#3 Boston University vs. #2 University of Denver
TV: ESPNU at 6:30 PM EDT
Denver and Boston University are no strangers in the NCAA Tournament. This year marks the fifth time – but the first since 1997 – that the two have met. The Pioneers and the Terriers also met earlier this season back on Oct. 31st.
Denver will be making their ninth consecutive and 27th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Pioneers are coming off a 1-1 tie with North Dakota in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff third-place game.
For Denver, it all starts with their dynamic “Pacific Rim” line of freshman Dylan Gambrell, sophomore Danton Heinen (BOS), and junior Trevor Moore. The trio have accounted for an astounding 38 percent of the team’s total points to date. Gambrell, an NCHC All-Rookie Team selection and one of the NCAA’s top draft-eligible players, leads the Pioneers with 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists). Heinen got off to a rather slow start to the season, but is now playing some of his best hockey. The NCHC Forward of the Year leads Denver in goals (19) and is tied with Moore for second on the team with 42 points. Moore leads the team in assists (33). Gambrell and Heinen have played in all 38 games to date, while Moore has played in 37.
Although smaller in overall stature, Denver’s blueline matches up well with Boston University. Anchoring the Pioneers defensive corps is junior Will Butcher (COL). The Sun Prairie, WI native is one of the best rearguards coming out of the NCHC this season. Butcher currently leads all Denver defensemen and ranks second among all NHL-drafted defensemen with 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 36 games. Most recently, Butcher was named to the All-NCHC First Team.
After beginning the season platooning with junior Evan Cowley (FLA), sophomore Tanner Jaillet has emerged as the Pioneers go-to guy between the pipes. The Red Deer, AB native currently sports a 15-4-5 record that includes three shutouts in 28 appearances.
Boston University will be making their second consecutive and 34th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The well-rested Terriers last played on Mar. 11-12 when they were swept by UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East Tournament quarterfinals.
One of the BU’s strength is their offensive depth. Among the Terriers weapons up front is freshman Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (BOS). The Stockholm, Sweden native has been one of the best freshmen coming out of Hockey East this season. He currently leads the Terriers in freshman scoring with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists). One area where Forsbacka-Karlsson has really excelled has been on face-offs where his 527 draws won – which is nearly 60 percent overall – ranks second nationally and leads all NCAA Tournament players. Most recently, Forsbacka-Karlsson was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
In addition to their forwards, BU has also gotten great production from the defense, accounting for 29 percent of the team’s total points. Leading the group is senior captain Matt Grzelcyk (BOS). Despite being limited to just 26 games, the Charlestown, MA native has been invaluable to BU’s defense. He leads all Terriers defensemen in goal scoring with 10 and ranks second in points with 22 points. Most recently, Grzelcyk was named to the All-Hockey East First Team.
Senior netminder Sean Maguire (PIT) has been one of Boston University’s best stories. After missing all of last season due to injury, he has returned as the Terriers starter and is providing some outstanding goaltending. The Powell River, BC native sports a 13-8-1 record that includes one shutout in 24 appearances. Despite being the losing netminder in the recent Beanpot Tournament, Maguire was named both the tournament’s MVP and Eberly Award recipient at that tournament’s top goaltender.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF