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. 

Second Period Woes Down Bruins Again

Young Senators Squad Scores Three Unanswered in Second Period for 3-2 Win

Boston, MA – A pair of second-period penalties led to the Boston Bruins squandering a 2-1 lead for the second straight game. The visiting Ottawa Senators took advantage of a five-on-three, and with the remaining five-on-four, they beat the Bruins 3-2 in front of 17,850 at TD Garden. Boston has dropped three straight and four of five. 

The Senators controlled the action early in the game, but Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark was getting in front of everything Ottawa put on goal. Ullmark had three or four quality stops in the opening two minutes before the Bruins found their footing. Unfortunately for Boston, one of Ullmark’s saves was with his head. The 6′-4″ Swede took an Erik Brannstrom slapshot from the top of the left circle to the helmet early in the game. Ullmark elected to play on after a brief consultation with the Bruins’ training staff. 

Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark made a lunging glove save to rob Ottawa Senators defenseman Artem Zub late in the first-period. Ullmark would make eight saves in twenty minutes of action before departing the game with an injury as Boston lost to Ottawa 3-2 at TD Garden on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Boston forward Marc McLaughlin continued his shot streak by netting his third goal in six games since signing out of Boston College. The forward from Billerica, Massachusetts gave the Bruins the lead at 6:36 of the first when he redirected a Nick Foligno shot past Senators goalie Anton Forsberg (40 saves).

Jesper Froden potted his first NHL goal at 19:01 when he tipped a Matt Grzelcyk shot from the blue line past Forsberg to give the Bruins the 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

Boston celebrates the first NHL goal for Bruins forward Jesper Froden during the Bruins 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at TD Garden.

“I tried to stay in front of the net, battle for the puck,” said Froden of his goal. “I lost my glove and I was thinking should I change or should I stay? Then I saw that the D got the puck and I just tried to be in the lane and tip the puck there. It went in and it was an amazing feeling.”

“I tried to come in and bring the energy to the guys, skate a lot, and battle,” added Froden of his first game with Boston in over a month and sixth of the season.

Ullmark turned back eight Senators shots during the first period but couldn’t come back out for the second before calling it a night during the first intermission.

Ottawa was 2-14-2 when trailing after the first period coming into the game, while the Bruins were 25-4-1 when leading after one. However, the Senators took advantage of a cold Jeremy Swayman (21 saves) just forty-seven ticks into the middle frame when Brady Tkachuk bounced a shot from behind the goal line off Swayman’s backside, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

The Bruins fell victim to the opposing team’s power-play for the second straight game. Tkachuk drew a High-Sticking call on Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly at 8:39. Patrice Bergeron went to the penalty box for Hooking at 8:46, which led to the Senators’ five-on-three power play.

The Senators capitalized on the five-on-three at 9:30 when centerman Josh Norris blasted a one-timer past Swayman from the top of the right circle. Drake Batherson and Tim Stützle assisted on Norris’ 33rd.

Fifty-seven seconds later, the Senators had the lead for good when Stützle banged in a loose puck in front of Swayman for his 18th. Batherson and Tkachuk assisted on the go-ahead power-play goal.

Ottawa Senators forwards Josh Norris and Tim Stützle celebrate Stützle’s power-play goal to give Ottawa the 3-2 lead in the second period of the Senator’s win against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I don’t know if it’s fatigue or lack of urgency. It’s tough to see,” said Bruins defenseman Grzelcyk of the second-period struggles. “The two penalties, they capitalize on both. We have to put out the fire there, but it’s something we have to address.”

“They (Ottawa) made a lot of good plays. They got to run the plays they wanted to, went through Stützle a lot,” said Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s a dangerous player, and made some good plays. We were a little late with our assignments. That five-on-three was a good shot (by Norris); give credit for executing. What they did a lot better than us was hit the net quick with their plays. They hit the net.”

In the third, the Bruins controlled the early action, but Forsberg’s play and a continuation of the penalties kept the Bruins from establishing consistent pressure on Ottawa. Swayman turned back two Connor Brown breakaway bids to keep the Bruins within striking distance. 

Credit the Senators, who, despite being 27-40-6 and in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, lock down the win when leading after two periods. Ottawa is now 21-1-2 when leading after two. 

