Marchand Stirs the Pot

Winger also is the straw that stirs the drink for Bruins.

The factors for the Boston Bruins evening up their best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes are multiple. The biggest one is the play of Boston’s agitator-in-chief, Brad Marchand. Over the weekend, the 5′-9″ winger upped his game dramatically in the Bruins’ two series-tying victories in Boston. Marchand’s numbers in games one and two in Raleigh, NC, were not on par with his usual production. He had one assist and mustered only five shots on goal during the two losses to open the series.

His numbers at TD Garden in games three and four were off the charts. Eight points (three goals and five assists) and eight shots. During game two on Sunday, a 5-2 win, Marchand factored into all five Bruins’ goals.

Marchand is the engine that drives the Bruins. The Bruins thrive when he gets under the opponents’ skin while keeping his cool. In Carolina Marchand was stymied by the smothering play of Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast, and Nino Niederreiter. Marchand’s frustration was evident in game two when Hurricanes back-up netminder Pyotr Kochetkov slashed him in the second period. Marchand flinched as if he was going to retaliate with a two-handed slash but held back, only to follow through after a shove by Kochetkov.

“He’s got a letter on his sweater for a reason,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s a battler, a competitive guy his whole life, he’s not going to get down too long. It’s the time of year he loves to play. He’s shown that.”

“You now have some animosity, we’re in game three or four,” added Cassidy. “there’s some chirping going on now too and that can elevate his game.”

Back in Boston, it was Marchand doing the provoking. He drew Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo off of his game in game four. After the buzzer sounded to end the first period in game four, the two exchanged pleasantries where Marchand called DeAngelo a racist. DeAngelo has a history going back to his OHL days and his time with the New York Rangers.

“It wasn’t much of an exchange,” said Marchand when asked about it. “I didn’t even know he was around me. Kind of came out of nowhere. There really wasn’t much of one…Just saying, “Hey, how’s your Mother’s Day?”

“It’s bright lights time and I think Marshy has always been pretty good with that.”

Marchand admitted after game three that his play hadn’t been where it needed to be.

“It’s the most I’ve felt engaged,” said the Bruins’ assistant captain. “It got to be a little while since I felt that into a game. I think the importance of the situation we’re in hit us all.”

Carolina had the advantage of putting the trio of Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast, and Nino Niederreiter on the re-united “Perfection Line” of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Carolina’s trio kept the Bruins’ trio scoreless, save for Bergeron’s power-play goal in game three.

Cassidy was able to keep his charges away from that setup at home, and it paid off as the “Perfection Line” rattled off a combined 16 points at TD Garden. 

“Staal’s line is a very dominant, defensive line, very hard on forechecks,” said Marchand. “They’re big so they cover a lot of space in the d-zone and the neutral zone and they compete. They’re very good on face-offs as well so you don’t always get as many opportunities off of that. Kind of a strength of our group.”

“That’s playoffs, it’s a chess match, that’s the advantages of being at home versus being on the road,” added Marchand. “That’s a very good line, they’ve been great in this series so far. Those are the types of players that take you deep in the playoffs.”

The Marchand line primarily went up against Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Seth Jarvis in game three. Game four was a majority of Aho, Svechnikov, and Staal as line-ups shuffled due to power-plays, penalty kills, and in-game changes.

    Marchand’s Ice TIme Versus Staal line in Games 1-4
Staal 12:04 Fast 11:18 Niederreiter 11:58
Staal 11:49 Fast 10:07 Niederreiter 10:40
Staal 5:43 Fast 2:34 Niederreiter 2:34
Staal 9:13 Fast 3:49 Niederreiter 3:31

“It will be an in-game decision,” said Cassidy about splitting up the Marchand line again before game five. “We’re down to the best two-out-of-three. We’ll do whatever we think is right in-game to get back on track. That was the reason for it, late in game two, whenever we switched back. We needed some offensive momentum, those two guys could benefit from seeing each other, Marchand and Pastrnak, and I think they have.”

“We’ll see. A lot is made up of the match-up,” added Cassidy. “They (Carolina) will obviously control that for the most part. We scored a couple of goals off of face-offs the other day. Sometimes an icing can take you out of your match-up too, so there’s a little bit of that that we’ll keep an eye on.”

“At the end of the day, those guys have played against all the best in the NHL,” continued Cassidy. “Yes, it’s a challenge for them, but they’ve also been through these series. That’s what they’re up against.”

The Bruins will need to steal one in Carolina if they plan on advancing from this series. 

The Struggle Is Real

The Boston Bruins‘ recent stretch has been a minor cause for alarm as the injuries and losses mount. It’s not that they are losing so much as it is how they are losing. Boston has given up three straight second-period leads during this current three-game losing streak, their longest season. The Bruins have eight regular-season… Continue reading The Struggle Is Real

NCAA Final Preview – Denver vs. Minnesota St.

Pioneers and Mavericks Face-off for National Championship

Boston, MA – All of the hard work competing at the NCAA level came to fruition for one school tonight. Will it be a return to the promised land for one of college hockey’s storied programs, the Denver Pioneers? The Pioneers have won the National Championship eight times, most recently in 2017. Or will it be the new kid on the block, the Minnesota St. Mavericks? The Mavericks are playing in their first National Championship game after jumping to Division I hockey in the 1996-97 season.

The Frozen Four at TD Garden has lived up to the hype. The title game should be one for the ages as college hockey’s top two offensive teams take the ice for an 8:00 pm EST start on Saturday night.

The Mavericks have been the best team since the 2021-22 season. They came east to open the season against the defending National Champion Massachusetts Minutemen, where they promptly swept the Minutemen. The Pioneers have had to push the proverbial cart up the mountain to get to this point. Their season has been a steady climb to get to this point.

On Thursday, the Pioneers and the Mavericks used their defensive prowess to stifle talented Michigan and Minnesota teams to reach the finals. Most commentators expected a high-scoring affair that didn’t materialize in the Denver vs. Michigan game. The Pioneers limited the high-flying Wolverines to just 21 shots on goal through three-and-a-half periods of action in their 3-2 overtime win.

The Mavericks have the game’s best goalie in Dryden McKay. Their defense and McKay shut down the Gophers’ offense after allowing a goal on their first shot during a two-on-oh opportunity in the first period of their 5-1 win in the nightcap at the Garden.

“What you do with the puck is one thing, but it’s just as important what you’re doing without the puck to get it back,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “Both teams, you watch Denver. They’re about as detailed a team that I’ve seen with their sticks, getting back on top, what they did to an incredibly talented Michigan team. When we got behind in the game (against Minnesota), I thought it was still really important that we continue to defend so they didn’t extend the lead, then when we didn’t have the puck get it back so we could get on offense.”

