallies lead the nation among all NHL prospects.

The good news for Boston College coming into the tournament is the much-anticipated return of sophomore standout Chris Kreider (NYR). The Boxford, MA native has missed the last five games due to a broken jaw. He has appeared in 31 games to date, posting 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists). Earlier in the season, Kreider helped propel Team USA to a bronze medal in the World Junior Championship.

One of the key cogs on the Eagles talent-laden blue line this season is sophomore Brian Dumoulin (CAR). The Biddeford, ME native leads Boston College as well as all NCAA Tournament-bound defensemen in scoring with 33 points (three goals, 30 assists) in 36 games to date. His 33 assists currently ranks tied for 12th in the nation overall. Dumoulin was selected to the All-Hockey East First Team after leading the league in defenseman scoring with 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) in conference play.

Colorado College will be making their 36th NCAA Tournament appearance in the program’s history and their first since 2008. The Tigers earned at-large berth into the tournament after posting a 22-18-3 record. The team is coming off of a 4-3 loss to North Dakota in the WCHA Tournament semi-final game last weekend.

Freshman sensation Jaden Schwartz (STL) leads Colorado College upfront. Despite missing time due to the World Junior Championship and injury, Schwartz has been among the nation’s top rookies all season long. The Wilcox, SK native earned spots on both the All-WCHA Third Team and the WCHA All-Rookie Team this season. He currently ranks second on the Tigers roster with 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 28 games. Schwartz’s 1.50 points per game average leads Colorado College. His 42 points also leads all NHL-drafted freshmen as well. Schwartz plays on one of the WCHA’s best lines that also features brother Rylan Schwartz and senior Stephen Schultz. The trio has combined for 32 percent of the Tigers offense and all have posted 30 or more points.

One area where Colorado College has been particularly dangerous this season has been on the power play. The Tigers bring the nation’s tenth-best power play into the tournament that is clicking at 22.51 percent. Senior Tyler Johnson leads the team and is tied for second nationally with 12 power play tallies.

On the defensive side, sophomore Joe Howe has been a vital cog in Colorado College’s run into the NCAA Tournament this year. The Plymouth, MN native sports a 17-14-2 record that includes three shutouts.


#2 University of Michigan vs. #3 University of Nebraska-Omaha

The second pairing in this regional features two former CCHA rivals facing off in Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha. This game is a rematch of the Oct. 22/23 series at Michigan’s Yost Arena that resulted in the two teams splitting the weekend set.

Michigan is making its nation-leading 34th overall and 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this year. The Wolverines earned an at-large after posting a 26-10-4 record. Michigan is coming off a 4-2 win over Notre Dame in the CCHA Tournament’s consolation game last Saturday.

Michigan brings a talented, high-powered offense and a much-improved defense into this year’s tournament. The Wolverines have also been hit with several recent injuries to key players. The biggest loss was that of junior David Wohlberg (NJ), who is out for the remainder of the season after breaking his collarbone versus Bowling Green back on Mar. 11. The South Lyon, MI native finishes his solid junior campaign with 21 points (15 goals, six assists) in 37 games.

Michigan currently rank 12th in the nation with an offense that is averaging 3.42 goals per game and eighth with a defense that has allowed an average of 2.30 goals per game.

The Wolverines are led by senior and CCHA Defensive Forward of the Year Carl Hagelin (NYR). The Sodertalje, Sweden native has been the Wolverines most consistent player as well as the team’s best two-way forward this season. Hagelin leads the team with 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists) playing in all 40 games to date. Hagelin, who was also selected to the All-CCHA First Team, has also established a knack for scoring timely goals. His seven power play tallies and six game-winners both lead the team. His six game-winners also co-lead the nation among all NHL prospects as well.

One area where the Wolverines have gotten a lot of their offense contributions this season have been from their defensive corps. Freshman Jon Merrill (NJ) earned spots on both the All-CCHA Second Team and the CCHA All-Rookie Team after posting 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) playing in 38 games coming into the tournament. Sophomore Lee Moffie (SJ) leads all Michigan defensemen with seven goals, of which four have come on the power play. Overall, Moffie has posted 15 points in 28 games this season.

