Some of the proudest traditions in NCAA hockey will be on display this weekend at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Top regional seed Michigan boasts the most NCAA championships in hockey of any school with eight, followed closely by second-seeded Denver with seven. Cornell, meanwhile, has two NCAA titles, including the lone perfect season in NCAA hockey history (29-0-0 in 1969-70). Ferris State may seem out of place, making just its second appearance in the tournament, but the Bulldogs were the top ranked team in the nation earlier this season and are eager to show they belong on college hockey’s biggest stage.
Here’s a quick primer on whom to watch this weekend in Green Bay.
Michigan: The Wolverines are making their 22nd consecutive tournament appearance, the longest active streak. One year after losing in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in the finals of the 2011 tournament, Red Berenson’s team has taken a balanced approach to offense, with no player averaging a point per game or more. It seems to be working just fine, though, as senior David Wohlberg (16g, 17a) and CCHA Rookie of the Year Alex Guptill (16g. 17a) lead a Wolverine offense that sits 10th in the nation with 3.25 goals per game. Junior defenseman Lee Moffie is Michigan’s assist leader with 25, to go with seven goals from the blueline.
The star for Michigan, however, has been senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick. Hunwick is one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the country after going 24-11-3 with a 1.98 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, ranking in the top 10 nationally in all three categories. He gets help from his teammates, including senior forward Luke Glendening, who was honored by the CCHA as the conference’s Best Defensive Forward.
Denver: The Pioneers are making their fifth consecutive tournament appearance, but it will be the first time for a freshman class that has made a big initial impact for the Pioneers. Freshman defenseman Joey LaLeggia was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year and claimed a spot on the All-WCHA First Team after posting eight goals and 20 assists in conference play. Overall, he has 11 goals and 27 assists in 42 games to rank fourth nationally in defenseman scoring and sixth nationally among all freshmen. Goaltender Juho Olkinuora, meanwhile, stepped up early when Sam Brittain was sidelined by a knee injury, and has settled into a strong goaltending tandem with the sophomore. For the season, Olkinuora is 9-8-3 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, whole Brittain has gone 8-3-0 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage since the injury.
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Offensively, sophomore forward Jason Zucker leads the Pioneers in goals with 22, and has 24 assists to come in second on the team in total points. Junior forward Drew Shore (21g, 31a) is DU’s overall points leader, while younger brother Nick Shore has 13 goals and 28 assists in his sophomore season under head coach George Gwozdecky.
Ferris State: The Bulldogs are in the tournament for the first time since 2003, when current Pittsburgh Penguins star Chris Kunitz led the way with 79 points. This year’s edition of the Bulldogs doesn’t feature that kind of high-profile scorer — in fact, as in 2003, there are no NHL-drafted players on head coach Bob Daniels’ roster — but the Bulldogs live up to their moniker on defense, allowing just 2.23 goals per game. Goalkeeper Taylor Nelson (18-6-3, 2.18 GAA, .920 SV%) has carried the load for Ferris between the pipes, earning First Team All-CCHA honors while backstopping the Bulldogs to the CCHA Regular Season title. Freshman defenseman Simon Denis has contributed to the defense, earning a spot on the CCHA’s All-Rookie Team.
Up front, senior Jordie Johnston leads the Bulldogs in points with 33, and shares the team lead in goals (18) with junior winger Kyle Bonis. The assist lead is shared between junior forward Matthew Kirzinger and senior defenseman Chad Billins, who have 22 apiece. Billins joined Nelson on the All-CCHA First Team, while Johnston was named to the Second Team.
Cornell: The Big Red is making its third tournament appearance in four years, having clinched a spot on the last day before selection with a win over central New York rival Colgate in the consolation game of the ECAC Hockey tournament. As always, the road to success starts with defense and goaltending for head coach Mike Schafer’s team, as the Big Red allows just 2.27 goals per game. Sophomore goaltender Andy Iles has played every minute in goal for the Big Red, going 18-8-7 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, while junior defenseman Nick D’Agostino (8g, 12a) has led the Big Red blueline corps in front of him.
Up front, just two Big Red players have scored more than 10 goals: junior forward Greg Miller (14g, 16a) and senior forward Sean Collins (13g, 11a). Freshman forward Brian Ferlin (8g, 13a) has made an early impact for the Big Red, garnering a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie team, with classmate Joel Lowry (6g, 16a) joining him as a 20-point scorer.