“I just think there are two sides to the game. You have to be committed to both sides of that I think to be effective at this time (of the year). That’s why I think both teams moved on with the opportunity for Saturday,” added Hastings.

The Denver Pioneers celebrate Cameron Wright’s go-ahead goal at 5:36 of the third period. The celebration was short-lived as Michigan forced overtime before falling 3-2 on Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

“We have our way of playing the game,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “I think it’s adaptable to any style we go against. We’re comfortable in a lot of different types of games. That’s a credit to the players and their ability to stick to our game plans and stick to our structure and be able to execute in different ways based on what the game’s calling.”

“I think it’s predictable and fast,” said Carle of the Pioneers’ transition game. “Our D doesn’t hang on to the puck too long. I think our forwards like to get the puck quicker so they can have the puck, can do what they do, attacking off the rush, or getting pucks in behind defensive opponents. It allows our team to play fast and make our opponents uncomfortable.”

McKay won the Hobey Baker Award for being college hockey’s top player on Friday. It is just the third time a goalie has won the award in the competition’s 42-year history. A netminder won the award in 2001 when Michigan State’s Ryan Miller won. McKay’s statistics speak for themselves, 38-4 record, including an 18-game winning streak. The senior carries a 1.27 goals-against average, second-best overall, and a .934 save percentage, good for third. McKay has ten shutouts on the season and is the NCAA career record holder with 26.

Carle and the Pioneers know what is ahead of them in McKay and the Mavericks.

“They’re in this game for a reason, too. There’s not a lot of weaknesses just like there weren’t in Minnesota or Michigan,” said Carle. “We played three really good teams thus far. This will be the fourth one. I think there are some similarities with the level that they defend at with Lowell and Duluth. We’ve had success against those teams doing things a certain way.”

“I think that’s a great experience that we have coming into the game,” added Carle on Denver’s route through the tournament. “Coach Hastings and their staff and players, they’ve obviously built something really special that we respect and are excited for the challenge to play them for a banner and a big trophy come Saturday night.”

Senior Cameron Wright echoed his coach’s sentiment on the similarities between the styles of previous opponents.

“One thing that helps is our regional. They (MSU) play so much similar to Lowell and Duluth,” added the 6′-1″ winger from Newmarket, Ontario. “That’s a good starting point for us. I think just playing our game. We’ve been successful quite a bit this year. So continue to do that and hope we can get the job done.”

The question mark for the Pioneers coming in was their goaltending situation. Magnus Chrona has quieted that talk after holding the Wolverines to two goals in the semifinal. The 6′-5″ Swede has allowed five goals in the Pioneers’ previous three postseason games and only seven in their last six, including the NCHC Conference playoffs.

“It’s playoff hockey, and it can’t get better than that,” said Chrona. “I think we’re having a great time out there with each other. It’s just fun to be a part of.”

There’s a plethora of talent on each team, like Hobey Baker Hat-Trick nominee Bobby Brink and Cole Guttman on Denver and Nathan Smith and Julian Napravnik on the Mavericks. But, some other players have been chipping in in remarkable ways.

Keep an eye on Denver’s Carter Savoie. The 5″-10″ sophomore has been outstanding all season but lights out during the Pioneers’ run through the NCAA tourney. Savoie has a goal in all three games thus far, including two straight game-winning goals to keep Denver alive. When the lights are shining, Savoie is there to bask in the glow.

Wright has been equally as important during the NCAA’s. He had the game-winner against UMass-Lowell in the opening round in Loveland, CO., and scored against the Wolverines in the third period to briefly give the Pioneers the lead.

The Mavericks have had more balance from their scoring but keep an eye out for Reggie Lutz and Ondrej Pavel. At opportune times, each has two goals in the tournament, which has been the Mavericks’ calling card. Strong defense and getting timely goals.

Each team has celebrated at one of the TD Garden ends, but only one will have the ultimate celebration. Stay tuned.

 

Frozen Four Preview – Dirty Water of Boston, USA

Boston, MA – The 2022 incarnation of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship will begin at TD Garden in Boston on Thursday. The Frozen Four returns to the Hub of Hockey for the first time since 2015 and the ninth time since 1960. Three one seeds and a two seed have advanced to the final four… Continue reading Frozen Four Preview – Dirty Water of Boston, USA

Albany Regional Final Preview

Who will be shipping up to Boston?

Albany, NY – The one-seed Minnesota St. Mavericks take on the three-seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday at 6:30 pm EST at MVPArena. The winner will move onto the Frozen Four at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 7, 2022.

The two teams haven’t met since 2010-11, and the Irish hold a 6-4 record all-time against Minnesota St. in all their machinations, Minnesota St., MSU-Mankato, or Mankato State. This season, the two had three common opponents: Michigan, Michigan Tech, and Northern Michigan.

The Fighting Irish went 6-1 against the trio, with four wins over a highly touted Michigan Wolverines team. The only loss came to the same Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship game last Saturday, 2-1.

The Mavericks went 8-3 against the Michigan three. Four wins and a loss each to conference foes Tech and NMU. The Mavericks fell to the Wolverines back in October at Minnesota Duluth’s AMSOIL Arena during the Ice Breaker Tournament.

Minnesota St. Mavericks (36-5) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (28-11-0)

Dryden McKay gets most of the publicity for the Mavericks, and rightfully so. The 6′-0″ senior from Downers Grove, Illinois, has consistently been one of the nation’s top goaltenders all four years in Mankato. But, Notre Dame’s netminder Matthew Galajda, while not as praised or discussed numerically, is not far off from McKay’s total’s, both on the season and over each’s four-year collegiate career. Galajda, a former Hobey Baker candidate at Cornell, missed last season due to the Ivy League’s pandemic-related shutdown.

If the Irish’s previous game against North Dakota is any indication, then Galajda has finally shaken off the rust, and there could be a low-scoring affair in Albany. Galajda, and the Irish, allowed one goal on 24 shots in advancing to the Final on Saturday in a 2-1 overtime win. 

McKay faced more of an offense-first team than Notre Dame in Harvard. The Crimson’s high-powered offense put three past McKay as the Mavericks held on to win 4-3 on Thursday.

Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings called the Fighting Irish one of the “heavyweights in college hockey” and praised Notre Dame’s game.

“They defend and they have ability to win at this time of the year. More often than not, you see them at the tournament and they always earn their way here.”

“We understand what Notre Dame is,” added Hastings. “Very well coached, well conditioned team that beat some very high end hockey teams throughout this year, when you beat Michigan four times. When you beat North Dakota in this tournament. You’re a good hockey team, incredibly disciplined. So we’ll have our hands full but we look forward the opportunity.”

Reggie Lutz, a fifth-year senior forward, knows what the road ahead has in store.