Nebraska-Omaha, one of the two newest members of the WCHA this season, earned an at-large bid into the tournament after posting a 21-15-2 record. The Mavericks will be making their second NCAA Tournament appearance this year and their first since 2006. Nebraska-Omaha is coming off of a disappointing sweep at the hands of the WCHA’s other new member Bemidji State in the WCHA Tournament’s opening round two weekends ago.

The Mavericks bring an aggressive, in-your-face style into this year’s tournament that can be quite difficult to play and defend against. The team features one of the nation’s steadiest and probably most underrated goaltenders in outstanding sophomore John Faulkner. The Sarnia, ONT native has played in appeared in all 38 games this season. Faulkner, an All-WCHA Third Team selection, comes into the tournament sporting a 20-14-2 record that includes a co-national leading six shutouts. Faulkner has played 2137:06 minutes for the Mavericks coming into the tournament, which ranks him eighth in that category.

One player that has made quite an impact for Nebraska-Omaha this season has been sophomore defenseman Bryce Aneloski (OTT). The Pekin, Ill native is a Providence College transfer who spent the 2009-10 season with Cedar Rapids (USHL). The rugged Aneloski has become one of the Mavericks top rearguards and has demonstrated that he can also contribute offensively too. He currently ranks second in defenseman scoring for Nebraska-Omaha with 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) playing in all 38 games to date.


Midwest Regional (Green Bay, WI)
#1 North Dakota vs. #4 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The first matchup in this regional features two teams that have quite a bit of history despite having not met one another in recent years. This year marks the second time that North Dakota and RPI have met in the NCAA Tournament. The most recent meeting, tournament or otherwise, between the two teams was back on Jan. 12/13 1990 in Grand Forks with the Fighting Sioux sweeping the weekend series.

North Dakota will be making their 25th overall and eighth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Fighting Sioux claimed both the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular champions as well as the Broadmoor Trophy as the WCHA Tournament champions this season. The Fighting Sioux also possesses the nation’s top record of 30-8-3 heading into the tournament as well.

North Dakota possesses tremendous depth at all positions and have consistently been near or atop the national rankings all season long. The Fighting Sioux sport the nation’s second-ranked offense that is averaging 4.05 goals per game as well as the nation’s fifth-ranked defense that has allowed an average of 2.22 goals per game. North Dakota and Yale are the only two teams in this year’s tournament field that have averaged more than four goals per game.

No player in the nation has been lighting the lamp more this season than senior Matt Frattin (TOR). The Edmonton, AB native currently leads the nation with 35 goals and ranks second with 57 points playing in all 41 games thus far. Frattin, a finalist for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, was named the WCHA’s Player of the Year after leading the conference with 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists) in league play. The torrid goal-scoring pace that Frattin has set this season has been quite amazing. Of the 41 games that he has played in thus far, Frattin has posted at least a goal in 27 of them, including the last eight consecutive contests. His ten power play goals currently lead all NHL prospects, while his six game-winners co-leads all prospects.

Junior Jason Gregoire (NYI) who missed the WCHA Tournament’s semi-final and championship games last weekend with an undisclosed injury could be back in the lineup for North Dakota’s tournament opener on Saturday. The Winnipeg, MB native, who was named to the All-WCHA Third Team, currently ranks third on the team with 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists) in 32 games to date.

Senior Chay Genoway, who missed last year’s tournament due to a season-ending concussion, leads an imposing Fighting Sioux defensive corps that can also contribute offensively as well. The Morden, MB native currently leads North Dakota in defenseman scoring with 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) through 33 games thus far. His 26 assists ranks second on the team. Genoway, one of the top available collegiate free agents, was named to the All-WCHA First Team and garnered the WCHA’s Student-Athlete of the Year award. His excellent performance both on and off the ice have also made him a finalist for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award as well.

RPI will be making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1995 this year. The Engineers earned an at-large bid into the tournament after posting a 20-12-5 record. RPI is coming off of a series loss to Colgate in the first round of the ECAC Tournament two weekends ago.

The Engineers come into the tournament with a vastly improved defense this season. RPI currently ranks seventh in the nation with a defense that has allowed an average of 2.27 goals per game. The improved defense can be attributed in large part to the sensational play of junior netminder Allen York (CBJ). The Wetaskiwin, AB native was named to the All-ECAC Third Team after posting an 18-10-4 record that includes two shutouts in 33 games. York currently ranks tied for fourth in the nation with a .927 save percentage and seventh with a 2.04 goals against average. His .927 save percentage also leads all NHL-drafted goaltenders as well. In the 33 games that he has appeared in thus far, York has allowed three or more goals in just 11 of them.

