Time to rev the awards engine back to full speed. Today, we head East to ECAC hockey. In what was a very good year for the league, Yale, Cornell and Princeton all made the NCAA Tournament, and St. Lawrence just missed by the skin of their teeth. In the preseason we ranked both Princeton and Cornell, but totally missed the boat on Yale (who didn’t?) and St. Lawrence.
Getting the easiest award out of the way right away, our ECAC coach of the year is Yale’s Keith Allain. Allain led the Bulldogs to the ECAC regular season and tournament titles, with a record of 24-8-2 (15-5-2 in conference). They were the highest scoring team in ECAC hockey at 3.32 goals pergame, and 9th nationally in that department. The Bulldogs also had the nation’s best penalty kill, a testament to Coach Allain’s ability to teach them discipline and fundamentals.
Our player of the year award was a bit more difficult. At midseason it looked like Ben Scrivens had it on lockdown, but Zane Kalemba took him over. The Princeton goalie had a .932 save percentage to lead the conference in that department. But our conference player of the year is Colgate’s David McIntyre. The Junior was 2nd in the conference in goals and 3rd in points, while playing less games than the top two players in those departments. McIntyre had 21 goals on a team that scored just 89 on the season. That is nearly 25% of the goal scoring. And McIntyre had 43 points, meaning he had a hand in nearly half of his teams goals. That is value. The rest of the first team and the second team are after the jump Read more…
First of all, take a peek at the header switch at the top of the page, updated with the logos of the four participating teams at next weekend’s Frozen Four.
Now, to the task at hand. This year, 4 seed Miami (22-12-5), 3 seed Vermont (22-11-5) and 4 seed Bemidji State (20-15-1) will join top seeded BU at the Frozen Four in Washington DC. At first glance, this is reminiscent of the 2001 Final Four, in which 1 seed Michigan State joined 5 seed Florida and 8 seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin. As expected, Michigan State rolled through the two games to win the national championship.
One way to spin this is that hockey is a sport in which anything can happen and that is good for the game. Part of this is true, anything can happen. A hot goalie has more impact over a game than any player in any sport. But is this good for the game?
Not that ESPN gets fantastic ratings for the Frozen Four anyways, but a Frozen like last season’s with powerhouses like Michigan, BC and North Dakota, not to mention an ESPN magnet like Notre Dame. This year, ESPN can (I guess) play up the Ben Roethlisberger element with Miami, talk about BU having a rich hockey history, talk about Matt Gilroy’s potential contract, and maybe they’ll get lucky and Wilson or Gilroy will win the Hobey. Vermont? They’ll probably talk about Martin St. Louis, etc. but Bemidji State? They could talk about the dissolving of the CHA and Bemidji State’s bid to join the WCHA.
In any event, while two #4 seeds and a 3 in the Frozen Four is a good story, I’d rather have the best 4 teams, which definitely do not include any of those three teams. I was skeptical of Miami’s inclusion in the NCAA tournament, and it is ironic that this is the worst team they’ve had in the past 5 years or so, and this is the team that finally broke through to the Frozen. Bemidji State, however you slice it, didn’t belong in the NCAA Tournament. They were 19th in winning percentage, behind RIT and Mercyhurst, 26th in offense, behind, among others, Quinnipiac, and 19th in defense, behind teams like Niagara. All of this coming in the worst conference, and one of the worst schedules, in hockey.
Granted, some people will make the argument that Bemidji belonged because they won two games. That argument is pretty much garbage. They played well for two games. If the Pittsburgh Pirates go out and beat the Chicago Cubs twice, that doesn’t mean they deserve to win the NL Central.
For the finishing argument, when you add the 4 seeds together this year, you get 12. Let’s look at them for the other years in the 16 team tournament era: (participating teams in parentheses)
2003: 6 (Cornell, UNH, Michigan, Minnesota)
2004: 6 (Maine, Boston College, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver)
2005: 5 (North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado College, Denver)
2006: 9 (Maine, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Boston College)
2007: 10 (Michigan State, North Dakota, Boston College, Maine)
2008: 8 (North Dakota, Boston College, Michigan, Notre Dame)
This is the highest number since we went to the 16 team tournament. In previous high years, there were traditional powers to save the viewer (North Dakota, Maine) but this year there won’t be. As much as I want to see college hockey be expanded to places like Penn State, Illinois, etc., and the loss of the CHA pretty much kills those chances, I will be glad that now only one league will steal a bid from a team that deserves it. Although Atlantic Hockey didn’t do that this year.
First of all, congrats to the Vermont Catamounts. Vermont became the first team to advance to the 2009 Frozen Four with a double OT win over Air Force. Air Force got absolutely robbed of a goal late in the game, and Vermont came up with a great goal to win it in double OT and advance to the game.
And while we’re on the subject of that game, congrats to Air Force for their spectacular season. Andrew Volkening came out and shut out Michigan and held his own against a very talented Vermont team. I picked Air Force to make the Frozen Four, and they were a shot away from doing to. Air Force has a lot of players, most notably Jacques Lamoureux, coming back to campus next year and they should be in the NCAA tournament yet again.
For the second year in a row we will have a 4 seed in the Frozen Four as Miami has made it. Justin Mercier had both goals for the RedHawks and Cody Reichard had 25 saves. Duluth had a great run at the end of the season, but it finally ran out. After being on the doorstep for the past few years, Miami is going to a Frozen Four. This program has now officially stepped into elite status.
In Grand Rapids, we saw the biggest upset in the history of college hockey, as Bemidji State beat Notre Dame. I really thought Notre Dame would win the championship this year, and they just flat ignored Bemidji State. Quite frankly this Beaver team isn’t even really that good. They are easily the worst team to ever win an NCAA game, but the bottom line is they went out and got it done, and Notre Dame flat out gave the game away.
