April 8, 2009

Opening Rounds Podcast Recap | Opening Rounds Photo Gallery

By Bo Rottenborn

This Week's Top Matchups

After six months of hockey, only four of the 58 NCAA Division I men's hockey teams still have an opportunity to claim the 2009 national title. The Frozen Four will kick off on Thursday in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., with Miami facing Bemidji State at 5 p.m. ET, while a pair of Hockey East schools - Boston University and Vermont - are set to meet at 8:30 p.m. in the other semi (both games will be televised live on ESPN2). The winners will then meet in the championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Below is a look at each of the remaining teams.

Boston University Terriers
Record, Ranking, NCAA Seed: 33-6-4, No. 1, No. 1 overall

Head Coach: Jack Parker is a coaching legend, having compiled an 814-412-101 (.651) record in 36 seasons guiding BU. He became the first coach to register 800 victories at one school earlier this season and currently ranks second among active coaches in victories and fourth in winning percentage. Parker also broke the NCAA record for most tournament appearances as a head coach (23) this season, and he is coaching in a record 13th NCAA DI semifinal. In all, he is 28-24 in NCAA action and is just one win shy of the NCAA record for total victories (BC's Jerry York has 29).

Before the Tournament: Even for one of the most-accomplished programs in college hockey, the 2008-09 season by BU was impressive. The Terriers started with a 7-4-0 record in their first 11 games, but then became nearly invincible. In fact, BU is 26-2-4 since that slow start, as well as 19-1-3 since mid-January and 10-0-1 in its last 11 games. The Terriers also hold a 10-1-3 record against squads ranked in the top 12 at the time of the game and have exactly doubled their opponents' goal total for the season (168-84). The Terriers were the only Division I team to go perfect in non-conference action (9-0-0) and have not lost to a non-Hockey East team since Jan. 15, 2008 (vs. Dartmouth). BU beat then-No. 3 Northeastern 5-2 to win the Beanpot title for the 29th time in the 57-year history of the event and edged the Huskies on the final weekend for the regular-season Hockey East crown with an 18-5-4 league record. The Terriers had a 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3) end in the conference tournament quarterfinals, but rebounded to take the tourney title - first effectively eliminating Boston College from getting a chance to defend its NCAA title and then winning 1-0 against UMass Lowell in the final. BU enters the semifinals with 33 victories, and no college hockey team has won more than that since the 1997-98 Michigan squad.

Road to the Frozen Four: BU scored the game's first six goals en route to an 8-3 win against Ohio State in the opening round. The quarterfinal against New Hampshire was tied at 1-1 in the waning seconds with BU on a power play, when senior Jason Lawrence took a shot from the left side that was headed wide until it caromed off the body of a sliding UNH player and into the goal to give the Terriers a decisive 2-1 advantage with 14.4 seconds left.

NCAA Tournament History: BU has one of the most-successful NCAA tournament resumes in Division I hockey. The Terriers are playing in the Frozen Four for the 21st time (but first since 1997), which is tied (with BC) for the second-most appearances all-time (Michigan has 23). The Terriers have advanced to the title game nine times and won four NCAA championships (1971, '72, '78, '95). BU has played in the tournament 16 times in the last 20 years and on 31 total occasions (third-most in DI). The Terriers are tied for third in all-time NCAA victories with a 36-32 overall record.

Notes: Senior defenseman Matt Gilroy and sophomore forward Colin Wilson are two of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award ... Wilson is tops in Hockey East and among the national leaders in both points per game (1.27; 6th in Division I) and assists per game (0.90; 4th) and is the first BU player since Chris Drury to register a 50-point season (15-37-52) ... Gilroy, who is undrafted, is the first defenseman ever to be tabbed first-team all-Hockey East three times ... Sophomore forward Nick Bonino leads the nation in plus-minus, at plus-28 - while sophomore defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is tied for second at plus-27 and freshman defenseman David Warsofsky is tied for fourth at plus-25 ... Senior forward Jason Lawrence is second in the NCAA in both power-play goals (14) and game-winning goals (8) ... Freshman goaltender Kieran Millan leads the nation in winning percentage with a 27-2-3 record (.891) and is fifth in goals-against average (1.85) ... BU leads the NCAA in scoring offense (3.91), scoring margin (1.95), combined special teams (.554) and winning percentage (.814) and is second in power play efficiency (.220) and third in scoring defense (1.95).