Upfront, the Engineers are led by senior dynamo Chase Polacek. The Edina, MN native was named the ECAC’s Player of the Year after leading the league with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in conference play. Polacek, who was also named as a Hobey Baker finalist for the second straight year, comes into the tournament ranked tied for 14th in the nation with 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 37 games. He and senior defenseman Jeff Foss (NSH) are the team’s reigning iron men, each having played in a school-record 153 games in their respective careers. The two have also never missed a game since arriving in Troy, NY four years ago.

#2 University of Denver vs. #3 Western Michigan University

The second pairing in this regional features two teams that have never met one another in the NCAA Tournament. Denver and Western Michigan last met way back on Nov. 25/26, 1982, with the Broncos sweeping the Pioneers in Kalamazoo, MI.

Denver will be making their 22nd overall and fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Pioneers earned an at-large berth after posting a 24-11-5 record. Denver is coming off of a heartbreaking 3-2 double overtime loss to North Dakota in the WCHA Tournament championship game on Saturday. And the two teams could potential meet again in the regional final on Sunday.

The Pioneers sport one of the most balanced teams in this year’s tournament. Denver has gotten great contributions throughout their lineup all season long. The Pioneers are currently averaging 3.30 goals per game and allowing an average of 2.62 goals per game, which ranks them 18th and tied for 19th in the nation respectively. Despite having only four players on the roster with ten or more goals, the Pioneers have done an excellent job of getting their scoring by committee. Another area where Denver has been particularly good this season has been on the penalty kill. The Pioneers are the nation’s sixth-best penalty killing team with an efficiency rating of 85.9 percent.

Sophomore and WCHA All-Second Team selection Drew Shore (FLA) leads the Denver offense with 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) in 38 games. The Denver, CO native has also proven to be a timely scorer as well. Of his 23 goals, eight have come on the power play and one has come shorthanded. He also has three game-winners as well.

Freshman Jason Zucker (MIN) has been as good as advertised. He was named the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year and earned spots on both the All-WCHA Second Team and the WCHA All-Rookie team after leading all conference freshmen in scoring 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists) in WCHA play this season. Overall, the Las Vegas, NV native ranks second on the team with 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists) in 38 games to date. Zucker also leads the team as well as co-leads all NHL prospects with six game-winners.

Another freshman enjoying a stellar season is goaltender Sam Brittain (FLA). The Calgary, AB native was one of three Pioneers named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team this season. Brittain currently sports an 18-8-5 record that includes one shutout in 31 appearances. His .923 save percentage ranks tied for tenth in the nation, while his 2.24 goals against average ranks 17th.

Western Michigan will be making their fourth overall, and first since 1996, appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Broncos earned an at-large berth after compiling a 19-12-10 record. Western Michigan is coming off of a 5-2 loss to Miami in the CCHA Tournament championship game last Saturday.

The Broncos have been one of the best stories coming out of the CCHA this season. First-year head coach Jeff Blashill has gotten Western Michigan moving in the right direction with a vastly improved defense and 19 wins this season. The team posted just eight wins last season.

Like Denver, Western Michigan has done a terrific job of getting their scoring by committee this season, despite having only two players with ten or more goals on their roster.

One Bronco enjoying a revival of sorts this season is senior Max Campbell (NYR). The Strathroy, ONT native currently leads Western Michigan with 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) playing in all 41 games to date. His 35 points is nearly double what it was last season. Campbell also leads the Broncos with six power play goals and three game-winners as well.

Outstanding freshman Chase Balisy has also been a key contributor for Western Michigan this season, particularly in areas such as face-offs and setting up plays. Balisy, a CCHA All-Rookie Team selection and a rising 2011 NHL draft-eligible candidate, currently leads all Broncos freshmen with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) playing in all 41 games to date. His 18 assists lead the team overall.

One of the keys to Western Michigan’s success this season can be attributed to the rock solid play of senior netminder Jerry Kuhn. The Southgate, MI native sports a 12-7-6 record that includes two shutouts in 28 appearances. While his numbers may not be all that impressive, his play down the stretch, particularly in the CCHA Tournament, has been. In the last month, Kuhn has posted crucial wins against Notre Dame, Ferris State and Michigan respectively.

