Saturday March 25 1:00pm (1)Denver Pioneers vs (16)Michigan Tech Huskies
Michigan Tech (23-14-7) finished in 2nd place in the WCHA, and won the Broadmoor Trophy for winning the WCHA playoff Championship. The Huskies beat up on Lake Superior St in 2 games, then outlasted Minnesota St in 3 games, & they beat Bowling Green in 2OT to win the WCHA’s automatic berth. Their pay off for all that is a date with Denver (29-7-4). The Pioneers started off the season ranked 3rd and never really strayed that far from there, they rounded out the last month of the season as #1. Denver swept Colorado College but lost to North Dakota in the Semi’s. They rebounded by beating Western Michigan in the consolation game of the NCHC Tournament.
Freshman goalie Angus Redmond has been a revelation for the Huskies this year. The kind that can knock off a top seeded team in the NCAA Regionals. Redmond has 22 wins (tied 5th), a stellar 1.76 GAA (2nd in nation), & a .920 save %. Defensemen Shane Hanna (Sr) & Matt Roy (Jr) power the Huskies offensive attack, with 26 & 25 points each, along with Jr. Mark Auk 22 points. That’s not to say the Tech offense are slouches, they are led by Seniors Reid Sturos (24pts) & Mike Neville (23pts), Junior Joel L’Esperance (26pts), Sophomore Jake Lucchini (21pts), & Freshmen Alex Smith (20pts) & Gavin Gould (21pts). Coach Mel Pearson in his 6th season @ Michigan Tech will have his team ready.
Denver’s coach Jim Montgomery, 4th year, has had his stacked team ready all season. After losing 4-2 in the Frozen Four Semi’s to eventual Champs North Dakota, the returning players have been out for blood all year. Sr. Will Butcher is a Hobey Baker candidate as a defensemen. He comes in with 6 goals & 29 assists for 35 points. The Pioneers are loaded on offense. Led by Freshman Henrik Borgström (38pts), Sophomores Troy Terry (36pts), Dylan Gambrell (37pts), & Jarid Lukosevicius (27pts), and Seniors Evan Janssen (24pts) & Matt Marcinew (22pts) Denver averaged 3.26 goals a game, good for 12th. and that’s not the end of it for DU, they are backstopped by Junior Tanner Jaillet. Jaillet has had a monster season, 24 wins (tied for 3rd), a 1.81 GAA (3rd), & .930 save % (tied 5th).
Predicted Winner Denver
Saturday March 25 4:30pm Union Dutchmen vs Penn State Nittany Lions
Union (25-9-3) comes into the NCAA’s having lost in the ECAC semifinal round. They had a bye week, beat Princeton 4-1, and 4-3 in OT on a penalty shot! Union couldn’t solve Cornell in their 3rd try this season, losing 4-1. But the Dutchmen knew they’d be in the Big Dance and here they are ready to take on a talented quasi-Cinderella Penn State (24-11-2). The Nittany Lions, in just their 5th season of D1 hockey, captured their 1st Big 10 Tournament title in dramatic fashion. Repeatedly. PSU closed out their regular season with back to back losses @ Michigan, and their NCAA hopes were dimming, all that after being #1 in the Pairwise ranking around the midpoint of the year. They opened Big 10 play @ the Joe in Detroit against the same Michigan team, and beat them convincingly 4-1. That set up a semifinal date with powerhouse Minnesota where PSU prevailed in double OT 4-3. Exhausted, they battled Wisconsin in the Final to another double OT win 2-1. Conference Champs and in the NCAA for the very 1st time!
Union has some heavy firepower, with 2 Hobey Baker finalists in Sr. Mike Vecchione & Jr. Spencer Foo. Vecchione is 2nd in the nation in goals with 29, while Foo is 5th with 24. Foo is 2nd in assists with 36, and Vecchione is 5th with 33. Both have the chance to pass the current points leader if they keep progressing on. Vecchione & Foo are 3rd & 4th in points with 62 & 60 respectively. The Dutchmen have other capable players in F Sebastian Vidmar (40pts), D Jeff Taylor (33pts), & F Brett Supinski (36pts). A solid squad with players like Cole Maier, Nick DeSimone, Ryan Scarfo, Ryan Walker, and Luc Walker. Sr Alex Sakelleropoulos is steady in goal all year. He’s 9th in Save % @ .921 & 24th in GAA 2.42. Rick Bennett and his seniors have been here before winning the NCAA title in 2011-12 and being here for a 4th straight year.
Penn St is also loaded on offense. They have freshman Denis Smirnov leading all Nittany Lion scorers with 45 points. Followed by David Goodwin (36), Andrew Sturtz (34), Chase Berger & Nate Sucese both with 32 points, & 3 players with 20+ Dylan richard, Vince Pedrie, & Trevor Hamilton. Like the Dutchmen, PSU can roll 3 very good lines out there. Steady defensive play from the likes of Hamilton, Pedrie, Erik Autio, & David Thompson has kept pressure off of any one of the 3 keepers that Guy Gadowsky has used this year. Lately its fallen to Freshman Peyton Jones, who was outstanding in almost 13 periods of Big 10 tournament action, allowing 5 goals in all. This game should be an offensive rock’em sock’em affair.
Predicted Winner Union
Regional Winner Denver