“You can tell they (Notre Dame) take a lot of pride just running their D-zone out,” said Lutz. “Watching the game (Thursday) North Dakota, had a few good chances but overall they smothered them in their D-zone keeping (North Dakota) to the outside. So I think our goal is trying to get somebodies to the front of the net and it’s going to take a few greasy ones.”

For their part, Notre Dame will continue to play their game. The Irish spent their Friday in more of a reflective period instead of studying the Mavericks. 

“I think we’re going to get more into that on game day,” said senior captain Jake Pivonka when asked about the preparation for the Mavericks.

“The focus has always been on us,” said Pivonka. “It doesn’t really matter who we’re up against. We’e going to bring the same sort of effort regardless.”

It’s a considerable effort that will be needed for both schools to punch their ticket to the Frozen Four in Boston in two weeks. Thursday saw a penalty shot in each game, a game-winning goal at the buzzer disallowed, an entertaining comeback bid falls short, and an overtime celebration to get both teams to this point. Expect nothing less for Saturday’s Final.

 

 

 

 

 

2021-22 Worcester Regional Preview

Reading, Ma- The Worcester Regional begins on Friday at noon EST at the DCU Center. The third overall seed Western Michigan University Broncos will face off against the fourteenth seeded Northeastern University Huskies in the opening game. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen at 6:00 pm EST.

The winner of this region will face the winner of the Albany Regional at Boston’s TD Garden on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in the Frozen Four.

(1) Western Michigan Broncos (25-11-1) vs. (4) Northeastern Huskies (25-12-1)

A battle of first-year head coaches awaits WMU’s Pat Ferschweiler and NU’s Jerry Keefe in Worcester. Each team comes into Friday’s game having experienced a letdown of sorts; both had solid chances to, in NU’s case, advance to the conference finals and in WMU’s to win the conference final.

The Huskies are back-stopped by one of college hockey’s premier goalies this season, Devon Levi. The sophomore from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, is at or near the top in all statistical categories. Levi sits for sixth in wins, third in GAA with a 1.52 average, first in SV% on .952, and second with ten shutouts. The 6′-0″ Levi missed six games while participating in the Beijing Olympics for Team Canada.

“It’ll be fun to go up against an opponent like that,” said Levi of the Broncos. “It will definitely be a challenge but it’s one that we’re all excited for.”

Junior Brandon Bussi, who’s having a career year, handles the Broncos net. The 6′-5″ Sound Beach, NY., native is 25-11-1, with a 2.60 GAA, .910 SV%, and four shutouts.

The Huskies average 2.58 goals per game while the Broncos average 3.68. Defensively they are flipped, with NU giving up 1.74 a game and WMU allowing 2.62. The Broncos are slightly older, bigger, and heavier than the Huskies. Northeastern has eight NHL prospects to two on Western Michigan.

Against the tournament field, the Broncos are 9-10-1, as they play four qualifying teams in NCHC play. Western Michigan is 8-9-1 against their three conference foes that qualified for the NCAAs.  WMU is 6-3 at home and 1-7-1 away from Lawson Ice Arena. 1-1 is the neutral site record for the Broncos. They are 1-1 against non-conference opponents.

“We’re battle-tested from being in the NCHC,” said Ferschweiler. “We have the number three overall seed for a team that was picked to finish sixth in our own conference.”

“It should be a highly entertaining game and up and down the ice is what I would expect,” added the Broncos coach.

Northeastern has only lined up against three schools that made the big dance. The Huskies are a combined 2-4 against the field. 1-2 at home and 1-2 away. NU is 1-0 in non-con action against the field.

The Broncos are paced offensively by Hobey Baker Award nominee Ethan Frank and his 38 points, 26 goals, and 12 assists. Fellow senior Drew Worrad (9-35-44) is the leading point-getter for WMU. Defensemen Ronnie Attard and Michael Joyaux follow up with 36 and 32 points. The Broncos are a balanced mix of upperclassmen and freshmen and are the fourth leading goal-scoring team in the NCAA.

NU’s focal point is junior Aidan McDonough (24-14-38), Sam Colangelo (12-14-26), and Jack Hughes (7-9-16). The second line of Jakov Novak, Justin Hryckowian, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine are almost equally as dangerous, combining for 23 goals and 36 assists.

The Huskies are a solid defensive team led by a pair of Montreal Canadiens picks, Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble. Jeremie Bucheler, Tommy Miller, and Julian Kislin give the blue line some physical pop.

The two teams last met in 2013, a 1-1 tie, in the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame. Northeastern holds the edge in the overall series 3-0-1.

 

(2) Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-12-0) vs. (3) Massachusetts Minutemen (22-12-2)

The Massachusetts Minutemen are the reigning champs and seem to be putting their best hockey in front of them at the right time. Having blown a chance at the Hockey East regular-season title in the last weekend of conference play might have been the team’s wake-up call. Three straight wins in the Hockey East tourney led to a celebration on the TD Garden ice, the goal all season, but more so in April than in March. This past Saturday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost the Big Ten championship game against Michigan 4-3. So they’ll come into Worcester with a fire in their belly.

As the season played out, both squads have been in the top half of the rankings. Each has faced adversity and is here where many expected they would be.

“I kind of like that we’re going in as the underdog,” said Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel. “But at the same time, we’re the defendant champions and we’re going to do everything we can to defend our title.”

“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to defend,” added the sixth-year coach. “It’s hard when you come back after winning, and everybody’s gunning for you. But when it got to the end of the year, when things got real serious, our team started to rise, and we played some really good defensive hockey. We played some really good, hard, heavy hockey against two good, hard, heavy teams.”

“It strengthened us to go into the NCAA tournament,” said Carvel. “I feel like our identity really, really showed through the Hockey East playoffs.”

The Minutemen and Gophers last faced each other in 2016-17, Massachusetts Carvel’s first season, during the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota. The Gophers won 4-1. The Gophers are 4-0 all-time against Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is 3-4-1 against the field and 0-4 against non-con opponents. Minnesota is 7-8 against the tourney teams and 3-4 against those not in the Big Ten. The Minutemen are 3-2 at home, 1-2-1 on the road, and 1-0 at neutral sites. The Golden Gophers are 3-4 at home and 4-4 away.

As defending champs, the Minutemen have had the target on their backs all season and have gotten every team’s best punch night in and night out. Massachusetts has experience up and down their lineup. The senior class has experienced the highs and lows of NCAA tournament success. Bobby Trivigno leads the Minutemen, the 5′-8″ Hobey Baker Award hopeful with 20 goals and 28 assists for the team-leading 48 points, third-best in the NCAA. His 20 goals are fifth-best, and his assists are sixth-best overall.

When it comes to Trivigno, it’s more than just the numbers.