Boston has struggled without David Pastrnak on the power play. The team’s leading scorer has been out of the last five games due to a core injury. Meanwhile, a patchwork defense has been inadequate as Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, and Hampus Lindholm have all missed time over the last few games. 

“Losing Pasta and his shot, teams know how good he is over there,” Grzelcyk said of the power-plays lack of success. “A lot of times they take him away, and we kind of play four-on-three from there so we lose a little bit of that.”

“They’re doing a great job,” said Grzelcyk when asked about McLaughlin and Froden contributing to the cause. “They both work really hard. They’re not the biggest guys but they’re both fast and smart hockey players. It’s really impressive with them both stepping into the lineup.”

The Bruins will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at 12:30 pm EST at TD Garden.

Pio My, Denver Captures National Championship

Pioneers score five goals in the third period to earn the school’s 9th NCAA Hockey title.

Boston, MA – It took over forty minutes, but once the Denver Pioneers solved the puzzle that is the Minnesota St. Mavericks defense and Hobey Baker Award-winning goalie Dryden McKay the flood gates opened. Trailing 1-0 heading into the third period, the Pioneers had managed only eight shots on goal. Twenty minutes, a dozen shots, and five goals later, Denver was crowned NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Champions with a sell-out TD Garden crowd.

The 5-1 win snapped the Mavericks’ 18-game winning streak and put the Pioneers in a tie with Michigan for most National Championships in NCAA ice hockey.

“Our alumni group is very tight and it certainly was a goal to get to nine,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “The ultimate goal is to be the first one to 10, I will tell you. Winning Thursday against Michigan, the team at 9, was a huge step in that direction. And obviously tonight is an even bigger step.”

Denver sophomore Mike Benning was the first penalty of the game, and it cost the Pioneers when he went to the box for Tripping at 12:23.

Sam Morton capitalized on the man advantage when he beat Magnus Chrona five-hole to give the Mavericks the 1-0 lead at 13:59 of the first period. Lucas Sowder and Brendan Furry assisted on Morton’s ninth when Sowder gathered Furry’s rebound and swung a pass to Morton at the left face-off dot for the game’s only goal through two periods.

Minnesota St. Mavericks junior forward Sam Morton celebrates his first-period goal giving the Mavericks the 1-0 lead against the Denver Pioneers during the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The Mavericks had the game’s subsequent two penalties in the late first and early second periods. Denver didn’t generate much on either chance, while Minnesota St. had a solid shorthanded attempt on each.

Chrona turned away Josh Groll on the first one and David Silye on a breakaway during the second one. The 6′-5″ junior from Stockholm, Sweden, made 24 saves during 60 minutes of action.

“Magnus made save after save there in big moments. I think that gave the guys life that he’s putting it on the line for us,” said Carle of Chrona’s performance. “We need to up our game. And again, in the second, I thought it was an opportunity for us to take a breath again and come out and play Denver hockey for the last 20.”

Denver Pioneers goalie Magnus Chrona makes one of his 24 saves during the Pioneers’ 5-1 win over the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship game at TD Garden on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

“They were outplaying us, but at the end of the day they were only up 1-0,” said senior assistant captain Ryan Barrow. “So one shot changes the entire outlook on the game.”

Barrow was just the man to take that shot that changed the course of the game. At 4:46 of the third period, the 6′-2″ forward found himself alone in front of McKay as Benning fired off a shot from the right circle. McKay saved it, but Barrow knocked the rebound past McKay to even score 1-1.

“I think we’re a defense-oriented team. Obviously we’re trying to defend hard,” said Morton. “We didn’t want to let up a goal, but usually you need more than one to win a hockey game. I think it deflated us a little bit.”

With Mavericks goal scorer Morton off for Tripping at 5:26, the Pioneers capitalized on the man advantage shortly before it expired when Benning beat McKay with a one-timer from the left face-off dot at 7:33. Carter Mazur and Justin Lee assisted on Benning’s 15th.

“I’m just kind of overwhelmed with everything,” said Benning of his goal. “But I saw a shot and took it. Went with my gut, and now we’re here. So I’m happy.”

The Denver Pioneers and some fans celebrate Mike Benning’s game-winning goal against the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022. The Pioneers won 5-1 to earn the school’s ninth hockey title.

