Frozen Four Preview: UND vs. Boston College

April 5, 2007. St. Louis, Missouri. The NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. Yet another in a seemingly endless string of bouts between two heavyweights. Arguably the two hottest teams in the tournament: Boston College, winners of 12 straight games, versus North Dakota, winners of 19 of their last 21 contests. A furious final seven minutes turns a 2-2 tie into a 6-4 Eagles victory.

This type of game has become almost commonplace for these two clubs. Thursday’s game will mark the seventh time in the past ten seasons that Boston College and North Dakota have met in the NCAA tournament. The teams have played four times in the Frozen Four and twice for the National Championship.

Before we look forward to this Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal matchup, let’s look back at some memorable moments in what has become an intense rivalry….

March 28, 1999. Madison, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 3-1 (en) in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Sioux, who received a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament, lose for only the sixth time all season, and finish the year at 32-6-2, one game short of the Frozen Four.

April 8, 2000. Providence, Rhode Island. UND defeats BC 4-2 (en) in the NCAA title game to claim its seventh national championship. The Sioux rally from a 2-1 deficit after two periods.

April 7, 2001. Albany, New York. BC defeats UND 3-2 (OT) to win its first NCAA crown since 1949. Krys Kolanos nets the game-winner at 4:43 of overtime after UND scores twice in the final four minutes of regulation to even the score.

March 26, 2005. Worcester, Massachusetts. UND defeats BC 6-3 in the NCAA East Regional Final to advance to the first of four consecutive Frozen Fours. Colorado College, Denver, and Minnesota also advance, setting up an all-WCHA Frozen Four.

April 6, 2006. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 6-5 in the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota scores twice in the final five minutes to make it close, but it’s too little, too late.

North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol isn’t reading too much into being matched up against Boston College for the fourth consecutive season.

“We are just happy to be playing at this time of year,“ Hakstol said. “It’s been a season full of challenges, and this will be a great game for us and what has become a much respected but very heated rival.”

Sioux senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux added that the team was focused on the game this Thursday.

“This is a new year, this isn’t last year or 2006,” said Lamoureux, who has played all but one game for UND this season. “We are approaching the game as we always do and preparing as best we can to play our best hockey. I don’t think we’re going to worry too much about what BC is going to do.”

Boston College head coach Jerry York, who picked up his 800th career coaching victory last weekend in the regionals, noted that the two teams have historically collided in the postseason.

“Now we get to play the Sioux again,” said York. “This is the third straight time in the Frozen Four. We’ve got a great history of playing the Sioux. It just seems like if we’re going to advance in the tournament, we have to go through the Sioux at some point.”

Boston College has been to the Frozen Four eight times in the past 11 seasons, winning one championship (2001). North Dakota has made the Frozen Four seven of the past 12 seasons, winning two championships (1997 and 2000).

BC claims three of the top 11 scorers in the country heading into Thursday’s contest. Junior forward Nathan Gerbe, a member of the Hobey Hat Trick, leads the way for Boston College with an impressive 30 goals and 30 assists. Freshman forward Joe Whitney (10-40-50) leads the nation in assists, and sophomore forward Ben Smith (23-22-45) has benefited from being Gerbe’s linemate.

The Eagles also have scoring depth; the top six BC forwards have collected 261 points this season (102 goals, 159 assists). North Dakota’s top six, by comparison, have collected 170 points this year (85 goals, 85 assists).

Where the Fighting Sioux make up the scoring difference, however, is on the blue line. The top four scoring UND defenseman have 93 points this year (17 goals, 76 assists), while the top four Boston College blueliners have 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists).

Boston College Team Profile
National Rankings: #7/#3
PairWise Ranking: #6 (tied)
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 12th of 59 teams
Head Coach: Jerry York (14th season at BC, 334-180-50, .637)
This Season: 23-11-8 Overall, 11-9-7-Hockey East (4th)
Team Offense: 3.57 goals scored/game (3rd of 59 teams)
Team Defense: 2.36 goals allowed/game (14th of 59 teams)
Power Play: 21.7% (46 of 212)
Penalty Kill: 83.9% (177 of 211)
Last Season: 29-12-1 Overall (NCAA Runner-up), 18-8-1 Hockey East (2nd)
Key Players: Junior F Nathan Gerbe (30-30-60, named to the Hobey Baker Hat Trick), Freshman F Joe Whitney (10-40-50), Sophomore F Ben Smith (23-22-45), Junior F Benn Ferriero (17-24-41), Freshman G Jon Muse (23-11-8, 2.26 GAA, .920 SV, 3 SO)
NCAA Championships: 2 (most recent, 2001)
NCAA Appearance: 28th (most recent, 2005)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#2
PairWise Ranking: #3
KRACH Strength of Schedule:1st of 59 teams
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 106-55-15, .645)
This Season: 28-10-4 Overall, 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Team Offense: 3.05 goals scored/game (16th of 59 teams)
Team Defense: 1.76 goals allowed/game (1st of 59 teams)
Power Play: 19.1% (36 of 188)
Penalty Kill: 87.4% (159 of 182)
Last Season: 24-14-5 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F T.J. Oshie (18-27-45, Hobey Baker finalist), Junior F Ryan Duncan (18-22-40), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (15-17-32), Sophomore D Chay Genoway (8-21-29), Senior D Taylor Chorney (3-21-24), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (27-10-4, 1.64 GAA, .936 SV, 6 SO, Hobey Baker finalist)
NCAA Championships: 7 (most recent, 2000)
NCAA Appearance: 23rd (most recent, 2007)

By The Numbers
Last meeting: October 19, 2007 (Chestnut Hill, MA). Boston College and North Dakota battle to a 0-0, two-period tie in a game delayed and ultimately shortened due to fog and poor ice conditions.
Most important meetings: The Sioux and Eagles have met twice to decide the National Championship, with UND taking the title in 2000 and BC winning it all in 2001.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series between the schools, 11-9-1 (.548). The teams first met on December 29, 1959, with the Sioux winning 5-3. In addition to the more recent playoff meetings listed above, UND and BC also played in national semifinal games in 1963 and 1965, splitting the two contests. When the newly-formed Hockey East began play in 1984-1985, it created a five-year interlocking schedule with the WCHA. During that time, Boston College and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 5-2-0 against Len Ceglarski’s Eagles.

Game News and Notes
UND senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux leads the nation in every major goaltending category, including goals-against average (1.64), save percentage (.936), and shutouts (six). Lamoureux needs 17 saves at the Frozen Four to give him 1000 for the season. Boston College forward Nathan Gerbe has seven goals and seven assists in his last seven games. North Dakota is outscoring opponents 44 to 12 in the first period this season. Both teams have plenty of big-game experience. 13 North Dakota juniors and seniors see significant playing time, while 11 Boston College upperclassmen are in the regular lineup.

The Prediction
If previous games between these two teams are any indication, this one will be thrilling and go down to the wire. North Dakota has an edge in goaltending and penalty killing, two areas which become more important in the playoffs. If the Fighting Sioux can contain the speedy forwards from Boston College (and I think they have a chance on the smaller ice sheet), they will win a close contest. If BC can find space and create offense, only Lamoureux will stop the Eagles from advancing to their third consecutive championship game. Former UND head coach Dean Blais once said that in the playoffs, hockey should just be called “goalie”, and I’m sticking with his advice and going with the best goaltender in the country. UND 3-2.

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