NCAA West Region Tournament Preview

Here’s a closer look at the four teams in the NCAA West Regional (Colorado Springs, Colorado):

Game 1: (1) New Hampshire vs. (4) Notre Dame (Friday, March 28, 6:30 p.m. ET)

New Hampshire Team Profile
National Rankings: #5/#4
PairWise Ranking: #4
KRACH Strength of Schedule:11th of 59 teams
Head Coach: Dick Umile (18th season at UNH, 424-206-66, .657)
This Season: 25-9-3 Overall, 19-5-3 Hockey East (1st)
Team Offense: 3.49 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.35 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.6% (33 of 177)
Penalty Kill: 85.7% (162 of 189)
Last Season: 26-11-2 Overall (NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinalist), 18-7-2 Hockey East (1st)
Key Players: Senior F Matt Fornataro (18-28-46), Senior F Mike Radja (19-24-43), Freshman F James vanRiemsdyk (11-20-31), Senior D Brad Flaishans (5-17-22), Senior G Kevin Regan (23-7-1, 2.12 GAA, .933 SV, 3 SO, Hobey Baker Finalist)
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 28th (most recent, 2007)

Notre Dame Team Profile
National Rankings: #12/#12
PairWise Ranking: #13 (tied)
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 27th of 59 teams
Head Coach: Jeff Jackson (3rd season at Notre Dame, 69-41-11, .616)
This Season: 24-15-4 Overall, 15-9-4 CCHA (4th)
Team Offense: 2.79 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.05 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.3% (37 of 242)
Penalty Kill: 89.2% (174 of 195)
Last Season: 32-7-3 Overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 24-4-3 CCHA
Key Players: Sophomore F Ryan Thang (16-11-27), Senior F Mark Van Guilder (11-14-25), Sophomore D Kyle Lawson (4-20-24), Junior G Jordan Pearce (20-14-4, 1.94 GAA, .917 SV, 2 SO)
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: 3rd (most recent, 2007)

What to watch for: How does New Hampshire respond to last weekend’s heartbreaking loss to Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals? (The Wildcats led 2-0 after one period before the Eagles stormed back, winning 5-4 in triple overtime.) How does Notre Dame move on after losing its leading scorer, Erik Condra (15-23-38), in the first round of the CCHA playoffs? And how does Notre Dame play its defensive style on the wide sheet in Colorado Springs?

Who will win: With Condra in the lineup, this would have been my upset special. I still think the Irish have a chance in this game, but they need to score early. I have the Wildcats in a close contest. UNH 2-1.

Game 2: (2) Colorado College vs. (3) Michigan State (Friday, March 28, 10:00 p.m. ET)

Colorado College Team Profile
National Rankings: #6/#6
PairWise Ranking: #5
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 7th of 59 teams
Head Coach: Scott Owens (9th season at Colorado College, 223-120-25, .640)
This Season: 28-11-1 Overall, 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.8% (35 of 177)
Penalty Kill: 89.4% (143 of 160)
Last Season: 18-17-4 Overall, 13-12-3 WCHA (5th)
Key Players: Junior F Chad Rau (28-14-42), Senior F Jimmy Kilpatrick (15-16-31), Sophomore F Andreas Vlassopolous (8-22-30), Senior D Jack Hillen (6-31-37), Freshman G Richard Bachmann (25-8-1, 1.82 GAA, .933 SV, 4 SO)
NCAA Championships: 2 (most recent, 1957)
NCAA Appearance: 19th (most recent, 2006)

Michigan State Team Profile
National Rankings: #9/#9
PairWise Ranking: #9 (tied)
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 20th of 59 teams
Head Coach: Rick Comley (6th season at MSU, 141-84-24, .614)
This Season: 24-11-5 Overall, 19-6-3 CCHA (3rd)
Team Offense: 3.27 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.35 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.8% (46 of 221)
Penalty Kill: 86.7% (156 of 180)
Last Season: 26-13-3 Overall (National Champions), 15-10-3 CCHA
Key Players: Junior F Tim Kennedy (19-21-40), Senior Bryan Lerg (20-18-38), Junior F Justin Abdelkader (18-19-37), Sophomore D Mike Ratchuk (6-19-25), Junior G Jeff Lerg (23-11-5, 2.23 GAA, .925 SV, 4 SO, Hobey Baker finalist)
NCAA Championships: 3 (most recent, 2007)
NCAA Appearance: 26th (most recent, 2004)

What to watch for: This matchup features a goaltending duel between the WCHA Player of the Year (Bachman) and Hobey Baker finalist Jeff Lerg. As I wrote here, Bachman should have been a finalist over Lerg, and we’ll find out on the ice. Michigan State will have trouble adjusting to the big sheet, where Colorado College has lost just twice this season. How do the Tigers respond to two losses last weekend at the WCHA Final Five?

Who will win: The Tigers have both the speedy forwards and mobile defenseman to cause the Spartans fits. Colorado College wins in front of the home crowd. CC 3-2.

West Regional Final: I still feel like CC is a Frozen Four team, but they’ll have to play their best game to get there. New Hampshire plays on Olympic ice (100×200) at Whittmore Center, and will give the Tigers all they can handle. This one may very well go to overtime. CC 3-2.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Check back throughout the weekend for more previews, predictions, analysis, and reaction from the NCAA tournament.

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