Friday March 24 4:00pm Providence College Friars vs Harvard University Crimson
Providence (22-11-5) had a very roller coaster like year. The Friars are young. They have a solid record with some big name W’s under their belt, Denver & UML come to mind, but its the L’s that catch you, Miami, Holy Cross, & Merrimack. Yet PC is still standing, and with another home game as a 4 seed, again. (See NCAA Tournament 2014-15) The Friars have found a rhythm and came on strong late in the year to wrap up the 5th seed in Hockey East. Harvard (26-5-2) has been mercurial to date. One 3 game blemish in mid January was the only downside to the year, and it has served as a wake up call. The Crimson are 16-0-1 since losing 8-4 @ Dartmouth on January 17th. That stretch has seen them win the Beanpot, Ivy League, ECAC regular season title, & the ECAC Tournament, as well as climb to #2 in the country.
Providence has 9 Freshmen & 8 Sophomores. Their upper classmen have tasted victory in the Frozen Four beating BU 2 seasons ago here in Boston. And its quite a cast of upper classmen that they have, Sr’s Conor McPhee, Josh Monk, Anthony Florentino, Niko Rufo, Kyle MacKenzie & Brendan Leahy as well as Jr’s Jake Walman, Truman Reed, Robbie Hennesey, Brian Pinho, & Alex Cromwell. The way sophomore goalie Hayden Hawkey (best name ever) has been playing as of the last few weeks bodes well for PC. Ranked 17th overall, Hawkey has 22 wins, .913 SV% good for 15th, & a 2.19 GAA. The Friars are 11th defensively behind Hawkey & D-men Walman (25pts), Monk (20pts), Jacob Bryson (20pts), Florentino (16pts), Spenser Young (12pts), MacKenzie, & Vincent Desharnais. The 19th ranked offense is led by Pinho’s 40 points, Erik Foley’s 34, Josh Williams 31, & Scott Conway’s 23. The Friars average 3.05 goals a game. Coach Nate Leaman (6th year) is a winner @ this level, he’ll have the Friars primed and in position to do damage to any team, any place.
Harvard is probably as deep as its ever been. Hard to believe that a season removed from Jimmy Vesey’s Hobey Baker Senior year the Crimson are actually better! The top ranked offense is averaging 4.21 goals a game, and the 7th ranked defense is only allowing 2.21. Offensively the Crimson can roll 4 productive lines out, 1-3 can flat out score, while the 4th will catch you napping or physically impose a goal on you. The offense is led by Senior Hobey Baker candidate Alex Kerfoot (41pts), Sean Malone (42pts), Tyler Moy (41pts), Ryan Donato (38pts), Adam Fox & Luke Esposito (36pts) each, & Lewis Zerter-Gossage (24pts). As well as 5 others in double digits, 4 of whom are defensemen. Defensively Harvard has improved immensely. Fox, Clay Anderson, & John Marino are all fleet foot puck moving defensemen. Wiley Sherman has been solid this year. While sophomores Viktor Dombrovsky & Jacob Olsen are becoming more & more reliant a the season progresses. Goalie Merrick Madsen has been awesome. He’s had a few moments, but with each he’s rebounded strong. The one bad game was the last loss, to Dartmouth. Madsen is 16th overall, has 26 wins, .919 SV% (11th), & 2.16 GAA.
Predicted Winner Harvard
Friday March 24 7:30pm Air Force Academy Falcons vs Western Michigan Broncos
Air Force (26-9-5) was 2nd in Atlantic Hockey this year but beat Robert Morris in the Championship game 2-1 to earn the automatic berth for Atlantic Hockey. I won’t lie, I don’t follow the Atlantic Hockey conference enough (at all) to know much (anything) about Air Force, or any team for that matter. They have beaten BC at the start of the year, tied OSU, tied this WMU team that they face, and lost.But they are here, and they take on a strong, physical Western Michigan (22-12-5) that finished 3rd in the NCHC. WMU is beat up a bit from conference play but should have all hands on deck for this weekend.
The Falcons have the 16th ranked offense & 4th ranked defense. AF is a young team with only 3 seniors. AJ Reid is the highest point getter for the seniors with 15. The offense is led by Jr’s & So’s. Jr. Jordan Himley leds all scorers with 33 pts, followed by So. Kyle Haak @ 30 pts, So. Evan Giesler w/ 29pts, Jr. Phil Boje with 28, & 3 others round out the 20+ crowd. & players have double digits. The defense is manned by Captains Dylan Abood & Johnny Hrabovsky, Boje, Dan Bailey, Matt Koch & Kyle Mackey. The pipes are manned by Sophomore Shane Starrett. Starrett is the nation’s 5th ranked goalie, the 3rd highest in the tournament left playing too. He has the 7th best SV% @ .928, is 2nd in shutouts with 5, & has a 1.89 GAA. He might just be able to steal the game from WMU.
The Broncos are 9th offensively & 25th defensively. They are led in points by 2 sophomores, Matheson Iacopelli (34) & Griffen Moleno (31). 3 players w 29 points, Wade Allison, Sheldon Dries, & Colt Conrad. 2 more 20+ guys, as well as 8 double digit scorers. Offense shouldn’t be a problem but against a stingy Air Force… And defensively Corey Schuenemen, Taylor Fleming, Scott Moldenhauer, Cam Lee, & the rest of the Broncos back line surprisingly might have their hands full. Goalie Ben Blacker has gotten a majority of the workload. He’s ranked 25th overall, has the 12th best SV% .918, 3 shutouts, & 2.45 GAA. It’s going to come down to the health of Dries & Allison, the play of the D, and if Blacker can out duel Starrett.
Predicted Winner WMU
Regional Winner Harvard