“He’s the most unique kid I’ve ever coached. It’s not even close,” said Carvel of Trivigno. “He never gets tired, he never has a bad attitude, and he never gets out-willed. Never, never, never. Every single day. He’s the hardest-working kid. He has a fire inside him. On match, not even close. Unbelievable.”

 

Junior Ben Meyers (16-21-37), senior Blake McLaughlin (12-20-32), and freshman Matthew Knies (12-17-29) lead the Gophers. Minnesota has 14 NHL draft picks on their roster, the most of any school. The Minutemen have six.

Minnesota’s roster is loaded with talent and can roll four lines, three with high-end talent. Massachusetts goalie Matt Murray will have his hands full on Friday night.

Murray, a graduate student, isn’t flashy and doesn’t get the attention that he deserves. The 6′-1″ St. Albert, Alberta native, is the career leader in wins (73) for the Minutemen and the record holder for shutouts with 14. This season Murray has started all but one game. He is 21-11-2 with a 2.27 GAA and a .919 SV%.

Bob Motzko’s team was 12-8 in early January when goalie Jack LaFontaine, a three-year starter in goal, left the team for the NHL. Junior Justen Close has gone 12-4 in the interim.

In his previous two years, Close had three starts. He now sits with a 1.89 GAA and a .928 SV%. in 16 games this season. The Gophers have rallied as a team since Close took over the netminding duties.

 

2022 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Albany Regional Preview

Reading, Ma – The 2021-22 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament kicks off on Thursday, March 24, in Albany, NY, at the MVP Arena. The first game features Minnesota St. Mavericks, overall number two seed, taking on the 15th seeded Harvard Crimson at noon EST. The nightcap features the seventh-seeded North Dakota Fighting Hawks against the ninth seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 6:00 pm EST. Harvard and Minnesota St. have never faced each other in NCAA competition. There hasn’t been a fight between the two UND’s since 2012-13, when the two split a pair in South Bend, Indiana.

The winner of this bracket will face-off against the winner of the Worcester Regional at TD Garden in Boston, Ma. on Thursday, April 7, in the Frozen Four.

(1) Minnesota St. Mavericks (35-5-0) vs. (4) Harvard Crimson (21-10-3)

The Minnesota St. Mavericks hovered around the top of the NCAA rankings all season. The Harvard Crimson was early season high-flyers before the losses piled up. Something that Mike Hastings‘ Mavericks squad hasn’t had to deal with too often this season. Minnesota St. comes into the NCAA Tournament’s opening game riding high on a 15-game win streak. The longest in the tourney.

The last time the Mavericks lost, January 14, 2022, 4-2 at Northern Michigan, the Crimson lost 3-0 at Quinnipiac, was sitting at 8-4-1 and staring down a month without two of their top scorers. Junior Nick Abruzzese and freshman Sean Farrell would soon be departing for the Beijing Olympics on Team USA. Harvard weathered their absence and stayed in contention in ECAC play. Since the duo returned, Harvard has lost twice and seems to have found their rhythm at the right time. On Saturday, 3-2 in overtime against Quinnipiac, Harvard won the ECAC tournament to earn their berth in the NCAA’s. Minnesota St. won the CCHA in a bizarre overtime finish against Bemidji St. 2-1. The Mavericks scored, celebrated, received the trophy only to overturn the goal forty minutes later.

Harvard beat the Bobcats twice since the Olympics ended. Those two wins put the Crimson at 2-2 against the NCAA field of 16, losing to QU and Northeastern early in their season. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have dispatched Massachusetts, Minnesota Duluth, and St. Cloud St. during non-conference games while sweeping Michigan Tech 4-0 (2 OT W’s) and lost to number one overall seed Michigan, 3-2, way back in October. Minnesota St. is an impressive 9-2 versus the field. The knock on the Mavericks was that they beat up the former WCHA’s weaker teams, now rebranded as the CCHA. Minnesota St. put that talk to rest last year in the NCAA tourney and continued t quash that notion in the early season non-con schedule.

Mavericks have senior Dryden McKay between the pipes, and once again, he’s been infallible. The 2022 CCHA Player of the Year holds the NCAA record for career shutouts (35) and has a 35-4-0 won-lost record. The Downers Grove, Illinois product has nine shutouts this season and is second in GAA at 1.27 and fourth in SV% on .934. McKay is on the short-list for the Mike Richter Award for the best goalie and the Hobey Baker Award.

Harvard will counter with junior Mitchell Gibson in goal. The 6′-1″ Phoenixville, PA., native is 18-9-1 on the season with one shutout, a 1-0 masterclass performance vs. Quinnipiac. Mitchell has a 2.11 GAA and .919 SV%, 13th and 22nd overall.

Harvard Crimson goalie Mitchell Gibson stopped 28 of 29 RPI shots in the Crimson’s 3-1 win over the Engineers on Sunday, March 13, 2022, at Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Allston, MA.

“I think it motivated him this weekend,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato of Gibson’s play against Hobey Baker Award finalist goaltenders. “His performance on Sunday (2 goals on 49 shots in Harvard’s 3-2 OT win), against (Yaniv) Perets and Quinnipiac, who’s had an incredible season, along with their team, I give Mitch a lot of credit. He was certainly the best goaltender in that game. I think at this time of year you need special efforts and special performances. Whether that’s goal scoring from a forward, or a defenseman where he manages the whole rink, or a goalie that gives his team confidence that they can withstand a little bit of a push by the other team or kill a big penalty.”

“Our team has certainly strengthened its backbone oer the last few weeks,” added Donato. “It certainly starts with Mitch Gibson and his play down the stretch.”

“Mitch is an amazing goalie, who is only getting better, and he’s heating up,” said senior captain Casey Dornbach. “He had some huge games for us. We’re going to need him back there. We have full trust in him to do that.”

The two teams have ample firepower should it be an off-night for the goaltenders. What Minnesota st has in experience Harvard has in pedigree. The Mavericks account for four of the nation’s top twenty point-getters; junior Nathan Smith (18-31-49) and senior Julian Napravnik (18-31-49) are tied in second. Smith is a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Junior Brendan Furry has an 11-30-41 statline good for 16th and classmate Cade Borchardt rounds out the top twenty on 15-1-25-40 points. Fellow junior Ryan Sandelin is tied for fourth in the country on 21 goals for the season. Mankato also leads the NCAA in goals as a team with 167.

Minnesota St. Mavericks forward Julian Napravnik carries the puck up the Mullins Center ice during the 2-0 win over the Massachusetts Minutemen on October 2, 2021.

Matthew Coronato leads Harvard (18-17-35) in points and goals. Abruzzese is next (9-23-32), followed by defenseman Henry Thrun (7-25-32) and sophomore Alex Laferriere (14-15-29). Thrun, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, leads the Crimson with his 25 assists which are fourth-best for defensemen nationally.