“I thought I gave up a rebound on that (first) one. They capitalized,” said Mavericks goalie McKay. “Then we took a penalty shortly after. It was just a bad bounce. And then a guy makes a nice shot on the power play. All of a sudden it’s 2-1, and just never really recovered. It would have been nice to make a few more saves for the guys, keep it at one or two,but it just didn’t happen.”

“It was a heck of a shot. They worked it around the power play and the guy just opened it up for a one-timer, went by my D’s face and right over my shoulder,short side. Good shot by him,” said a dejected McKay.

“They’re a pretty sound team, they’re older,” said Benning of the Mavericks. “He’s a really good goalie but he’s not perfect. So obviously I saw a shot and took it. And Barrow saw a shot and took it. We just kind of picked away at the game piece by piece. And I think that’s how we found our success tonight.”

Six minutes later, Massimo Rizzo made it 3-1 Pioneers when he buried a Mazur pass during a two-on-one from the bottom of the right circle for his 12th.

Denver Pioneers Massimo Rizzo beats Minnesota St. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay with a one-timer on a two-on-one during the Pioneers’ five-goal third period in the National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The last two Pioneer goals came courtesy of empty-net goals. The 4-1 strike came at 17:28 when senior centerman Brett Stapley fired in a shot from the neutral zone for his 18th.

Thirty-two seconds later, senior Cameron Wright added a backhander from the right-side boards to cap off the evening 5-1. Mazur picked up his third assist on the evening on Wright’s 23rd.

“Words don’t describe the feelings. I’m so proud of our team and what they could accomplish this year. It means the world to our staff and players to be a part of this journey with these guys,” said Carle. “It was just so much fun. They committed to each other every day to get better. It was not easy, but they continued to stick with it.”

“We faced our biggest test tonight,” added Carle. “Mike Hastings and his staff have an excellent hockey team. They made us earn it. You have to earn this trophy. And our guys earned it tonight. And we are so proud of them.”

The National Champion Denver Pioneers. Left to Right, Head Coach David Carle, goalie Magnus Chrona, forward Mike Benning, and forward Ryan Barrow.

“I thought we got off to a good start, even a good 40 minutes,” said Hastings of his Mavericks. “Once we gave up the first one, I thought we started leaking oil a little bit and couldn’t stop the bleeding. They scored a power play goal to get it to two. And then we started chasing the game a little bit.”

“I think tonight’s a perfect example of understanding that a minimum of 60 minutes at this time is going to be something that you have to have. And I thought we had a good 40 and not a great last 20,” Hastings added.

The Pioneers raised the National Championship trophy for the third time in the city of Boston. The first came in 1960 at the old Boston Garden, the second at TD Garden in 2004, and again Saturday night.

“We have four now since the turn of the century, I think that’s the most out of anybody. We’ve done it with three different head coaches, that’s very impressive,” Carle said of the DU legacy. “You come here to try to win championships.”

“It’s not easy to play at Denver. We challenge recruits when they come on campus. We challenge our players. We hold them accountable,” said Carle. “It’s a big responsibility to play in our program. And ultimately, it takes people who are ‘team first’ and who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. So to do it again in Boston, that team really did put Denver hockey back on the modern map. And we’re here to stay.”

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.

 

Mavericks Punch Ticket to Championship

Minnesota St. scores five unanswered to set up a Finals showdown with Denver.

Boston, Ma – The Minnesota St. Mavericks continue to impress as they sent their second straight Big Ten foe home for the season after beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-1 on Thursday at TD Garden. The Mavericks had five different goal scorers, and Dryden McKay stopped all but the first of 17 Gophers shots to earn his 38th win of the year.

The Mavericks haven’t trailed in the NCAA postseason until the Gophers capitalized on a Benton Maas turnover. Matthew Knies put the Gophers ahead 1-0 at 8:52 of the first period when he and Bryce Brodzinski played cat and mouse with McKay on a two-on-zero breakaway. Knies banged in his 15th at the right post.

“I saw Matt (Knies) out of the corner of my eye. I turned around; I knew I had to get him involved,” said Brodzinski. “That was kind of our only way of beating the goalie; getting him to move laterally was something we harped on a little bit.”

“Yeah, it was a big opportunity, especially being our first shot of the game. Being able to crack them early kept us in it for a while,” added the 6′-0″ junior of the Gophers solving McKay.

