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John Connolly | The Boston Herald | March 25, 2016

NCAA Hockey: What to watch for in 2016 Division I tournament

  Providence begins to defend its 2015 national title as the 2016 NCAA Hockey tournament opens on Friday.

Boston College's Jerry York, the coach with the most wins in college hockey history, offered a keen assessment of this year's NCAA hockey tournament:

"This year, I don't think there is a dominant team that everybody says, 'Hey, this is the team that's going to win it.' I think it's wide open," York said. "Our regional is arguably the toughest one, but if I was in any region I'd be saying the same thing, because you look at the regions, they're (all) hard."

One of the following 16 teams will be hoisting the national championship trophy in Tampa, Fla., on April 9.


No. 1 Providence (27-6-4) vs. No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (18-5-5)

Game time: Today, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3

PC path to victory: You can bet coach Nate Leaman will use Friars' controversial loss in Hockey East tourney to motivate defending national champs. PC, which features most seniors (nine) of any tournament team, is 22-0-4 when leading after two periods and own an NCAA-best plus 33 scoring margin (47-14) in the first period.

UMD path to victory: Bulldogs were pedestrian fourth-place finisher in NCHC but ran off seven straight wins before losing in tournament title game to St. Cloud State. UMD led by speedy center Tony Cameranesi (10-26-36) and will go only as far as sophomore goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo (1.92 GAA, .922 SP) takes them.

MORE: Complete bracket | Scoreboard

No. 2 Boston College (26-7-5) vs. No. 3 Harvard (19-10-4)

Game time: Today 8 p.m., ESPNU

BC path to victory: Eagles possess as much talent as any team in nation, but since winning the Beanpot have gone just 6-3-1 while often leaving goalie Thatcher Demko hung out to dry. BC is the third-most penalized team in the nation (14.8 PIM-per-game) "We have to get back to fundamentals and break pucks out cleaner," said York.

Harvard path to victory: The Crimson are 0-3 in Worcester tournament games and only 2-7-1 against the NCAA field this season. When Harvard lost to BC, 3-2, in the 'Pot, Crimson were outshot 33-23, and top line of Jimmy Vesey, Alex Kerfoot and Kyle Criscuolo had 12 of them. Harvard needs more depth production to compete with the Eagles.

Regional final: Tomorrow, 9 p.m., ESPNU

EAST REGIONAL (at Albany, N.Y.)

No. 1 Quinnipiac (29-3-7) vs. No. 4 RIT (18-14-6)

Game time: Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPNU

Quinnipiac path to victory: Bobcats own bulls-eye on back as tournament's top seed despite never winning it before. Bobcats displayed potency with 11-1-3 road record and 3-0-0 neutral site showing. Ace scorer Sam Anas (23-25-48) was hurt in the ECAC final win over Harvard and his status is unclear. Senior forward Travis St. Denis (20-24-44) is the tempo-setter.

RIT path to victory: Tigers coach Wayne Wilson no stranger to Big Show, winning a title as a player at Bowling Green (for coach Jerry York) in 1984. Wilson guided fourth-place RIT from No. 36 in national pairwise to an Atlantic Hockey playoff title and the final spot in the field.

No. 2 UMass- Lowell (24-9-5) vs. No. 3 Yale (19-8-4)

Game time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3

UML path to victory: Rematch of 2013 Frozen Four semifinal won by Yale, 3-2, in overtime. UML leads series, 8-4-0. "After 38 games, this is a wonderful reward for the guys," said River Hawks coach Norm Bazin. Read: Revenge. UML senior goalie Kevin Boyle was Hockey East co-Player of the Year.

Yale path to victory: Bulldogs have lost their last three games, including ECAC quarterfinal series to Dartmouth at home. Junior goalie Alex Lyon, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, posted a stingy 1.59 GAA and nifty .938 SP. Bruins brass could be on hand to monitor defenseman Rob O'Gara, one of their draft picks. Yale's penalty-kill (94.3 percent) on pace to set NCAA mark.

Regional final: Sunday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU

MIDWEST REGIONAL (at Cincinnati, Ohio)

No. 1 North Dakota (30-6-4) vs. No. 4 Northeastern (22-13-5)

Game time: Today, 2 p.m., ESPNU

North Dakota path to victory: Longtime assistant Brad Berry has stepped in for mentor Dave Hakstol to lead a talent-laden squad, backboned by Vancouver draft pick Brock Boeser (25-26-51), Drake Caggiula (19-25-44) and Nick Smaltz (10-32-42). North Dakota seeking first title since beating BC in 2000.

NU path to victory: Huskies coach Jim Madigan was a player on the only NU Frozen Four team, which lost to North Dakota in 1982. He'd like nothing better than a little payback right here. NU is riding a program-best 14-game unbeaten streak and has scored at least three goals every game during the streak. NU's 22 wins are third-most in program history.

RELATED: Breaking down the Midwest Regional

No. 2 Michigan (24-7-5) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (19-10-7)

Game time: Today, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU

Michigan path to victory: Coach Red Berenson won a title here in 1996, but brings a young club to this one. Wolverines' power play is strong (31.8 percent) -- best since 2002-03. And top line of Kyle Connor (69 points), JT Compher (60), and Tyler Motte (54) are first linemates all to be Hobey Baker finalists.

ND path to victory: Under-achieving Irish were upset by sizzling NU in the Hockey East semifinals. ND boasts top-level performers in All-HE forward and B's draft choice Anders Bjork, all-Rookie selection Bobby Nardella and Italian import Thomas DiPauli. The key is sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen, who has ability to steal a series or region on his own.

Regional final: Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2

WEST REGION (at Saint Paul, Minn.)

No. 1 St. Cloud State (31-8-1) vs. No. 4 Ferris State (19-14-6)

Game time: Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPNews

SCS path to victory: Huskies are imposing 13-3-1 on road and 3-0 at neutral sites and have good leadership with seven seniors. Huskies pace nation in scoring from blueline with 121 points (22 goals, 99 assists). Senior forward Joey Benik and sophomore Patrick Russell have combined for 13 game-winners.

Ferris State path to victory: Coach Bob Daniels' squad was only 30th in pairwise before ripping off four straight wins and capturing the WCHA title to earn automatic bid. Bulldogs reached Frozen Four in 2012, the last time it was held in Tampa. Look for Ferris to play thump-and-run behind aggressive skaters Gerald Mayhew and Brandon Anselmini.

RELATED: St. Cloud State feeling confident heading into the tournament

No. 2 Denver (23-9-6) vs. No. 3 Boston University (21-12-5)

Game time: Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

Denver path to victory: Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery has rejuvenated DU program. Junior forward Trevor Moore can snipe with the best of them while Nolan Zajac and Will Butcher anchor defense. If there is a concern it might be in net where sophomore Tanner Jaillet (2.22 GAA, .9295 SP) and junior Evan Crowley (2.06 GAA, .929 SP) split time.

BU path to victory: With a trio of performers like senior captain Matt Grzelcyk, right wing Danny O'Regan and emerging freshman Charlie McAvoy, BU could be sleeper. O'Regan (153 points) leads all tournament players in career points. A worry for BU, which is making back-to-back NCAA trips for the first time in nine years, is 6-9-2 road mark (1-1-1 neutral).

Regional final: Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPNU

This article was written by John Connolly from Boston Herald and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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