Thrun is one of 11 NHL picks on the Harvard squad. Farrell is a draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Coronato by the Calgary Flames, Abruzzese for Toronto, Laferriere by Los Angeles, and Gibson for Washington. Other players include junior John Farinacci – Arizona, Austin Wong – Winnipeg, upfront and Kyle Aucoin – Detroit, Jack Bar – Toronto, and Ian Moore – Anaheim on defense.

“They’re an older team, they have a lot of offense too,” said Dornbach. “So we’re going to have to be firing on all cylinders. They have some good players, we do too. I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”

(2) North Dakota Fighting Hawks (24-13-1) vs. (3) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (27-11-0)

The North Dakota Fighting Hawks head into Albany, having lost their previous game, a 4-2 loss against Western Michigan in the NCHC semifinals. It’s a safe bet that Brad Berry‘s bunch will be motivated for Thursday’s tilt against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Jeff Jackson‘s team also comes in on a loss, a 2-1 loss in the BIG Ten playoffs to Michigan.

The two schools are almost statistically even on the ice. Notre Dame has scored 126 goals on the season to North Dakota’s 118. The Irish average 3.32 goals a game while the Hawks are averaging 3.11. Notre Dame is averaging slightly fewer goals against than NoDak, 2.11 to 2.61. The Irish are also slightly older, slightly taller, and slightly heavier. Notre Dame has nine NHL picks to the Hawks seven. The teams are tied 17-17-3 in head-to-head action dating back to 1970-71.

North Dakota is 11-7-1 against the field. 7-2-1 at Ralph Englestad Arena, 4-4 on the road, and 0-1 at neutral sites. 9-5-1 vs. conference qualifiers and 2-2 against non-con. The Irish are 6-4 against the field. 1-0 against non-con opponents and 5-4 against Michigan and Minnesota. 3-1 at the Compton Family Ice Arena and 3-2 away from it. They are 0-1 in neutral sight games.

The Hawks will be without star defenseman and Hobey nominee Jake Sanderson, but they have missed him all season. Sanderson has missed 14 of 40 for the Grand Forks, ND school. They still have Ethan Frisch, Chris Jandric, Tyler Kleven, and Cooper Moore to work with. On offense, NoDak has gotten a phenomenal season from freshman Riese Gaber, who leads the team in goals and points (15-22-37). Seniors Connor Ford and Ashton Calder, 28 and 21 points each, Jake Schmaltz and Matteo Costantini, 24 and 21, a pair of first-year students, round out the 20 point club.

In goal, senior Zach Driscoll carries a 22-10-1 record, a .907 GAA, and a 2.36 GAA. Driscoll was here last year as the starter for Bemidji State and helped take the Beavers to the Regional final, where they lost to eventual National Champions Massachusetts, so he knows what to expect. His counterpart in goal for Notre Dame has also been around the block. Matthew Galajda has been here three times with the Cornell Big Red. The 6′-0″ transfer student missed last season because the Ivy League schools did not participate in sports. In his one season with the Irish, he has posted 17 wins with seven losses. He carries a 1.98 GAA and a .930 SV%. Galajda, an Aurora, Ontario native, split the early season duties with junior Ryan Bischel. Bishel went 10-4 with a 2.08 GAA and .924 GAA in 16 games before Galajda took over as the full-time starter in mid-February. The Irish have gone 7-2 since moving to Galajda.

Junior forward Max Ellis (16-12-28) and sophomore Ryder Rolston (10-17-27), senior defensemen Spencer Stastny (7-20-27), and Nick Leivermann (6-20-26) power the Notre Dame offense. The Irish have multiple players from their senior class that experienced the NCAA’s back in 2018-19, including Lievermann and Stastney, Graham Slaggert and Jake Pivonka.

 

Hockey East Finals Preview

Reading, MA – The stage is set for the Hockey East Finals at TD Garden on Saturday at 7:00 pm. Massachusetts Minutemen’s defending champions will face-off against the Connecticut Huskies in the 37th edition of the conference’s championship. It’s the third time in Massachusetts history and the second straight visit for the Minutemen. The Huskies are making the first trip to the conference finals in school history. 

The Huskies downed Northeastern 4-1 in the early game on the strength of two Chase Bradley assists, and 24 saves by Darion Hanson

Massachusetts bested UMass-Lowell 3-1 in the nightcap on the backs of Matt Murray’s 22 saves and two first-period goals from seniors Garrett Wait and Bobby Trivigno. Wait, a 6′-0″ Edina, Minnesota native, had a goal and an assist in the win.

The Huskies are the new kid on the block, and the Minutemen are the wily veterans. Massachusetts head coach Greg Carvel summed it up perfectly. “They’re (UConn) kind of having a coming-out party this year. Hopefully, we get to put an end to it.”

The two schools split their regular-season series, each winning on the other team’s ice. Massachusetts won 2-1 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT., on February 18, 2022. The Huskies returned the favor 4-2 at the Mullins Center the next night. Wait had two assists in the UMass win. Sophomore Ryan Tverberg had a goal and two assists in the Huskies’ victory. 

Saturday’s championship can be a goaltender battle between two graduate students, each with over 100 career starts, or it can be an offensive shootout as each team has numerous NHL prospects capable of chasing a goalie from the game.

Look for a low-scoring affair as each coach will try to play to their strengths. The two are similar from the net out. Hanson and Murray have comparable stats, and each stands over six feet tall. Hanson is slightly taller, 6′-3″ to Murray’s 6″-1″, and both can steal a win for their squads. 

On defense, the Minutemen have more firepower than UConn. Each prides itself on being disciplined and plays heavy. The Minutemen have two defenders that lead the league in assists, a pair of freshman to boot, Ryan Ufko and Scott Morrow. 24 for Ufko, a Nashville Predators pick, and 20 for Morrow, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect. The duo sets the pace for the Minutemen attack. 

UMass also has Matthew Kessel and Aaron Bohlinger to push the pace of play on the back end. Kessel, a junior, is a St. Louis Blues pick, while Bohlinger, a sophomore, gets better and better as the season progresses. Ty Farmer and Colin Felix pack a punch defensively. Farmer can play the finesse game but has become more of a physical presence over his four years at UMass. Felix, a 6′-1″ senior assistant captain from Ocean City, NJ., is a warrior.

“We have some real gutsy kids,” said Carvel, singling out Felix’s effort to close out the River Hawks. “What he did at the end of the game, he made a huge block, then a huge hit, got a huge cut on his face. He’s playing with a broken finger. You want kids like that.”

“He is just the ultimate warrior for us,” added Carvel of Felix. “He has been for four years. All Colin Felix does is play in championship games. He’s been here four years and he’s played in a number of championship games. He’s a big reason why.”