Matthew Knies leads the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebration after giving the Gophers the 1-0 lead in the first period of Minnesota St.’s 5-1 win Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden.

“You got to give them (Minnesota St.) an enormous amount of credit,’ said Minnesota coach Bob Motzko. “For big chunks of the game, they kicked our butt. The first period was great. We got the lead. We withstood it.”

“I couldn’t tell you the last time I faced a two-on-oh in a game,” said McKay of the lone Gopher goal. “Wish I could have come up with it. I think we do enough of them in practice.”

“Not exactly the start we wanted, giving up a two-on-oh goal,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “I was hoping Dryden (McKay) was going to be able to pull the bacon out of the fire, it didn’t happen. They (Minnesota) got off to a good start. We had talked about that being a very important piece for us.”

“I thought we played a very good first period even though we were down. The guys did a really good job of just sticking with it. There wasn’t a lot of panic on the bench or in the locker room,” added Hastings. “As they have this entire season, they stuck with it, and they were rewarded for it. It was a good effort for us. We’re excited to have an opportunity to play for a national championship.”

Despite the 1-0 lead, Minnesota St. had the edge in shots on goal 11-4 at the end of the first. The momentum caught up with the shot total as the Mavericks netted two goals in the second period.

“I think the last time we were behind was probably against Bemidji in the conference championship,” said McKay about not trailing during the tournament. “It’s not like it’s unfamiliar to us. There are plenty of games this year where the other team scored first and we still had to find a way. We’re a mature group. It doesn’t really seem to matter to us whether we’re up or down. We keep fighting, keep playing our game, eventually, we got rewarded.”

Rewarded indeed, two goals in six minutes put the Mavs back in the familiar position of being ahead.

“We made a couple of mistakes in the second period,” said Motzko. “They scored exactly how we knew we had to defend. Then we were chasing the game. We made it close a couple of times.”

The Minnesota St. Mavericks discuss advancing to the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship to face the Denver Pioneers on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Maas, a defenseman, found himself below the Minnesota goal line alone, so he made his way towards the Gophers’ goal and beat Justen Close (27 saves) with a wraparound shot at the far post at 7:22 for his third goal.

Lucas Sowder made a pretty good play to get the puck down low to me. I did a little shoulder check and saw I had more time and space than I thought and could get to the side of the net,” said Maas of his goal. “Coach is a big preacher on if we get there, it’s got to go to the net. I just threw it on the net and hoped for a rebound because I knew we had guys in front. Fortunately, it was able to go in at the far side.”

Reggie Lutz followed up with a wraparound bid of his own at 13:31. Lutz had a stuff attempt at the right post turned away by Close’s skate before corraling his rebound to try his luck at the left post for his 15th.

“When I was younger, every time I would score a wraparound goal, my dad would take me to McDonald’s, and I’d get a ‘Happy Meal.’ I’ve been working on one for a while, and it was pretty cool to see it work on the big stage,” joked Lutz. “As I said, ever since I was probably five, I’ve been practicing wraparound goals. It paid off tonight, so it was pretty cool.”

In the third period, the Mavericks added three goals to seal their first-ever trip to the Championship game on Saturday against the Denver Pioneers.

“Benny (Meyers) had a great chance 30 seconds into the third period, point-blank they stopped him,” said Minnesota’s Motzko. “Then they score a minute and a half into the third. That was it. It was over.”

Ondrej Pavel redirected a Jack McNeely slap shot from the blue line past Close at 1:57 for his 12th. Pavel got his stick blade on the low McNeely shot to lift it over the shoulder of Close just inside the post.

David Silye made it 4-1 Minnesota St. when he toe-dragged on Gophers defenseman Jack LaCombe at the right face-off dot and sniped a shot far-side top-corner over Close for his eighth goal. Junior forward Sam Morton kept the play alive just inside the Gophers zone before dishing to Silye.

Mavericks junior Brendan Furry topped off the celebration at 18:51 with an unassisted empty-net goal.

“They’re just a grizzled, old veteran team in every position. I was okay at the end of the first period. I’ll just go to that. Their top guys didn’t really hurt us. Their glue guys on the other lines kind of created things for them,” said Motzko of the Mavericks’ depth. “Because you knew no matter what, whoever plays them, you’re going to have to weather some storms. We were doing it at a little spurt in the second period. It was not a fun game for us to chase.”

