NCAA conference playoffs preview, Part 1

By DJ Powers






NCAA Conference Playoffs Preview (Part 1)

Note: Only teams featuring current NHL prospects have been
included. All stats included are through the end of the regular season.

 

CCHA

 

#1
Michigan vs. #12 Notre Dame
– The Wolverines claimed their
third CCHA regular season title in four years last weekend on top of a
five-point effort by junior Jeff
Tambellini
(LA). The Wolverines have been one of the nation’s most
explosive and balanced offensive teams all season, with 12 players on the
roster registering 20 or more points this season. Among them are Tambellini,
freshman Chad Kolarik (PHX) and
senior Jason Ryznar (NJ).
Tambellini, an All-CCHA First Team selection, ranks second on the team in
scoring with 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists). His 29 assists lead the team.
Kolarik is fourth on the team with 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists). Ryznar,
despite missing games due to injury, is enjoying a career year with 21 points
(5 goals, 16 assists).

 

Michigan will host struggling Notre Dame in the opening
round of the CCHA playoffs. The Wolverines swept the Fighting Irish during the
regular season, outscoring them a combined 29-6 in the four regular season
meetings. After a stellar season last year, the Fighting Irish have had little
go right this season. The main reason for Notre Dame’s woes has been the severe
lack of scoring. Coming into the post-season, the Irish rank dead last in the
nation in offense, averaging only 1.64 points per game. One of the few bright
spots for Notre Dame has been the development of talented sophomore defenseman Wes O’Neill (NYI). O’Neill is second on
the team in scoring with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists).

 

#2
Ohio State vs. #11 Ferris State
– The Buckeyes
wrapped up the second seed in the conference after finishing out their season
with a win and tie against Miami-Ohio last weekend. The Buckeyes come into the
post-season as one of only two teams that ranks among the top ten in the nation
in both team offense and defense. Junior Rod
Pelley
, a CCHA All-Second Team selection, leads the team in scoring with 37
points (21 goals, 16 assists). Freshman sensation Tom Fritsche, a strong candidate for CCHA Rookie of the Year, leads
all the nation’s rookies in assists with 29. Junior defenseman Nate Guenin (NYR), another CCHA
All-Second Team selection, leads the most penalized team in the nation in
penalty minutes with 120.

 

Ohio State will meet 11th-seeded Ferris State in
the opening round of the conference playoffs, having won three of the four
regular season meetings. The lone loss the Buckeyes suffered came back on
January 8th in Columbus. Two factors that have contributed to the
Bulldogs struggles this season have been team defense and inability to win at
home. The Bulldogs have won a total of just four games in the friendly confines
of Ewigleben Arena, with two coming against conference opponents Michigan and
Western Michigan during the first half of the season. While the FSU defense,
ranked 46th in the nation, has been a problem, the offense has fared
better. Senior Jeff Legue leads FSU
in scoring with 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists). His 22 goals are tied for
first in the CCHA.

 

#3
Northern Michigan vs. #10 Western Michigan
– The
Wildcats come into the post-season as one of the nation’s hottest teams, riding
an eight-game undefeated streak (6-0-2). They are coming off of a sweep of Lake
Superior State last weekend. A big part of NMU’s success has been the stellar
play of senior goaltender Tuomas Tarkki.
Tarkki, an All-CCHA First Team selection, sports an 18-6-5 record that includes
three shutouts. He ranks ninth in the nation in goals against average (2.00)
and third in save percentage (.931). Sophomore Darin Olver (NYR) leads the team in scoring with 39 points (9
goals, 30 assists) and his 30 assists tie him for fifth in the nation. CCHA
All-Rookie Team selection, freshman Mike
Santorelli
(NSH) is having an excellent season and leads the team’s rookies
with 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists).

 

NMU will face tenth-seeded Western Michigan in the opening
round of the conference playoffs. The Wildcats won and tied the Broncos in the
two regular season meetings. WMU is coming off of a split to Ferris State last
weekend. Team defense has been the biggest problem for WMU this season, despite
some outstanding work by freshman Daniel
Bellissimo
. Offense has not been a problem. Junior Brent Walton, a likely Hobey Baker finalist and an All-CCHA Second
Team selection, is enjoying a superb season for WMU, leading the team with 49
points (20 goals, 29 assists) which puts him fourth in the nation. Junior Vince Bellissimo (FLA) is also having a
stellar season, ranking second on the WMU squad with 37 points (17 goals, 20
assists).