Saturday will be Felix’s fourth championship game as a student at Massachusetts. Two NCAA championship games and two Hockey East championship games.

“That shift when he made a big block, then took a big hit,” Carvel said. “His face is bleeding, blown up, but he loves it…he’s a unique kid and you needthose kids to win.”

“It’s very important to have the guys put their bodies on the line, especially when they’re not wearing the gear that I do,” Murray said when asked about the Minutemen blocking 21 UML shots. “It shows your character. It shows how determined they are. I have so much respect for all the guys in front of me. They step in front of those kinds of pucks. I wouldn’t be able to have success without those guys.”

Massachusetts celebrates Jerry Harding’s first goal of the season in the Minutemen’s 3-1 win over UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East Semifinal at TD Garden on Friday, March 18, 2022.

The Huskies are more of defense by committee, defense-first at the back. There is only one NHL prospect on the Huskies’ blue line, Carter Berger, a 6′-0″ junior Florida Panthers prospect. Berger was the extra defender for the Huskies against NU on Friday. John Spetz and Harrison Rees facilitate for the Huskies; each has 13 and 10 assists, respectively. Rees, Roman KinalJake Flynn, and Jarrod Gourley bring the physicality for Mike Cavanaugh‘s bunch.

“I think they have been great all year long,” said Cavanaugh of his defensive corps. “We might not have an all league kid back there, but we’ve got seven and together, the way they play together it’s just fun to watch. I just love how consistant they’ve been night in and night for us.”

What the Minutemen have on defense in terms of NHL prospects, the Huskies have on offense. Tverberg, a Toronto Maple Leaf pick, leads UConn with 14-18-32 for a statline. 6′-5″ senior Jachym Kondelik and his 12-21-33 line trail Tverberg. The Czech is a prospect in the Predators organization and causes chaos in front of opposing goalies. Vladislav Firstuv is third on the Huskies in scoring, 11-11-22, and is a Minnesota Wild prospect. 

The undrafted trio of seniors Marc GatcombJonny Evans, and center Carter Turnbull don’t have the pedigree or the numbers, but they set the tone for the Huskies’ attack. Bradley, a Detroit Red Wings pick, and Nick Capone (Tampa Bay Lightning) anchor the Huskies’ fourth line. 

Massachusetts has a timely offense powered by Hockey East Player of the Year Bobby Trivigno. The 5′-8″ senior from Setauket, NY has a knack for scoring big goals. As does linemate Josh Lopina. Lopina, a 6′-2″ center, is an Anaheim Ducks prospect with a 12-15-27 statline. Wait also has the capacity for big goals in big moments. 

The Minutemen get contributions from Cal KiefiukAnthony Del GaizoReed Lebster, and Lucas Mercuri. Del Gaizo, a senior from Basking Ridge, NJ., is another player with a flair for the dramatic. Freshman Ryan Lautenbach has been contributing steadily as the Minutemen season chugs along.

Prediction: The Minutemen weather a Huskies attack but ultimately pull out the win to secure their trip to the NCAA tournament, and keep their name at the bottom of the Hockey East banner at TD Garden while adding to their growing collection at the Mullins Center. 3-2. 

ECAC Semifinal Round Preview

Reading, MA. – The last four ECAC Hockey teams are off to Lake Placid, NY, to vie for the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC tournament champions. All four schools are deserving of their spot; none upset any team to get there. It’s the top three seeded teams and the fifth seed. All are tremendously talented, and anyone can pull off the ultimate victory on the historic Lake Placid ice. The semifinals and final will be on the NHL size ice sheet for the first time.

Quinnipiac is here as the number one team in the conference. The Bobcats won the regular season Cleary Cup as having the conference-best record. They dispatched the St. Lawrence Saints in two games, 4-1 and 4-3 in double overtime.

Clarkson placed second overall and edged the Union Dutchmen in back-to-back overtime wins 3-2 and 4-3. The three and four seeds each needed a third game on Sunday afternoon to punch their tickets.

The Crimson outlasted RPI in three after coming back from a three-goal third-period deficit in the final four minutes in game one for an OT win. The Engineers repaid the come-from-behind favor in OT on Saturday before running out of gas in a 3-1 Crimson win.

The Raiders outlasted Cornell 2-1 in game three at Lynah Rink Sunday. Colgate dropped game one 3-1 before winning the next two to make their first trip to Lake Placid in seven years.

Only Quinnipiac guarantees to qualify for the NCAA tournament of the four remaining schools. Clarkson is in the 16th and final spot bubble, while both Harvard and Colgate need to win the tournament to be eligible with the ECAC Tournament Championship’s automatic bid.

 

Harvard University Crimson 19-10-3 (14-6-2-0-0-2 ECAC) vs. Clarkson University Golden Knights 21-9-6 (14-4-4-0-2-3 ECAC)

Friday will be the third straight matchup between the two schools in the ECAC semis. Clarkson has won them both.

Clarkson Head Coach Casey Jones said sophomore Ethan Haider would get the start in goal on Friday against the Crimson. In the previous meeting between the two, a 6-2 Knights win in Potsdam, NY, on November 12, 2021, Haider stopped 37 of 39 Crimson shots.

“I’m excited for them this weekend,” said Jones of his seniors, of which he has six, to go along with four graduate students. “I think there’s a lot to be said about having a senior pull and having some older guys. The end of the line is pretty close, a lot closer than some other guys, and having that pull, means a lot.”

Jack Jacome has been at Clarkson for the last five seasons. He leads a group that has been to ECAC Finals and NCAA tournaments. Chris KlackAnthony CallinNick CampoliBrian HurleyMichael Underwood, and Zach Tsekos have been in the trenches for Clarkson the past few years and have

“I’m anxious for this group to get there and get after it a little bit because they’ve missed the last couple of years when I thought we had good teams that were pushings towards that (championships).”

Clarkson added defenseman Lucas Kaelble from the Lake Superior State Lakers program, which won the WCHA title and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in almost 20 years. The 6′-2″ graduate student has 162 games under his belt and ,,, for Jones and Clarkson.

“Certainly, we thought he was going to add some offensive punch back there for us, we were aware of that,” Jones said. “We weren’t sure if he could shoot it, but he’s been an important piece for us. He’s been good in big games and big moments. He’s got some experience in that regard too.”

“We had our fingers crossed,” added Jones. “We thought there’d be a good offensive punch to bring in for us and he’s obvioulsy done that.”

“Basically, you have the senior class,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “The junior class didn’t have a chance because of COVID. Then we have a freshman class and a sophomore class that wasn’t on campus. We have 15 guys on our roster that hadn’t played college hockey (before this season) nevermind playoff hockey.”