“Ondrej Pavel and David Silye have been impactful players for us over the last month,” said Hastings. “Ondrej has been probably one of our most impactful forwards whether you’re talking five-on-five, killing penalties. Those guys allow us to play with depth. When you can play with depth, you can spread out your minutes. That keeps both sides of that, your top six, your bottom six, fresh. It allows them to hopefully play the game the right way.”

“They’re good. Everybody saw it tonight,” said Hastings of the match-up with Denver. “I witnessed some of their games during the season. They’re deep, they’re talented, very good goaltending. I think they’re about as thorough a coaching staff as there is in college hockey right now. So to me, it’s going to be a difficult task.”

“We’ll take a kick at the can on Saturday,” added the Mavericks bench boss.

Pioneers Outlast Wolverines in Semifinal OT

Boston, MA – The Denver Pioneers vanquished the nation’s #1 seed Michigan Wolverines in overtime on Carter Savoie‘s rebound strike at 14:53 to send the Pioneers to their first NCAA Championship since winning it all in 2017.

“I think they turned the puck over at the top, near the blue line. I tried passing it down to Bob (Brink) and it hit a skate. He ended up getting it back,” said Savoie of the lead up to his game-winning goal. “Then obviously that pass Bob made was pretty unbelievable. Right through that guy’s legs. Got the first shot. Then got the rebound there.”

“No words to describe it. Best feeling ever,” said the 5’-10″ sophomore from St. Albert, Alberta.

The expected track meet between two of the nation’s top offensive teams never materialized as the Pioneers limited the Wolverines to just 21 shots through almost 75 minutes of action. Magnus Chrona (19 saves) didn’t have a ton of work to do but when he did, the Denver goalie made sure to shut the door on Michigan.

“It was a really good hockey game. I thought both teams checked really well. There wasn’t a lot of ice, it didn’t seem. And it was an entertaining game,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “We’re obviously excited to be on the positive end. Give Michigan credit. I thought they adjusted well throughout the game. Made it harder on us.”

“I give our players a ton of credit for, again, sticking with it, winning another one-goal hockey game,” added the fourth-year coach. “We tied in the third period. It took us a little longer tonight than it did in Loveland, but our guys stuck with it and got the job done and we’re still in Boston through Saturday.”

The Pioneers carried play for the majority of the first period. Denver took advantage of that momentum and earned the 1-0 lead at 11:22 of the period when  Brett Stapley backhanded a rebound past Erik Portillo (30 saves) for his 17th. Stapley gathered a Justin Lee shot attempt and deposited it past an outstretched Portillo to kick off the Frozen Four scoring.

The Wolverines did not get their first shot on goal until the 3:53 mark of the opening period.

“I thought we handled them very well. I loved the team defense,” said Carle of the Pioneers’ pressure. “Everybody, to a man, was up. They were angling, taking away time and space. Making life hard on them. And obviously when mistakes did happen, Magnus was there to shut the door and make a couple really big saves.”

“The first period, they had the third guy back all the time. And we tried to carry the puck through that. They created too many turnovers, especially in the danger zones, the blue line, the top of the circles,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “As the game wore on, we got a little better with our puck possession, started to make some plays, got a little more comfortable. But they played desperately. And with the layers and the blocking of the shots, they took a lot away from us. And we just would dump it back in the corner and reload and grind.”

“They’re just structurally really good defensively. Everybody thought this might be a high-scoring game. But both teams played solid defensively. And the goaltending was great,too. They check. That’s their MO. And everything starts off their defense offensively and they worked hard tonight. They really made it difficult on us,” said Pearson.

The Michigan Wolverines celebrate Jimmy Lambert’s second-period, game-tying goal at 4:03. Michigan would lose 3-2 in overtime to the Denver Pioneers on Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

The Wolverines found their mojo in the second period as they controlled the play the way Denver did in the first. Michigan tied the game 1-1 at 4:03 when Jimmy Lambert deposited a Nolan Moyle feed from the goal line past Chrona. Moyle made the play happen after taking the puck to the net where Chrona made the stop, but Moyle outhustled Pioneers defenseman Sean Behrens for the puck to set up Lambert’s sixth.

Denver pulled ahead again on a Cameron Wright tip-in on Mike Benning‘s shot from the blue line in the third period. Wright’s 22nd at 5:36 briefly gave the Pioneers a push as Michigan has recently struggled in the third period.