Against the Frozen Four Field: BU leads the all-time series against Vermont 33-18-6, but has struggled with the Catamounts of late (see UVM section). The Terriers won 7-2 at UVM on Nov. 1, but then lost a pair of one-goal games at home a few weeks later. BU has never played Bemidji State and has split two all-time meetings with Miami.

Vermont Catamounts
Record, Ranking, NCAA Seed: 22-11-5, No. 11, No. 3 in East Region

Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon is in his sixth season at UVM, having compiled a 105-92-31 (.529) record. A finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award for the second year in a row, this is his first NCAA tournament appearance as a head coach, but he played for the 1989 Harvard team that won the NCAA title. Sneddon was the head coach for five seasons at Union prior to coming to UVM.

Before the Tournament: Vermont started out slowly and stood 4-3-2 midway through September, before reeling off five straight wins - including a pair at BU - to jumpstart their season. The Catamounts then didn't lose back-to-back games again during the regular season, ending up in a tie for third place in Hockey East with a 15-8-4 record. After losing to UNH in overtime in the regular-season finale, UVM got swept by UMass Lowell (4-3 in OT and 4-2) at home in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament - whereby heading into the NCAAs on a season-long three-game losing streak.

Road to the Frozen Four: Vermont scored the game's first four goals against fifth-ranked Yale en route to a 4-1 win in the first round. UVM would eventually prevail 3-2 in the quarterfinals against Air Force on an unusual finish. Sophomore defenseman Dan Lawson took a shot from the point that it was determined - when the play was reviewed about five minutes later - had found its way into the upper right corner of the goal and then broken through the netting, causing the puck to ricochet off the boards and allowing play to continue for some time. After the officials got a better look at it, the Catamounts were credited with the goal. Freshman Rob Madore had 46 saves in the game and stopped 70 of 73 shots in the regional (.959).

NCAA Tournament History: Vermont qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997 and the fourth time overall. Prior to this season, the Catamounts were 1-4 all-time in the event. UVM did reach the Frozen Four in 1996, with a team that featured current NHL all-stars Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas. The Catamounts lost 4-3 in double overtime to Colorado College in the semifinals. UVM has never won a postseason tournament since becoming a Division I program in 1974-75. Twice the Catamounts have lost in the championship game of their conference tourney (1989 in the ECAC and 2008 in Hockey East).

Notes: Junior forward Viktor Stalberg was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award and the runner-up to Northeastern's Brad Thiessen for Hockey East Player of the Year ... He is tied for fourth in the nation with 24 goals ... UVM ranks second in Hockey East in fewest penalty minutes per game (13.0) ... The Catamounts are just 42nd out of 58 Division I teams in penalty killing (.813), while BU's power play is second in the country ... Vermont has a 12-7 record in one-goal games this season, and is 22-10 in them since the beginning of last year.

Against the Frozen Four Field: Vermont played BU and Miami during the regular season and had winning records against both, but has never played against Bemidji State. UVM has had much success against the Terriers recently, going 4-1-1 in its last six against BU - as well as 7-6-3 in the series since becoming a member of Hockey East in 2005-06. The Catamounts ended BU's season last year with a 3-1 win in the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament. UVM is the only team in the country with a winning record against the Terriers this season. BU registered a 7-2 road win on Nov. 1, but then the Catamounts came back a few weeks later to take a pair of 4-3 decisions - which marked the first time the Terriers were swept at home since 1992-93. In both games, UVM gave up the first goal, then took the lead only to see the Terriers tie the score at 3-3 before netting the game-winner in the third. Junior forward Brayden Irwin provided the decisive goal at 14:01 on Friday, while senior forward Corey Carlson had the game-winner at 8:07 on Saturday to provide Kieran Millan with his only regular-season defeat. Both teams had success against each other on the power play, with BU converting 6-15 (.400), and UVM going 5-16 (.313). UVM was outshot in all three games, by a combined margin of 105-80. Vermont played a home series against the RedHawks in October, winning 4-3 before tying 3-3. Sophomore forward Justin Milo had the game-winner with less than five minutes remaining in regulation on Friday, while senior forward Peter Lenes had the game-tying score early in the third the next day. UVM is 7-2-1 all-time vs. Miami.