What the Crimson lack in experience they make up for in offensive talent. The Crimson also has ECAC Rookie of the Year Alex Laferriere. The Los Angeles Kings prospect has 14 goals and 15 assists in 32 games for the Crimson. 

The Crimson have seven seniors on their roster. Co-captain Casey DornbachBaker ShoreR.J. Murphy, and Jack Donato have been through the battles and were on the 2018-19 team that made it to the same NCAA Regionals as Clarkson. Marshall Rifai was also a team member but didn’t play as much as the others. He has stepped up his game throughout the season and is a solid defender. His stat line (5G-7A 12P) is good, too, considering the offensive talent up front.

Harvard has offense in spades with Matthew CoronatoNick AbruzzeseSean Farrell, and John Farinacci. Then there are defensemen Henry ThrunRyan Siedem, and Ian Moore, who combined for 51 assists. Harvard is quick, and they move the puck just as fast. Coronato has 15 goals, while Laferriere has 14. Farrell and Farinacci score in bunches.

As it is most years, the wildcard for the Crimson will be in goal. Mitchell Gibson has been steady all year. 16-9-1 2.09 GAA and a .918 SV%. He’ll need to be sharp against Clarkson.

“Mitch is an important part of our success,” said Donato. “I think anytime you look to win a league title, you will need excellent goaltending and some important and timely saves. We have a lot of faith in Mitch, and we’ll need him to be at his best this weekend.”

 Prediction: Each team’s most significant question mark is in goal. Like many of my predictions, it is a heart vs. head matchup. My head says Clarkson, my heart says, Harvard. I have to go with my gut on this one because I don’t want the Crimson season to end. So I’m going with Harvard in a nailbiter, 3-2.

Colgate University Raiders 18-17-4 (9-9-4-1-0-3 ECAC) vs. Quinnipiac University Bobcats 30-5-3 (17-4-1-0-1-1 ECAC)

This season, Colgate hasn’t had much success against Quinnipiac, losing both games by a combined 9-1 score. The first game was a 5-1 Bobcats win at Colgate, and the second was a slightly better 4-0 loss at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats are a possession team and have a solid structure on defense. Should that structure break down or fail, there is Yaniv Perets, the ECAC Goalie of the Year and ECAC Player of the Year. Perets has insane numbers this year. The freshman from Dollard-des-Ormeaux is 20-4-2 with a .89 GAA and .952 SV% with 11 shutouts. Perets has allowed only 24 goals all season.

“They posses so well,” said Don Vaughan, Colgate Head Coach. “Then when you do have opportunities you have to beat, probably, the best goalie in the country.”

“We have so much respect for Quinnipiac, and we know it’s going to be a battle. They’re just so deep,” added Vaughan. “We’re prepared to defend; that’s how we got by Cornell. We went into the weekend, knowing that we’re going to spend time in our zone more than theirs.”

Making the challenge even harder for Colgate is the injury to Colton Young. The Raiders junior lead the team in scoring with a 15-17-32 line. In the Cornell series, the Raiders lost Colton to an injury. Colgate still has his younger brother Alex and his 10-21-31 stat line, good for second on the team.

“On Sunday night we put Matt Verboon there,” said Vaughan of who he expects to step up in Colton Young’s absence. “Matt went in a scored a huge goal. Matt’s come to life heer in the last couple of weeks. He’s also another guy with a great shot, a big important part of our power-play.”

Quinnipiac won the first of their games against SLU 4-1 before falling into a 2-0 hole in game two on Saturday. They clawed back to earn the 4-3 double OT win to punch their ticket to upstate New York for the first time since 2017. 

“I just loved our poise on the bench,” said Head Coach Rand Pecknold of the game two deficit. “We had no panic; we just believe we were going to come back. We’ve had a couple of games like that.”

Despite QU’s success in the last few years, they don’t have a lot of hardware to show for it. The regular season Cleary Cup is excellent, but the Bobcats want more. They last won the Whitelaw Cup in 2016, their lone postseason hardware. 

The Bobcats brought in Oliver Chau as a graduate transfer student from the defending National Champions, Massachusetts, to solve that problem. The 5′-9″ forward from Oakville, Ontario, led the Bobcats’ offense with 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points. 

“I think Oliver Chau has been one of the best two or three forwards in our league,” said Pecknold. “I’m just beyond excited and thrilled with his production this year. He’s one of the best 200-foot players I’ve ever had.” 

“He has the puck all the time, defends, competes, plays offense. His points are up there. He’s one of our top scorers,” added Pecknold. “Chau’s been outstanding. He’s a great teammate, a great leader. He’s a big reason why we’re as good as we are this year.”

“He knows how to win. He’s great in big games,” Pecknold said before adding, “Like the North Dakota weekend (5-2 win and a 3-1 loss at QU in October), those two games he was the best player on the ice for either team. Anytime we played a big game this year he’s been outstanding.”

Prediction: I want to say that Colgate wins in an upset, but I think that Quinnipiac is too good defensively for an offensively challenged Raiders squad. The Bobcats win, big too. 

Hockey East Semifinal Preview

Reading, MA. – The Hockey East Championship returns to TD Garden after a two-year COVID hiatus. The quartet vying for the Lamoriello Trophy are all capable of winning the tournament and securing the automatic NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey tourney bid. Three of the last four schools to win the tournament are back representing their institutions; the Massachusetts Minutemen: the two seed and defending Champs, the Northeastern Huskies: the 2019 winner and the number one seed, and the UMass-Lowell River Hawks: the three seed and three-time winner in the 2010s. The newcomer to the TD Garden party is the Connecticut Huskies. UConn won its first HEA playoff game last weekend, 3-1 over Boston University, to earn their first trip to Garden.

Six of the Top 10 scoring leaders in the conference are still playing this weekend. League leader Bobby Trivigno of Massachusetts, the reigning HEA Player of the Year, has a 14-18-32 statline. Second place belongs to UConn’s Ryan Tverberg 11-15-26, while Northeastern’s Aidan McDonough is third on 16-9-25. Minutemen defenseman Scott Morrow is fourth with 11-12-23. UConn’s Jachym Kondelik and Massachusetts Ryan Ufko tied for fifth with 22 points each. Kondelik has 7G-15A and Ufko has 3G-19A. The River Hawks might not be top ten points-wise but have a pair of forwards lurking just below, Andre Lee and Carl Berglund. The two Swedes tied on 19 points. Lee has 13G-6A and Berglund has 4G-15A. 

The beauty of this weekend is that any game can just as quickly be an offensive shootout as it can be a pair of goalies trading save for save in a 1-0 thriller. 