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.

The Wolverines answered at 9:09 when Thomas Bordeleau banged in a rebound of a Michael Pastujov bid in front of the Pioneers’ goal. A blocked shot at the Michigan blue line by Wolverines forward Mark Estapa sent Pastujov off to the races before Bordeleau scooped the rebound into the Denver net for his 12th.

“We only needed one shot. It’s one shot. We were in the game. We hadn’t played our best. As the game wore on, I thought we got better and better versus some games recently that we got worse as the game went on,” said Pearson of Michigan’s third-period play. “But we were right there, one goal. The message was to keep playing, play our game and get everything to the net. There’s no bad shot in overtime. And we had it. I thought the first five minutes there especially, or maybe the first ten, that we were the better team. We couldn’t get pucks through them or to the net or get a bounce or a break.”

The overtime momentum swing was in the Wolverines’ favor through the first half of extra time, when Chrona shined brightest for the Pioneers.

“I thought Magnus was unbelievable in that overtime,” said senior forward Ryan Barrow. “He kind of let us get our feet settled there.”

Carle agreed that his last line of defense was tremendous all night but extra special in overtime.

“Obviously the (Brendan) Brisson save in overtime and the (Luke) Hughes save in overtime were exceptional and kept us in the hockey game,” said Carle. “It allowed Sav (Carter Savoie) to put one in the back of the net for us and send us to the championship game.”

Barrow concurred with his coach adding, “our best players made a play.”

That’s when Savoie and Brink connected to advance the Pioneers into the promised land.

“His game is continuing to develop and improve to where we can put him out in really big moments,” said Carle of Savoie and his play. “The goal-scoring, he’s been doing that for a long time. It’s a God-given ability that he has, and he’s impacted the program 23 times this year with that. So that’s exciting. But his whole game continues to round out as he becomes a more complete player.”

“A lot has been made of the symmetries between this team and the ’03 and ’04 team, being backmhere in Boston. And there’s no doubt about it, when we talk about what we want to do at Denver, it’s about winning championships and getting opportunities to hang banners,” said Carle. “And to have this opportunity is very special. To do it against Michigan, who is at 9 and we’re at 8, is even sweeter. And hopefully we can tie them and close the gap and reach our goal to getting to 10 first.”

Stay tuned. Denver awaits the Minnesota and Minnesota St. winner for a shot at banner number nine on Saturday night.

 

Haula’s PPG Gives Bruins the Win

Erik Haula scores twice to help Boston outlast Columbus.

Boston, MA – The Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of a minute-and-a-half of shaky play by Boston Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman, coupled with a forty save performance from their goalie Elvis Merzlikins, to hang around the TD Garden longer than they should have. In the third period, Erik Haula‘s second goal of the game and a pair of empty-net goals gave the Bruins the push they needed to close out the Blue Jackets. Boston earned two points in the Eastern Conference standings to keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs and gain a point on the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

On a night when the Bruins and Blue Jackets were honoring Boston forward Nick Foligno‘s 1,000th game, which came March 15, 2022, in Chicago against the Black Hawks, the pesky Columbus squad turned in a solid effort against their former captain. Fortunately for Foligno and Boston, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Bruins’ power-play, which took advantage of their lone opportunity late in the third.

“We got back to playing the way we were supposed to,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy of their third-period performance. “Patient, responsible hockey, attack when the situation dictates, play behind their D, and create turnovers on the forecheck.”

“I thought we were doing that in spurts in the first and second periods, that’s how we were creating a lot of offense tonight, by pressuring their D,” added Cassidy. “Their goalie was seeing the puck well, so we needed some second and third effort around the net to get it by him.”

Haula continued his scoring ways when he banged in a loose puck during a scrum in the Columbus crease. Hampus Lindholm carried around the Blue Jackets net where he dished to a charging Charlie McAvoy. Merzlikins made a leg save on McAvoy’s backhander while laying on his stomach, but Taylor Hall knocked the puck to the opposite post, where Haula tapped it in for his 11th.

The Blue Jackets tied the game with 28 seconds left in the opening period when Gustav Nyquist crashed the Bruins’ net and knocked in a loose puck after Swayman (22 saves) couldn’t hold onto an Andrew Peeke shot from the blue line. Nyquist’s goal was his 17th. 

