Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tourney Time

The NCAA hockey tournament begins tomorrow, which means you still have time to enter the College Hockey Pickem Challenge and join the Fraters group:

1. Register an account (FREE)

2. Join the Fraters group-Group name: Fraters Password: fraters

3. Fill out your brackets (including total goals scored tiebreaker)

4. Sit back and enjoy the action

Like the other college sports tournament taking place this time of year, the NCAA hockey field is pretty wide open. There isn’t an obvious favorite to win the whole thing and even picking any of the four regional winners who will travel to Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four is a difficult chore.

My tried, tested, and sometimes true approach to NCAA puck bracketology has been to go with teams from the strongest conference (no, it ain’t exactly a unique method.) Given my personal and regional biases, that’s usually lead me to favor teams from the WCHA. Sadly enough, I won’t be able to do that next year when the rich tradition and rivalries of the WCHA will go by the board so that the Big 10 Network can sell more ads. That stupidity and shortsightedness of that decision are obvious to anyone paying attention, but the die has been cast and so we must live with the consequences.

The WCHA as we know and love it is going out on a high note however and has fielded six of the sixteen NCAA tournament teams. While anything could happen, the sheer quantity and superior quality of WCHA teams makes it likely in my mind that one of those six teams will win the national title. The challenge is determining which one.

West Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)

The one positive thing about the new Big 10 hockey conference is that the NCAA will no longer have an excuse for putting Minnesota and North Dakota into the same regional to assure that they both don’t reach the Frozen Four. Until then, it seems probable that we’ll see another UND-UM game to determine who goes to Pittsburgh. By the way, does anyone else find it strange that the “West” regional is being played in Michigan?

Friday #1 Minnesota vs #4 Yale: The Gophers face Yale in the tourney lid lifter at 1pm CT tomorrow. Minnesota should win this game, but this year’s Gopher squad is not one that inspires unshakable confidence. They’ve been inconsistent at times and anytime you’re relying on a freshman goalie you’re putting yourself in jeopardy. That being said, the Gophers should have enough to get past the boorish Yalies. Minnesota 4 Yale 2

Friday #2 North Dakota vs #3 Niagara: The Sioux have also been far from formidable at times this year and counting on a Dave Hakstol team to play its best in the NCAA tourney is a dicey proposition. But, Niagara? Really? Just don’t see it. North Dakota 5 Niagara 2

Saturday #1 Minnesota vs #2 North Dakota: My heart says to pick the Gophers, but my head tells me the team that shall not be named will prevail. North Dakota 4 Minnesota 3

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)

Two Hockey East and two WCHA teams meet in this regional.

Friday #1 U Mass-Lowell vs #4 Wisconsin: U Mass has a great goalie and played well in the Hockey East tourney. Wisconsin needed an improbable run through the WCHA Final Five to make the tournament and is on an impressive roll. Something has to give. Wisconsin 2 U Mass Lowell 1

Friday #2 New Hampshire vs #3 Denver: New Hampshire is a regular tourney participant that never seems to have enough to win it all. Denver was upset by CC in the WCHA playoffs and has had two weeks off. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The layoff and home ice for UNH prove too much for DU. New Hampshire 3 Denver 2

Saturday #4 Wisconsin vs #2 New Hampshire: No one expected Wisconsin to get this far. But momentum and confidence at this time of year are critical. Plus WCHA > Hockey East. Wisconsin 3 New Hampshire 1

Midwest Regional (Toledo, OH)

Ah yes, that hockey hotbed known as Toledo. This is an interesting regional with two WCHA teams (both from Minnesota) and the Golden Domers and Red Hawks from the CCHA.

Saturday #1 Notre Dame vs #4 SCSU: Notre Dame won the CCHA tourney and has a talented team. SCSU was regular season co-champion of the WCHA. But the Huskies have only won one NCAA tournament game in their history and I was not particularly impressed by what I saw of them this year. If their goalie plays well, they have a shot, but a find in more likely their NCAA dreams will once again die early. Notre Dame 5 SCSU 4

Saturday #2 Miami vs #3 Minnesota State: Noted hockey expert Hugh Hewitt is picking the Red Hawks to win the title which means they are eventually doomed. But they should be able to get by Minnesota State. Miami 3 Minnesota State 2

Sunday #1 Notre Dame vs #2 Miami: As long as the Irish are able to get back from Easter Mass in time to warm up, they should prevail over their conference foe. Notre Dame 4 Miami 1

East Regional (Providence, RI)

Wait a second, there aren’t any WCHA teams in the East? Imagine that. Funny how the NCAA will do everything possible to avoid another all WCHA Frozen Four.

Saturday #1 Quinnipiac vs #4 Canisius: This sounds more like a battle between Roman senators than college hockey teams. A recently released Quinnipiac poll shows that a majority of college hockey fans believe the Bobcats will win. I actually watched parts of a couple of Quinnipiac (rated #1 overall) games this year (more college hockey on TV than ever), but still can’t tell if they’re for real or not (nice logo though). But still, Canisius? Really? Quinnipiac 4 Canisius 2

Saturday #2 Boston College vs #3 Union: BC is the defending national champion. While they’re not the same team they were last year, they’re better than Union. BC 5 Union 3

Sunday #1 Quinnipiac vs #2 Boston College: Quinnipiac has been ranked #1 overall for a good part of the season yet questions remain about their credibility. I gotta go with an experienced BC team that’s been there before over a team from a conference of questionable quality. Plus I really hate trying to type Q-u-i-n-n-i-p-i-a-c so much. BC 3 Quinnipiac 1

Frozen Four (Pittsburgh, PA)

Semifinal #1 North Dakota vs Wisconsin: The battle of long time WCHA rivals will be close and hard fought. UND 3 Wisconsin 2

Semifinal #2 Notre Dame vs Boston College: The Irish are two much for the defending champs. Notre Dame 5 BC 3

Championship North Dakota vs Notre Dame: I’ve picked UND to win the national title two or maybe three times in the last decade and they’ve always screwed me. This time around will be different. If it’s not Hakstol should be canned. North Dakota 4 Notre Dame 3

Drop the puck.