Talk about fantastic finishes: Between Duluth’s stirring comeback over Princeton, Cornell’s big win over Northeastern and UNH’s comeback over North Dakota. The UNH-UND game was the only one of these three that I actually got to see. Although Chay Genoway has had a really good year and I think he has an NHL future, he had a rough rough game, as did Joe Finley. Quite frankly I’ve never seen the big deal with Finley, but he does have a lot of potential due to his size. I have a sneaking suspicion that he will be a better pro than college player.
Tomorrow two more Frozen Four bids will go out, to either BU or UNH and either Cornell or Bemidji State
The folks over at The Rookies previewed the NCAA Tournament, and they asked me to write the previews for North Dakota and Cornell, so if you want to check those out click here. Obviously I picked both the teams I wrote about to win, because who wants to write about a loser?
In other news, Air Force took down #1 seed Michigan earlier today, which doesn’t come as too much of a shock to those of you who have watched college hockey all season. Michigan had tons of talent, but Andrew Volkening brought the noise today and held off the Wolverines.
So we come to our final bracket, in which the #1 overall seeded BU Terriers reside. BU is the 3rd ranked offensive and defensive team in America. They are also the 2nd best team in the country on the power play, and 11th on the kill. So as you can see, they’re going to be tough to beat. Led by the most talented player in the country in Colin Wilson, BU has a great mix of players up front with Wilson, Nick Bonino and Chris Higgins.
Not only do they have those guys, but they have a nice blend of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership. The guy I really love on their team is Senior forward Brandon Yip (19-20–39). Yip had tons of promise coming into BU, and he didn’t really blossom into the superstar everyone (or at least I) thought he would. But there’s no doubt he has been a very solid college hockey player and had himself a great career.
And I would be remiss if I discussed BU without talking about Freshman goalie Kieran Millan. Millan is trying to repeat the trick of crosstown rival John Muse by winning the national title as a Freshman goalie. And Millan’s numbers have been fantastic. Millan led Hockey East in GAA (1.84) and wwas third in save percentage (.932). No doubt BU poses a tough matchup to any team, but they could be vulnerable to a team with a great powerplay, seeing the amount of penalty minutes they take (18.7 per game).
The team assigned the task of beating them is Ohio State, the last at-large team in the field. The 5th place team in the CCHA has beaten some good teams this year (Denver, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami) but are just 4-7-1 against the NCAA tournament field, and have also lost to teams like Michigan State, Western Michigan and Lake Superior State.
The Buckeyes leading scorer is Senior Corey Elkins (18-22–40) but their best player is Freshman Zac Dalpe. Dalpe has had some injury problems throughout the year, but when he is on the ice Ohio State becomes a completely different team. My X-factor for the Buckeyes in this game will be defenseman Shane Sims, a Sophomore who doesn’t get a ton of ink but he’s a very good offensive defenseman.
Although Ohio State possesses the talent to give BU a run, BU is just so much better at every part of the game and I think they’ll take it by a score of 5-2 or so. Read more…
It’s a couple years old, but damn I love that picture. It must be the helmets.
Anyways, the East regional in Bridgeport is definitely the most balanced of the four regionals. It features two conference champions, a team that was in the Frozen Four last year, and one that is back to the tournament after a looooooong absence.
The #1 seed Michigan Wolverines are incredible up front, led by a Sophomore trio that actually reminds me of North Dakota’s amazing trio two years ago of Jonathan Toews, TJ Oshie and Ryan Duncan. Aaron Palushaj and Louie Caporusso were each in the top 10 nationally in points per game, and this came in one of the most defensive conferences in the country this year. With Mark Mitera out for much of the year with a knee injury and Steve Kampfer out after being attacked by a Michigan football player Michigan survived defensively, especially once Bryan Hogan took over in net, and now that those two defensemen are back Michigan will be even tougher to crack defensively.
Hogan has had a couple of rough ones lately, however, including giving up 5 goals to Notre Dame in the CCHA title game. Michigan definitely won’t overlook Air Force given the Falcons’ last two efforts in the NCAA Tournament, but they will be in for a dogfight.
Air Force, on the other hand, comes into their third straight NCAA tournament after giving Minnesota a run for their money 2 years ago and Miami a run for their money last year. They of course are led by Sophomore forward Jacques Lamoureux, who leads the country with 32 goals, .82 per game. He also leads the country with 15 power play goals. Unlike the past couple of years, Air Force has more defensive help, led by Greg Flynn, and they have a great goalie in Andrew Volkening who has been great, especially lately with 2 shutouts in a row at the Atlantic Hockey semis and finals.
Oh and by the by, Lamoureux also leads the nation with 9 game winning goals. For that reason, I’m going with the shocker and taking Air Force to upset Michigan. Read more…
Grand Rapids is the site of our Midwest Regional. It features three very good teams, three in fact who could win the regional, but it also features the best team in the country, and my pre-tournament pick for the national championship.
The Fighting Irish come in on a hot streak, having won both the CCHA regular season and playoff championships. The Irish can bring it both offensively and defensively. Although players like Erik Condra, Christian Hanson and Ryan Thang steal all the headlines, Calle Ridderwall is the player who leads this team with 17 goals. The Irish don’t have a player over a goal per game, but they have six guys who are in double digits in goals. Defensively they are led by first round pick, and one of my personal favorite players, Ian Cole. Cole does everything for this team. He can score (26 points) and he plays very solid defense. In net, Jordan Pearce has been fantastic, although it’s a bit easier for him to be given the defense he has in front of him. They’ll easily run Bemidji out of the building. Read more…