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist celebrates his first-period goal with the Blue Jackets bench on April 2, 2022.

Columbus pulled ahead only forty-two seconds into the middle frame when Justin Danforth knocked in a rebound at the top of the crease. Swayman made the initial stop on Yegor Chinakhov‘s shot from the goal line, but Danforth was there to swat in the puck. Chinakhov and Sean Kuraly assisted on Danforth’s seventh.

Brad Marchand tied the game for Boston with his 31st late in the period when he finished off some nifty passing with line-mates Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk at the left post. The Bruins had solid pressure in the Blue Jackets zone thanks to McAvoy keeping the play alive at the blue line before Boston equalized at 18:13. 

McAvoy raced to keep the puck in at the boards in front of the Bruins bench before firing it back into the zone where Marchand picked it up behind the Blue Jackets’ goal. Marchand dished to Bergeron for the one-timer that Merzlikins turned away, but again, McAvoy skated in and harassed Patrick Laine into passing straight to DeBrusk. DeBrusk walked out and dished to Bergeron, who faked a shot before sliding a pass to Marchand at the far post for the tap into an empty net.

The Boston Bruins celebrate Brad Marchand’s 31st goal of the year during the first period of Boston’s 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden on April 2, 2022.

Peeke drew a Hooking penalty at 14:06 of the third period giving the Bruins their first man-advantage. Columbus almost got away scot-free, but Haula re-directed a Brandon Carlo slap-pass past Merzlikins for the go-ahead goal as the penalty was expiring at 16:06.

Haula’s second of the game, and fifth in the last four games, proved to be the difference. Haula has ten points in the previous six games.

“It’s awesome when you can help the team win, yeah I’m happy,” said Haula. “I’m having a lot of fun. I feel like the team’s playing really well and it’s obviously helping a lot. I’m just enjoying the ride, trying to do my best to prepare for every game and trying to bring it.”

“I don’t know if it gets to me, but I have moved a lot lately,” Haula said when asked if surviving the trade deadline has helped his recent production. “Maybe there’s a little thought in the back of the head, of the past, you work through that obviously, and it is nice when you know ‘this is our team’ but that’s ultimately out of my control.”

“Now it’s put the foot on the gas and try to do something special here,” added Haula.

The Bruins added a Jake DeBrusk (19) empty-net goal at 18:00 and a Charlie Coyle (15) empty-netter at 19:54 for the icing on the cake. 

Boston completes a five-game homestand where they went 4-1 and will face off against the Blue Jackets again on Monday night in Columbus, Ohio, to kick off a four-game road trip. 

 Erik Haula’s photo appears courtesy of Carolyn Mooney. Follow her on Instagram @caramooneyphoto

Maple Leafs Trounce Bruins 6-4

Early Mishaps Sink Boston in Pivotal Game

Boston, MA – The Toronto Maple Leafs were too much for the Boston Bruins to handle on Tuesday at the TD Garden. A pair of three-goal outbursts proved too daunting for the Bruins to overcome, one in the first two periods. The Leafs’ speed, coupled with unforced errors by the Bruins, saw Boston trailing 3-1 after one and 6-1 after two.

The Maple Leafs and Bruins came into Tuesday’s game tied for third in the Atlantic Division on identical 41-19-5 records. The Bruins had lost once in their last ten games and caught up with Toronto, 6-3-1 in the same stretch, by chipping away at their lead. With a month to go, playoff seeding was at stake.

“You have to take care of the puck,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We didn’t do enough of that early on. Obviously, we weren’t prepared to play, so we can share responsibility. That’s our job as coaches, getting them ready to play. Players have to be ready to play.”

“We weren’t sharp early on,” said Cassidy. “You need your goaltender to bail you out, and that didn’t happen either. Give them (Toronto) credit for starting on time. That’s where the game got away from us and they’re a thought team to chase the game against.”

Toronto struck first when former Harvard Crimson forward Colin Blackwell tipped a Jason Spezza pass over Jeremy Swayman’s outstretched leg for his first goal as a member of the Leafs at 5:09. A miscommunication between Bruins defensemen Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk led to Spezza intercepting an errant Clifton pass along the boards.