Miami RedHawks
Record, Ranking, NCAA Seed: 22-12-5, No. 13, No. 4 in West Regional

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi is in his 10th season at Miami and has a 209-150-33 (.575) record. He is a three-time CCHA Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award, which he won in 2005-06. Blasi helped MU to its first NCAA tournament bid as a player, before coaching the RedHawks to their first NCAA tournament victory and their first Frozen Four.

Before the Tournament: Despite losing three All-Americans and the nation's leader in goals-against average, Miami put together another strong season to cap off an outstanding four-year stretch of hockey (see below for details). MU was an up-and-down team most of the way, but was ranked in the top 10 throughout the regular season. Miami earned an October sweep at Notre Dame, but stood only 4-3-3 before running off eight straight victories. The RedHawks then lost five in a row, before coming back with a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) that was followed by a 2-4-1 stretch that ended in back-to-back home losses (3-2 in OT and 3-1) to Northern Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals. Miami finished in a tie for second place in the CCHA during the regular season with a 17-7-4-2 mark.

Road to the Frozen Four: The RedHawks scored the game's first three goals and held on for a 4-2 opening-round upset of third-seeded and fourth-ranked Denver. Miami then ended the incredible postseason run of Minnesota Duluth in a 2-1 decision in the quarterfinals. Senior forward Justin Mercier potted both RedHawk goals and freshman goaltender Cody Reichard didn't allow one past him until the Bulldogs had an extra attacker on the ice.

NCAA Tournament History: Miami is one of just four schools to have played in each of the last four NCAA tournaments and has made seven appearances overall. The RedHawks were just 2-6 in the event prior to this season. This is not only Miami's first trip to the Frozen Four, but it is the first time an MU team has played in the semifinals of a national-championship tournament in any sport.

Notes: Miami was the only Division I team to regularly use multiple goaltenders that qualified for the NCAA tournament ... Those goaltenders, Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp, are both freshmen, and both are among the nation's statistical leaders ... Reichard ranks 10th in goals-against average (2.09), while Knapp is 11th in GAA (2.09), as well as seventh in winning percentage (13-5-3, .690) ... The RedHawks are eighth in the nation in scoring defense (2.15) and sixth in scoring margin (+0.95) ... Miami is again one of the nation's top penalty-killing teams, ranking second at .898 after being second in 2006-07 (.893) and first in 2007-08 (.901) ... The RedHawks will face a powerful Bemidji State power play that ranks fifth nationally ... Sophomore forward Carter Camper is tied for third in Division I with 12 power-play goals.

Against the Frozen Four Field: The only meetings between Miami and Bemidji State came in 2000-01 in Bemidji, and the RedHawks won both by 4-2 scores. MU has split two meetings with BU, taking a 5-1 decision in the most recent, in 2004-05. The RedHawks swept Vermont at home last season, but lost and tied at UVM this past October (see UVM section for details). MU is 2-7-1 all-time vs. the Catamounts.

Bemidji State Beavers
Record, Ranking, NCAA Seed: 20-15-1, not ranked, No. 4 in Midwest Region

Head Coach: Tom Serratore is in his eighth season at Bemidji State and has put together a 140-117-29 (.540) record. Four times selected as the CHA Coach of the Year (including in 2008 and '09), he earned his first NCAA tournament victories this season. Serratore is a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award for the fifth time.

Before the Tournament: Like Miami, the Beavers have had a season full of hot-and-cold stretches. After starting with four consecutive losses (by a combined 21-6 margin), BSU went 8-3-0 in its next 11 - but that would be followed by a six-game losing streak. The Beavers then turned things around for good, and are 14-2-1 since Jan. 24. Bemidji was 12-5-1 to claim the regular-season crown in the CHA and then went on to beat Alabama Huntsville (4-1) and Robert Morris (3-2 in OT on a goal by Matt Read) to win the league tournament.

Road to the Frozen Four: Bemidji State got up early and never looked back en route to a 5-1 upset of No. 2 Notre Dame in the opening round of the tournament. The Beavers were outshot 35-19, but scored the games' first four goals to earn their first win over a nationally-ranked opponent since 2006. BSU gave up the first goal against Cornell in the quarterfinals, but came back for a 4-1 victory to become the first CHA school to reach the Frozen Four (league teams had been 1-7 in the NCAAs prior to this season). The Beavers were outshot 61-40 in the two games, but outscored their opponents 9-2. Sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton made 59 saves (.967), while regional MVP Tyler Scofield had four goals and two assists.