 

#4
Nebraska-Omaha vs. #9 Lake Superior State
– One of the
best stories to come out of the CCHA this season has been the stellar play of
the Mavericks. The sensational duo of sophomore Scott Parse (LA) and CCHA All-Rookie Team selection Bill Thomas have been a key reason for
the success of UNO. Parse, a potential candidate for CCHA Player of the Year
and an All-CCHA First Team selection, leads the Mavericks in scoring with 47
points (18 goals, 29 assists). Thomas leads the nation in scoring among rookies
with 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists). Sophomore Chris Holt (NYR) has been the workhorse for the Mavericks this
season, starting in 34 of UNO’s 36 games this season and posting a 17-13-4
record that includes one shutout. He ranks third in the nation in minutes
played (2020:11).

 

Nebraska-Omaha will host Lake Superior State in the opening
round. The Mavericks are 2-1-1 in the four meetings versus the Lakers this
season. The lone loss the Mavericks suffered against the Lakers came back on
December 7th in Omaha. LSSU is coming off of a series loss to
Northern Michigan last weekend. The goaltending tandem of sophomore Jeff Jakaitis and senior Matt Violin (VAN) has been a key to the
success that the Lakers have enjoyed this season, despite their losing records.
Both goaltenders have posted save percentages better than .910 and a goals
against average around three.

 

#5
Bowling Green vs. #8 Alaska-Fairbanks
– The Falcons capped
off an emotional regular season by clinching home ice in the opening round of
the conference playoffs for the first time in ten years. Senior goaltender Jordan Sigalet (BOS), who also serves
as one of the team’s tri-captains, announced back in December that he has
multiple sclerosis. Since his announcement, Sigalet has continued to be an
inspiration both on and off the ice for BGSU. He is enjoying a career year,
posting a 16-10-3 record that includes one shutout and has been crucial in the
Falcons outstanding season. Sigalet was recently named to the CCHA
All-Conference Second Team and could be a finalist for this year’s Hobey Baker
Award.

 

BGSU will meet eighth-seeded Alaska-Fairbanks in the opening
round of the conference playoffs. The Falcons swept the Nanooks in the two regular
season meetings. BGSU outscored UAF 12-3 combined in the two games. The Nanooks
are coming off of a hard fought victory over in-state rival Alaska-Anchorage to
claim the Governor’s Cup. A big part of the UAF’s success this season can be
attributed to the sensational performance of freshman goaltender Wylie Rogers. Rogers, a CCHA All-Rookie
Team selection, won the starting job playing in 26 games this season. He has
posted an 11-11-4 record with a 2.90 goals against average and a .902 save
percentage.

 

#6
Michigan State vs. #7 Miami-Ohio
– It almost looked
like they were going to squander it, but the Michigan State Spartans would gain
home ice for the first round of the conference playoffs, thanks to a sweep of
Notre Dame in the final weekend along with some help. MSU comes into the
post-season without sophomore defenseman A.
J. Thelen
(MIN), who was dismissed from the team last weekend. Senior Jim Slater (ATL) continues to move up
the Spartans’ all-time scoring chart, now sitting in 24th place. In
the last six games, Slater has been on a tear, notching 11 points (four goals,
seven assists) in that stretch. Freshman Jim
McKenzie
(OTT) has a hot streak of his own going into the post-season.
McKenzie has eight points (seven goals, one assist) in six games, including his
first career hat trick.