The Bruins would counter with a David Pastrnak power-play goal less than a minute later. With Leafs forward Michael Bunting off for Tripping, the Bruins won the face-off in the Toronto zone. Pastrnak hit the post with a one-timer from the left circle to get another crack at it shortly. The second time he had help from Leafs’ defenseman TJ Brodie’s stick to redirect the puck past Petr Mrazek for his 38th. Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy assisted.

Mrazek would depart the game with an injury at 7:44. The 6′-2″ Czech goalie finished with three saves on four shots before giving way to Erik Kallgren. 

Bruins forward Craig Smith and Bunting drew matching Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties at 8:34, setting up four-on-four action. The Leafs took advantage of the open ice as William Nylander carried into the Bruins zone, around Brandan Carlo, and had his shot blocked by Swayman. John Tavares grabbed the puck behind the net and dropped a pass back to Morgan Reilly for a top-shelf snipe past Swayman to make it 2-1 at 9:43.

Alex Kerfoot put the Leafs ahead 3-1 at 18:44 of the first when he blocked a Clifton shot at the Toronto blue line and then raced in alone on Swayman, where he beat him with a backhand-forehand deke at the left post. The unassisted goal was the 11th for the former Harvard Crimson star.

“They (The Leafs) were just stronger on pucks,” said Curtis Lazar. “We were defending with our structure and I feel like we got away from that. We played that high octane, fast-paced, scramble hockey that they relish and we got down early.”

The second period wasn’t any better for Boston as the Leafs’ top line came alive. Mitch Marner scored his 28th at 8:28 when he one-timed an Auston Matthews feed past Swayman to make it 4-1. Craig Smith could not connect with Jake DeBrusk in the neutral zone, and Bunting sent Matthews into the Bruins zone, where he feathered to pass to Marner. 

A Roughing penalty on Taylor Hall at 15:18 gave the Leafs a power play. Matthews picked up his league-leading 49th goal at the 4:00 minute mark of the second when he banged in a rebound in front of Swayman to put the Leafs ahead comfortably. Tavares and Marner assisted on the power-play goal. 

David Kampf made it 6-1 just forty-seven seconds later when he tipped a Reilly shot past Swayman for his 9th of the season. 

Boston pulled one back on a DeBrusk redirect in front of the Leafs’ goal. The winger notched his 17th when a McAvoy shot hit DeBrusk’s skate and hopped past Kallgren (23 saves) at 18:19. 

“We were working back to it,” Cassidy said of Boston playing better later in the game. “Some guys got frustrated with some calls. So that took them out of the right mindset. It’s a loss, a home loss. They were clearly better than us.” 

As the period closed out, Bruins forward Brad Marchand voiced his displeasure with the officiating crew and drew a 10 Minute Misconduct for Unsportsmanlike. 

“I’d say (our effort) was complete,” coach Sheldon Keefe said of Toronto. “Obviously we gave a couple late ones up in the third, but I just thought we didn’t give them a lot and managed a couple of response pushes that they had. But it was a real patient game, and we took advantage of the opportunities that we had.”

The Bruins showed signs of life in the third, with Linus Ullmark in goal for Boston. Swayman finished with 19 saves on 25 shots in forty minutes of play. Ullmark stopped all seven shots as he helped stem the bleeding.

Cassidy added he didn’t think about switching goalies after the first period. “Not after 20. He deserves a chance to go and get a big save for us because we’re going to need one.”

“It just seemed like we broke down in front of him,” added Cassidy of Swayman. “It (the puck) was going by tonight, even the tips that some nights will hit you. As a goalie, nothing seemed to hit him. Some of those ones that won’t go in like the fifth or sixth goal, but it was.”

Boston netted two in the third to make the game interesting as the clock wound down. Curtis Lazar banged in a rebound of a Clifton shot off the boards. Lazar whacked at the puck with Kallgren at the post, and the puck bounced over the Swede for Lazar’s seventh goal. 

After a video review by the officials, Hall notched his 15th when he drove to the net and beat Kallgren five-hole. The goal was waved off by the official, citing Goalie Interference on Hall, but the goal stood as Boston challenged the call. 

“I think we showed good fight in the third,” said McAvoy. “We crawled back and had a couple chances at the end. That’s a good sign of our makeup and resilience, but we can’t go down as much as we did and expect to win.”

The Bruins face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at TD Garden at 7:00 pm EST.

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.

 

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.