NCAA Tournament History: Bemidji State is making its third appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament and had been 0-2 prior to this season, but the Beavers had great success in other national-championship events prior to moving to Division I in 1999-2000 (see details below). BSU could become the first program ever to win national titles at every level of college hockey.

Notes: Bemidji State's all-time winning percentage of .663 is the highest among all of the current Division I programs ... Over the last five seasons, BSU has a .704 winning percentage in CHA play, which is the best mark for any Division I school in conference action during that span ... Bemidji State's 20 victories are the fewest for a team in the Frozen Four since 1980, when Dartmouth had 18 and Cornell had 16 (both qualified directly into the semifinals of the tournament) ... The Beavers' top line of seniors Tyler Scofield and Matt Francis and sophomore Matt Read has combined for 19 goals - four of them game-winners - and 18 assists over the last six games ... Scofield is fifth in Division I in goals per game (22, 0.65) and has 13 points (8-5) in his last five games ... CHA Rookie of the Year Brad Hunt is fifth nationally among defensemen and sixth among freshmen in points per game (0.89) ... Bemidji ranks fifth in DI in power play efficiency (.204).

Against the Frozen Four Field: Bemidji State played Miami twice at home during the 2000-01 season, and lost by 4-2 scores on both occasions. The Beavers have never played BU or Vermont.

This Week's Televised Games
Thursday, April 9
#13 Miami vs. Bemidji State, 5 p.m. (NCAA Semifinals) - ESPN2
(1) #1 Boston University vs. #11 Vermont, 8:30 p.m. (NCAA Semifinals) - ESPN2
Friday, April 10
Hobey Baker Award Ceremony, 7 p.m. - ESPNU
Saturday, April 11
NCAA Championship Game, 7 p.m. - ESPN
(Times are Eastern)

An Accomplishment or Milestone

Bemidji State may be making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four, but the Beavers are no stranger at all to tremendous success in national-championship events. In fact, when taking into account results across all divisions and associations, Bemidji State is the most-accomplished college hockey program of all-time. In all, the Beavers have made 29 appearances in national-championship tournaments, compiling a 54-25 (.684) record, and have reached the title game in 20 of those events, claiming 13 championships (five in NCAA Division II, one in NCAA Division III and seven in NAIA). Only twice in those 29 appearances has Bemidji not posted a top-four finish in the national championship, and - incredibly - only once in history have the Beavers been eliminated from the national championship tournament by a team that did go on to win it all (in 1981, BSU lost to Wisconsin-Superior in the NAIA semifinals before the Yellowjackets lost to Augsburg in the championship game). When including results from all NCAA divisions and NAIA (which no longers sponsors hockey) no varsity college hockey program has won more championships, played in more championship games or recorded more national top-four finishes than Bemidji State. The Beavers dominated the now-defunct NAIA Championship, claiming titles in 1968, '69, '70, '71, '73, '79 and '80 before joining the NCAA. Bemidji State also owns the best results ever in the discontinued NCAA Division II Championship, having won five championships (1984, '93, '94, '95 and '97). BSU also won the 1986 NCAA Division III championship. Bemidji was a member of Division II until moving up to DI for the 1999-2000 season. The Beavers have qualified for the NCAA tournament three times since then. Bemidji State gave top-ranked and eventual NCAA champion Denver its toughest test (the Pioneers won their other three NCAA games that year by a combined score of 14-5) in the opening round of the 2005 tournament before losing in overtime in its Division I debut. A year later, Bemidji State lost to eventual champion Wisconsin in the first round. Much of BSU's postseason success came under Bob Peters, who coached the Beavers for 34 seasons and has an unparalleled 13 national titles to his credit. Prior to his time at Bemidji, Peters was the head coach of North Dakota, leading the Fighting Sioux to a third-place finish in the 1965 NCAA tournament. He also served as commissioner of College Hockey America from 2001-08.