 

MSU will meet Miami-Ohio in the opening round of the
conference playoffs. The Spartans split the two regular season meetings with
the RedHawks this season. Miami-Ohio is coming off of a disappointing loss and
tie to in-state rival Ohio State this past weekend that resulted in the
RedHawks losing home ice to their first round opponent. The outstanding
sophomore tandem of Matt Christie
(ANA) and Marty Guerin (LA) rank
first and second respectively in team scoring. Christie leads the team with 35
points (15 goals, 20 assists), while Guerin is second with 33 points (14 goals,
19 assists). The player to watch on the team however is junior defenseman Andy Greene. Greene, who is enjoying a
stellar season and is an early favorite for CCHA Offensive Defenseman of the
Year, leads all CCHA defensemen in scoring with 33 points (seven goals, 26
assists).

 

 

HOCKEY EAST

 

#1
Boston College vs. #8 UMass
– The Eagles claimed their third
straight Hockey East title last weekend after taking a crucial win and tie
versus Maine last weekend. Sophomore Brian Boyle (LA) notched two goals in
Boston College’s win on Friday night. The Eagles also saw the return of
defensemen Andrew Alberts (BOS) and Greg Lauze, both of whom had been out
of the lineup due to injury. Boston College has arguably the conference’s most
balanced team with both scoring depth and outstanding team defense. Junior Patrick Eaves (OTT), a potential Hobey
Baker finalist, leads the team in scoring with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists).
The goaltending tandem of senior Matti
Kaltiainen
(BOS) and freshman Cory
Schneider
(VAN) have been superb all season. Both goaltenders rank in the
top ten in the nation in goals against average and save percentage. Schneider
went undefeated in regular season play (prior to his injury), posting a
sparkling 9-0-4 record. Kaltiainen has posted a 12-6-3 record.

 

Boston College will face eighth-seeded UMass in the opening
round, having posted a win and a tie in the two regular season meetings. The
Minutemen are coming off of a split versus Northeastern last weekend. Scoring,
particularly in the latter half of the regular season, has been a problem for
UMass. Since January, their opponents have outscored them by a margin of nearly
3 to 1. Junior Stephen Werner (WSH)
leads the team with 27 points (17 goals, 26 assists). He is also tied for first
in the nation with four short-handed goals. The hottest player of late for the
Minutemen has been junior defenseman Marvin
Degon
, who has five points (two goals, three assists) in the last four
games going into the post-season.

 

#2
Boston University vs. #7 Providence
– Boston University
is coming off of an important win and tie versus New Hampshire last weekend
that enabled them to finish with the second seed heading into the conference
playoffs. Junior David Van der Gulik

(CGY) and sophomore Kenny Roche
(NYR) each tallied a goal apiece in BU’s victory on Saturday. Van der Gulik
leads the team in scoring with 30 points (18 goals, 12 assists). A major factor
in the Terriers’ success during the regular season was the stellar play of
sophomore goaltender John Curry. He
has a 16-8-3 record and ranks seventh in the nation in both goals against
average (1.92) and save percentage (.926). BU has also gotten outstanding
contributions from their freshmen. Three of the Terriers’ top ten scorers are
rookies. Peter MacArthur, a strong
candidate for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, leads the team’s rookies in
scoring with 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists).

 

Boston University will meet seventh-seeded Providence for
the fifth time in seven years. The Terriers swept the Friars in the two regular
season meetings. Providence is coming off of an overtime win over UMass-Lowell
on Saturday. Junior defenseman James
Pemberton
(FLA) notched the game-winner at the 1:53 mark of overtime to
lead the Friars. The win was Providence’s third in a row, the best since the
opening weekend of the season. One area where the Friars have struggled this
season is in scoring. Sophomores Colin
McDonald
(EDM) and Jamie Carroll

are the only two players on the Providence roster with 10 or more goals. Senior
Chris Chaput leads the Friars in
scoring with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists).

 

#3
New Hampshire vs. #6 Northeastern
– New Hampshire is
coming off of a disappointing tie and loss to Boston University last weekend
and as a result finishes with the third seed heading into the conference
playoffs. The Wildcats possess one of the nation’s most potent offenses. UNH is
one of only three teams in the nation averaging better than four goals per
game. Furthermore, the Wildcats roster features six players with 30 or more
points. Senior sensation Sean Collins
(COL), a strong candidate for both Hockey East Player of the Year and the Hobey
Baker award, leads the team with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists). His 47
points rank him tied for seventh in the nation, while his 30 assists rank him
tied for fifth. Senior Justin Aikins
(CBJ) joined UNH’s 100-point club last Saturday after notching a goal and an
assist versus Boston University. He has 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists) on the
season thus far. One of best players to emerge from the UNH lineup has been
freshman goaltender Kevin Regan

(BOS), who has posted a 9-2-2 record in 14 games. His .926 save percentage ranks him eighth in the nation.