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
#1 Miami (OH) University vs. #4 University of New Hampshire

The first pairing in this regional will see a rematch of the two teams that last met back in October in their respective season-openers in Durham, NH. Miami and New Hampshire split the weekend series each with a 6-3 victory.

Miami will be making their ninth overall and sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The RedHawks will also be looking to make their third consecutive trip to the Frozen Four as well.

An explosive, talent-rich offense and an equally stingy defense have been the hallmarks of recent Miami teams and this season is no different. Miami comes into the tournament after claiming their first CCHA Tournament crown in school history with a 5-2 win over Western Michigan on Saturday.

The RedHawks are one of two teams (North Dakota is the other) in this year’s tournament field that currently rank in the top five nationally on both offense and defense. Miami’s fourth-ranked offense is averaging 3.82 goals per game, while their third-ranked defense has allowed an average of 2.16 goals per game. The RedHawks are also the only tournament team that ranks in the top three on both the power play and penalty killing as well. Miami’s 25.14 efficiency rating on the power play and 88.1 percent efficiency rating on the penalty kill both rank second in the nation.

Hobey Baker finalists and the senior dynamic duo of Andy Miele and Carter Camper lead the RedHawks offense. No player in the NCAA has been as consistent offensively this season as Andy Miele. The CCHA’s Player of the Year has become Miami’s "Mr. Everything". He currently leads the nation with 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) playing in all 38 games to date. His 47 assists also lead the nation. The most astounding attribute about Miele has been the fact that he has only been held pointless in just five games heading into the tournament.

Not to be completely outdone, Camper has also enjoyed a successful season. The Rocky River, OH native ranks second on the team and third in the nation with 56 points (18 goals, 37 assists) playing in all 38 games this season. Where Camper has proven to be particularly effective this season has been on special teams. Of his 19 goals, 11 have come on special teams – nine on the power play and two shorthanded. Camper’s nine power play tallies lead the team, while his two shorthanded goals are tied for the team lead. His excellent senior campaign also earned him a spot on the All-CCHA First Team.

After posting just 20 points last season, sophomore Reilly Smith (DAL) has more than doubled that this season. He leads the team with 28 goals and ranks third on the team and sixth nationally with 54 points through 37 games. The Mimico, ONT native joined Miele and Camper on the All-CCHA First Team this season. Smith has greatly benefitted playing alongside Miele, as seen in his increased point production.

The sensational goaltending duo of juniors Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp (BUF) continues to be arguably the best goaltending tandem in the nation. Reichard, who has seen the majority of playing time this season, sports a 15-4-2 record in 23 appearances that includes three shutouts. His 2.05 goals against average ranks eighth in the nation. Knapp has appeared in 17 games to date, posting an 8-5-4 record that includes two shutouts. His 2.02 goals against average lead all NHL-drafted goaltenders and ranks sixth nationally.

Regional host New Hampshire will be making their 21st overall and tenth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this year. The Wildcats earned an at-large berth into the tournament with a 21-10-6 record. They are coming off of a 4-1 loss to Merrimack in the Hockey East Tournament semi-final game last Friday. The two teams could potentially meet again in the regional final on Sunday.

Like Miami, New Hampshire also features an explosive, talent-rich offense. The Wildcats possess the nation’s 11th ranked offense that is averaging 3.43 goals per game. Leading the New Hampshire offensive attack is one of the nation’s best combinations of seniors Phil DeSimone (WSH), Mike Sislo and Hobey Baker finalist Paul Thompson. The trio has accounted for 40 percent of the Wildcats offense thus far this. Thompson leads the team with 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists) playing in all 37 games to date. His 52 points also rank tied for seventh in the nation as well. Where Thompson has been particularly dangerous has been on the power play. Of his 28 goals, 12 have come on the man-advantage. He also ranks tied for second in the nation in that category as well. Thompson garnered Hockey East’s Player of the Year after leading the league with 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in conference play.

In addition to their forward lines, the Wildcats have also gotten great offensive production out of their defensive corps this season. Dynamic junior defenseman Blake Kessel (NYI) leads all New Hampshire blueliners with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) in 37 games. His stellar play also earned him a spot on the All-Hockey East First Team as well.