Statistics Worth Noting

Miami is making its first-ever appearance in the Frozen Four, but the RedHawks have been one of the elite teams in college hockey over the past few seasons. In fact, Miami has a 105-43-14 record during the past four campaigns, and that winning percentage (.691) is the best of any Division I school during that span. The RedHawks are one of just four teams (along with Michigan, New Hampshire and North Dakota) to have earned invitations to each of the last four NCAA tournaments - and that came after MU had reached the NCAAs on just three prior occasions. Miami had to have been pleased when Boston College failed to make this year's tournament, since the Eagles eliminated the RedHawks in each of the last three years. In 2008, Miami - which was the No. 2 overall seed - lost in overtime in the quarterfinals against eventual national-champ BC, which easily won its other three tournament games by a combined margin of 15-4. MU upset the national No. 4 seed, UNH, in the opening round of the 2007 tournament for its first-ever victory in the NCAAs. That springboarded the RedHawks to an outstanding 2007-08 campaign, in which Miami finished 33-8-1, was in the top five of the national rankings every week - including 10 weeks at No. 1 - and led NCAA Division I in both scoring offense (4.02) and scoring defense (1.86) to become the first team to do that since the NCAA began officially announcing annual team statistical champions in 1995-96. The RedHawks won the 2006 CCHA regular-season crown and then finished second in both 2007 and '08 and tied for second again this season. This has been perhaps the most surprising campaign for MU, though, considering that six players - including three All-Americans and both goaltenders - signed pro contracts following last season. Among those losses were current Nashville Predators right wing Ryan Jones, who was one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award last year, finished third nationally in goals (31) and concluded his career with 21 game-winning tallies (which is tied for the second-most in NCAA history). Also gone are All-Americans Nathan Davis - one of the 10 Hobey Baker finalists and the CCHA Best Defensive Forward in 2006-07 - and Alec Martinez, who was third among DI defensemen in scoring last season (9-23-32) and was tabbed the CCHA's Best Defensive Defenseman. Starting goaltender Jeff Zatkoff - who led the country in save percentage (.933) and goals-against average (1.72) and was second in winning percentage (27-8-1, .764) - is also gone, as is his backup, 2005-06 CCHA Goaltender of the Year Charlie Effinger.

Spotlight on Former College Players in the NHL

This week, we take a quick look at which players participating in the Frozen Four have been drafted by NHL teams, as well current NHL players who used to play for the Frozen Four squads.

Boston University
NHL Draftees on Current Roster (13): Senior forwards John McCarthy (San Jose) and Brandon Yip (Colorado); junior defensemen Eric Gryba (Ottawa) and Brian Strait (Pittsburgh); sophomore forwards Nick Bonino (Anaheim) and Colin Wilson (Nashville); sophomore defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (Colorado) and Colby Cohen (Colorado); freshman forwards Corey Trivino (N.Y. Islanders), Andrew Glass (Washington) and Vinny Saponari (Atlanta); freshmen defenseman David Warsofsky (St. Louis); and freshman goaltender Grant Rollheiser (Toronto)
Former Players Who Have Played in the NHL in 2008-09 (13): Adrian Aucoin (Calgary), Chris Bourque (Washington), John Curry (Pittsburgh), Rick DiPietro (N.Y. Islanders), Chris Drury (N.Y. Rangers), Mike Grier (San Jose), Dan LaCouture (Carolina), Freddy Meyer (N.Y. Islanders), Jay Pandolfo (New Jersey), Tom Poti (Washington), Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis), David Van der Gulik (Calgary) and Ryan Whitney (Anaheim and Pittsburgh)

NHL Draftees on Current Roster (4): Junior forward Viktor Stalberg (Toronto), sophomore defenseman Kyle Medvec (Minnesota), freshman forward Matt Marshall (Tampa Bay) and freshman defenseman Drew MacKenzie (Buffalo)
Former Players Who Have Played in the NHL in 2008-09 (7): Graham Mink (Washington), Torrey Mitchell (San Jose), Eric Perrin (Atlanta), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay), Patrick Sharp (Chicago), Jaime Sifers (Toronto) and Tim Thomas (Boston)

NHL Draftees on Current Roster (4):
Senior forward Justin Mercier (Colorado), sophomore forward Justin Vaive (Anaheim), freshman forward Trent Vogelhuber (Columbus) and freshman defenseman Will Weber (Columbus)
Former Players Who Have Played in the NHL in 2008-09 (3): Dan Boyle (San Jose), Andy Greene (New Jersey) and Ryan Jones (Nashville)

Bemidji State
NHL Draftees on Current Roster (1):
Junior defenseman Chris Peluso (Pittsburgh)
Former Players Who Have Played in the NHL in 2008-09 (2): Matt Climie (Dallas) and Andrew Murray (Columbus)