Saturday March 25 12:00pm Cornell Big Red vs Umass-Lowell River Hawks
Cornell (21-8-5) lost in the ECAC Finals after finishing 3rd overall in the conference. The Big Red was quietly good this season. They had a strong 7-4 non-conference record beating UNH, Miami, & Northern Michigan, while being solid in ECAC play @ 13-4-5. Cornell is in their 1st NCAA tournament since 2011-12, and it’ll be a big ask for them to make it to their 1st Frozen Four since 2002-03. Their opening game is against powerhouse UMass-Lowell (26-10-6). UML is coming off a Hockey East regular season co-championship & this past Saturday night won the HEA Tourney in convincing fashion over BC 4-3. The River Hawks have been great all season, they had a few slight hiccups, mainly a 4 game losing streak in late January, but since then have been playing their usual tough to beat hockey.
The Big Red have gotten strong play from Seniors Patrick Mccarran (25pts), Matt Buckles (18pts), & Jake Weidner (24pts). Juniors Trevor Yates (22pts) & Alex Rauter (17) and Sophomores Mitch Vanderlaan (28pts) & Anthony Angello (20pts) all have had major contributions too. Cornell is ranked 8th defensively. They have a tight defense with Mccarran, Trent Shore, Ryan Bliss, Alex McCrea, & Dan Wedman toeing the blueline. Behind them is 15th ranked Senior goalie Mitch Gillam sporting a .712% win percentage, .921 save %, & a 2.17 GAA.
The River Hawks are a talented, deep team. Their offense is led by Sr. Joe Gambardella (51pts), Jr. CJ Smith (50pts), Jr. John Edwardh (37pts), Jr. Jake Kamrass (21pts), Fr. Ryan Lohin (26pts), & Fr. Kenny Hausinger (18pts). Not only is the defense a wall, ranked 13th nationally, with Dylan Zink, Michael Kapla, Mattias Göransson, Niklas Folin, Chris Forney, & Tyler Mueller holding it down in their zone. These guys can score too. Zink (35pts), Kapla (29pts), & Göransson (23pts) can do it at both ends. Any questions about how UML will be in goal this season were answered by Freshman Tyler Wall. The name fits. Ranked 10th overall this year, Wall has a .917 save %, 2.09 GAA, & 25 wins. Also having arguably one of the best coaches in college hockey, Norm Bazin (9th year), the River Hawks have had the best attendance in Hockey East for the past few seasons. With Manchester being a short drive from Lowell this will certainly feel like an away game for Cornell, and Minnesota or Notre Dame.
Predicted Winner UMass-Lowell
Saturday March 25 3:30pm (4)Minnesota Golden Gophers vs (13)Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame (21-11-5) didn’t back into the NCAA tourney, but losing 5-1 to UML in the HEA semifinals made it feel that way. After a 1st round bye, and a convincing beatdown of Providence in the quarters ND felt good. UML put a quick stop to that on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. But here the Irish are, and for good reason, they have had a solid final year in Hockey East going 12-6-4 and finishing 4th overall with a chance on the final day of regulation to win the regular season title for the 1st & only time in 4 years of HE play, but fell short losing to BU @ Agganis Arena. The Golden Domers have a tough task in facing off against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota (25-11-3) finished 1st in Big 10 play & lost in the semi’s to Penn St in double OT. U of M didn’t have its usual stellar non-conference record this year, they had some injuries,and are regrouping at the right time. With ND joining the Big 10 next season its safe to say Minnesota wants to send a message.
ND has a very good, talented, well coached team with Hobey Baker candidate Anders Bjork (47pts), Andrew Olgevie (39pts), Jake Evans (38pts) & Jordan Gross (30 pts). As well as 4 others w/ 20+ points, Dylan Malmqvist, Cam Morrison, Bobby Nardella & Dennis Gilbert. Gross, Gilbert & Nardella are also defensemen, so along with Tory Dello, Andrew Peeke, & Luke Ripley the Irish can play 200 feet. Cal Peterson has been tremendous in nets again. 21 wins, 2.13 GAA, .928 SV% & ranked 12th overall. Coach Jeff Jackson (12th year) knows how to get teams to the Frozen Four, getting ND there in 2010-11 & 2007-08, as well as 3 times with Lake St, winning 2 titles in ’91-92 & ’93-94.
Minnesota’s Don Lucia knows a thing or two about coaching also reaching 7 Frozen Fours between his time here @ Minnesota & @ Colorado College. He won 2 titles in 2001-02 & 2002-03, but haven’t been that far since losing in ’13-14. As usual Lucia has a plethora of talent on the ice. The Gophers have a Hobey candidate as well in Tyler Sheehy (53pts), Justin Kloos (42pts) and 4 players with +30 points. Vine Letteri, Rem Pitlick, Leon Bristedt, & Jake Bischoff. Damn. 2 with 20+, and 4 also in double digits. Bischoff is also on D, with Jack Sadek, Ryan Collins, Steve Johnson, Ryan Lindgren, & Jack Glover. Its a who’s who of hockey… Maning the pipes is Eric Schierhorn who is really coming into his own. His numbers aren’t like other goalies in the tourney but he is solid and is capable of backstopping the Gophers far. He’s ranked 30th overall, tied for 2nd with 5 shutouts, and has a 2.59 SV%. This one is tough to call, ND is 13th offensively to Minnesota’s 5th, but is 9th defensively to U of M’s 24th…
Predicted Winner Minnesota
Regional Winner UMass-Lowell