One area where New Hampshire has excelled this season has been their ability to limit trips to the penalty box. The Wildcats are one of the nation’s least penalized teams, averaging just 10.4 penalty minutes per game. Of the 16 teams in this year’s tournament field, only Air Force has averaged fewer penalty minutes.


#2 Merrimack College vs. #3 University of Notre Dame

The second pairing in this regional features another two teams that have never met one another in the NCAA Tournament. Merrimack and Notre Dame last met back on Nov. 26, 1991 in North Andover, MA with the Fighting Irish winning the contest 2-1.

Merrimack will be making their just their second NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1988 this year. The Warriors have become one of the best stories coming out of Hockey East this season. The team comes into the tournament after falling to Boston College 5-3 in their first-ever Hockey East Tournament championship game last Saturday.

The Warriors success this season can be attributed to an effective shutdown-type of defense and the greatly balanced offense throughout their lineup. Merrimack’s roster features nine players with 20 or more points and six of them with 30 or more. It is made even more remarkable by the fact that neither of the team’s two NHL-drafted players are forwards. Merrimack comes into the tournament with an offense that is averaging 3.68 goals per game and a defense that is allowing an average of 2.45 goals per game. The Warriors rank tied for sixth and 11th respectively in each category.

No collegiate free agent candidate has garnered more attention by the NHL this season than sophomore Stephane Da Costa. The Paris, France native currently leads Merrimack with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 32 games to date. The gifted playmaking Da Costa earned a spot on the All-Hockey East Second Team after posting 28 points (ten goals, 18 assists) in conference play this season. Da Costa has been especially good on the team’s power play this season. Of the 44 overall points that he has amassed so far, 19 (seven goals, 12 assists) have come on the man-advantage.

Another player who has been a key component in the success of Merrimack this season has been excellent junior goaltender Joe Cannata (VAN). He has appeared in all 38 games to date, posting a record of 25-9-4 that includes one shutout. The Wakefield, MA native currently ranks eighth in the nation with a .711 winning percentage. His 25 wins rank tied fourth nationally and leads all NHL-drafted goaltenders.

Notre Dame will be making their fifth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year and their first since 2009. The Fighting Irish earned an at-large berth after posting a 23-13-5 record. Notre Dame is coming off of a 4-2 loss to Michigan in the CCHA Tournament’s consolation game last Saturday.

Notre Dame is one of the youngest teams in this year’s tournament with a roster that features only 11 upperclassmen. Two areas where the Fighting Irish have been very good this season has been on offense and scoring in penalty-killing situations. Notre Dame enters the tournament with the nation’s tenth-best offense that is averaging 3.43 goals per game. While the team sports a penalty killing rating of 81.7 percent, which ranks 32nd, they have scored the second-most shorthanded goals (12) in the nation. Only Boston College has posted more shorthanded goals.

The Fighting Irish offense is led by the freshman dynamic duo of T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee (NYI). Tynan, the CCHA’s Rookie of the Year, currently leads the nation in rookie scoring with 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) playing in all 41 games to date. His 52 points also ranks tied for seventh overall nationally as well. Tynan, who was also selected to the All-CCHA Second Team and is eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft, also led all CCHA rookies in scoring with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in conference play as well.

Tynan’s linemate for much of the season was fellow freshman Anders Lee. The Edina, MN native ranks second on the team with 41 points (22 goals, 19 assists) playing in all 41 games to date. Lee, who was also selected to both the All-CCHA Second Team and the CCHA All-Rookie Team, has become quite a clutch scorer for the Fighting Irish this season. He leads the team with six power play goals and six game-winners. The latter is also tied for the most among all NHL prospects as well.

Two of Notre Dame’s most improved players this season have been junior defenseman Sean Lorenz (MIN) and sophomore standout Riley Sheahan (DET). Lorenz has blossomed into one of the CCHA’s best all-around defensemen and logs upwards of 25-30 minutes per game for Notre Dame. The Littleton, CO native has appeared in all 41 games to date and was named the CCHA’s Best Defensive Defenseman. Lorenz has posted 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and leads the team with a plus-26.

Sheahan has posted 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 37 games to date. While his offensive numbers may not be all that impressive, his vastly improved defensive play and more well-rounded game are. The St. Catharine’s ONT native has become one of Notre Dame’s most effective penalty killers as well as reliable on the power play. Three of Sheahan’s five goals this season have come on special teams – two on the power play and one shorthanded.