 

New Hampshire will face sixth-seeded Northeastern in the
opening round of the conference playoffs on Thursday, having swept all three
regular season meetings. Northeastern will be making its first post-season
appearance in three years. The Huskies are coming off of an 8-3 thrashing of
UMass on Saturday in which outstanding junior Mike Morris (SJ) exploded for six points (two goals, four assists)
to lead NU to victory. Morris now leads the team in goals with 19, while his
linemate, senior Jason Guerriero won
Hockey East’s regular season scoring title with 48 points (17 goals, 31
assists). Morris and Guerriero account for nearly 30 percent of the Huskies’
team offense. Northeastern has partially built its outstanding regular season
on beating ranked opponents, which include Michigan in the season opener,
Harvard in the Beanpot Tournament and a recent win and tie versus Boston
University. The Huskies have also gotten superb goaltending from senior
workhorse Keni Gibson, who has
played in 34 of the NU’s 36 games, posting a 15-14-5 record with one shutout.
Gibson leads the nation in minutes played (2084:44).

 

#4
Maine vs. #5 UMass-Lowell
– Maine is coming off of a
heartbreaking tie and loss to Boston College last weekend. The Black Bears
finish with the fourth seed heading into the conference playoffs for just the
first time since their national championship season of 1999-2000. Maine brings
one of the best team defenses into the post-season, ranking fifth in the nation
with 2.03 goals against per game. The key has been the continuing stellar play
of junior goaltender Jimmy Howard
(DET) who has posted some stellar numbers despite a 17-11-7 record. His 2.02
goals against average ranks tenth in the nation, and he ranks second both in
shutouts (6) and minutes played (2045:16). Maine has also had great success
versus conference opponents at home at Alfond Arena. The Black Bears are 8-1-3
versus Hockey East opponents at Alfond. Their lone home loss to a conference
foe came back on November 5th versus Boston College. Sophomore
defenseman Mike Lundin (TB)
continues to develop into one of the team’s most reliable players. Lundin is
one of only three players that have played in all 36 games. He has 13 points
(one goal, 12 assists) on the season thus far.

 

Maine will face fifth-seeded UMass-Lowell in the opening
round, having swept the RiverHawks in all three regular season meetings. Lowell
is coming off of a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss at home to Providence on
Saturday. The RiverHawks have become one of the stories out of Hockey East this
season. After the turbulence of last season that saw them forfeit nine games,
Lowell has emerged this season as a difficult team to have to face on any given
night. The RiverHawks rank among the top 15 in the nation in both team offense
and defense. Junior Ben Walter (BOS)
is enjoying a career year, leading the team with 39 points (26 goals, 13
assists). His 13 power play goals are tied for third in the nation. The hottest
player on the roster is junior Elias
Godoy
. He has racked up 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in Lowell’s
last 13 games. While Walter and Godoy have been getting it done up front,
freshman goaltender Peter Vetri has
been getting it done on the defensive side. In 24 games, Vetri has compiled a
13-6-4 record that includes two shutouts.

 

 

CHA

 

#1
Bemidji State
– The Beavers wrapped up their second
consecutive CHA title after a convincing sweep over Air Force last weekend.
With the top seed, BSU earns a quarterfinal bye. The Beavers will meet the
winner of the Air Force-Wayne State match in the conference semi-finals on
Saturday. The Beavers’ sweep of the Falcons last weekend came at a high-cost as
leading scorer Andrew Murray (CBJ)
has been lost for the duration of BSU’s season due to a broken collarbone. Murray,
who re-wrote most of Bemidji State’s Division I-Era record books, leads the
team in scoring with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists). He finishes his stellar
collegiate career with 115 points (46 goals, 69 assists), placing him 30th
all-time in the storied history of Bemidji State’s program.