Three of the top goalies statistically speaking are remaining as well. In HEA action, Devon Levi of Northeastern leads all with a 1.64 GAA and .951 SV%. UMass-Lowell’s Owen Savory is second with a 1.81 GAA and a .931 SV%. Matt Murray is fifth overall for the Minutemen on 2.19 and .920. Like the scoring race, UConn’s Darion Hanson sits just below the top five in sixth with a 2.35 GAA and .919 SV%. 

Of the four schools, UConn needs to win the title to advance to NCAA play. Massachusetts should be ok with a loss; Northeastern and UMass-Lowell are on the bubble but wins on Friday certainly help further cement a spot. 

Connecticut Huskies 19-15-0 (HEA 14-10-0-2-1-0) vs. Northeastern Huskies 25-11-1 (HEA 15-8-1-1-1-1)                                                       

The Northeastern variant of Huskies won the season series two games to one. In October, the Connecticut strain won the first game 5-3 at Matthews Arena, while NU swept the weekend home-and-home in late February, 3-1 and 5-2. Sorry, COVID speak has taken over so much these last few years. Is it better than a Huskies joke?

Aidan McDonough had solid numbers against UConn in the three games. He netted a hat-trick in the last meeting. The junior from Milton, Ma. has five goals and four assists in the three meetings between the teams. Expect more of the same as McDonough plays well at TD Garden, 1G-3A in four games. 

Aidan McDonough beats Hugo Ollas with 9.6 seconds remaining to clinch the Hockey East regular season title for the Northeastern Huskies over the Merrimack Warriors on March 5, 2022.

“I’m really excited for our group,” said Northeastern Head Coach Jerry Keefe. “It’s hard to get back to the Boston Garden. You have to earn that and I’m proud of them to beat a really good BC team here in the first round of the playoffs.” 

“We know them (UConn) very well. They know us very well,” said the reigning Hockey East Coach of the Year when asked about the familiarity of the two teams that have recently played. “You know tendencies; it’s not too tough to find teaching clips because we just played them twice. They’re a good team. We’re going to have to prepare. This time of year, you have to play your best hockey.”

“They’re a physical team,” added Keefe about UConn and their size. “They finish checks. They have some big, big bodies, especially up front that are good on the forecheck that will finish hits.”

“They’re a heavy team, they got to the net really hard,” Keefe said. “We need to make sure that we’re boxing out early and we’re hard to play against in front of our own net.”

The players echoed Keefe’s thoughts in facing UConn’s forwards.

“I think defensively we have to be in the right positions at the right time,” said senior co-captain Julian Kislin. “Just stay in front of the guys, we’re not going to be able to move big guys as easily, but, playing the right D in the right spots and making the right reads will carry us through the game.”

“There are some big boys. They’re heavy down low,” added fellow senior co-captain, Jordan Harris. “It’s nice to be able to practice against, every day; we have some big boys down low that can hold on to the puck and shield the puck. We practice it every day. You learn some different things. They’re going to shoot the puck from everywhere. They had like 100 shots when they played us, over two games, so it’s not easy. They’re a good team.”

“It’s going to be a good game,” added Kislin.

Jachym Kondelik, a 6′-5″ forward from the Czech Republic, led UConn in scoring during the season. The Nashville Predators pick 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points on the season. Connecticut will need more from him than what he did against NU during the regular season. NU limited Kondelik to a goal and two assists for a point per game. More importantly for UConn, they need sophomore Ryan Tverbeg to get on the board. A few weeks ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect was held pointless in the two-game series. NU won both. 

The most significant factor will be can UConn get to Levi. They did in October, but NU isn’t the same team it was back then. Levi had 100 saves in two games in February and allowed only three goals in the weekend sweep. 

Prediction: No knock on UConn; it’s just that Northeastern gets it done. They had unfinished business at TD Garden after losing the Beanpot Final in February. 

UMass-Lowell River Hawks 21-9-3 (HEA 15-8-1-1-0-1) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen 20-12-2 (HEA 14-8-2-2-3-1)

The Battle of Massachusetts has become one of Hockey East’s best-kept rivalries and secrets. After Friday, the secret will be out. The two University of Massachusetts schools have played several close games over the last few seasons, none bigger than last year’s 1-0 Championship game at the Mullins Center, giving the Minutemen their first-ever tournament championship.

This year the season series was just as tight. The first game was a 4-4 tie at Tsongas Center on December 3, 2021. The River Hawks won when Carl Berglund scored the only goal in the shootout. The Minutemen won the next night at home 3-2 and closed out the regular season series 4-3 back in Lowell on January 30, 2022.

“UMass-Lowell are well-coached, have an identity, get kids who compete, and their play is very predictable in their style of play,” said Minutemen head coach Greg Carvel on what makes UMass-Lowell tough to play. “They play the game simple and hard, they get pucks to the net, and they try to out-compete you. I view our teams as pretty similar.”

“We played them in the championship last year. We played them three hard fought games this year,” said Carvel. “I think we’re two teams that know each other quite well. It’s become a big rivalry, which is great for our state, and our university system. It’s going to be hard-fought. We’ll pull out the old big boy hockey game. It’s going to be on a different stage that both teams are unaccoustumed too. We haven’t has the joy of playing in front of a big full stadium in a long time.”

“A lot of these guys, believe it or not, with COVID haven’t had a chance to play too much playoff hockey,” said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “Giving these guys an opportunity to play at the Garden is a big deal for our program. We want to keep that going forward.”

“We’re just excited to be playing playoff hockey. We’re excited to be moving on and seeing the Garden,” added Bazin. “Giving these kids an opportunity to play at the Garden is a big deal. For some, it’s going to be one of the highlights of their career highlights. It’s exciting to play for a Hockey East Championship and we want to keep this going.”

“It means you are one of the best four teams in the conference, and you’re playing for a championship,” said Bazin. “And you’re still in it.”

“It’s exciting. That’s why you play all year long,” said the eleven-year bench boss. “Play for a Hockey East Championship and then get an NCAA bid. We’ll take it one step at time.”

The Minutemen have a lot of experience in big games. Five players remain from the 2018-19 NCAA runner-ups and seventeen from the National Champion squad. On offense, they’ve added fire-power to their line-up in freshmen Ryan Lautenbach and Lucas Mercuri. Never mind that freshmen defensemen Scott Morrow and Ryan Ufko are already two of the best in the game. 

Morrow is a beast. A 6′-2″ Carolina Hurricanes second round pick, he has 13 goals and 19 assists. Ufko isn’t as big but he’s equally proficient. The 5′-10″ Nashville Predators prospect has five goals and 24 assists and is quietly getting better each game.

Look for seniors Bobby Trivigno and Anthony Del Gaizo to have big games on Friday. They are exceptional players that pick up their games in big moments.

Prediction: The Battle of Massachusetts has become a serious rivalry. The Minutemen have the most recent trophies, which won’t change on Friday.