NCAA Frozen Four Preview: UND vs. Boston University

Most of the talk surrounding tonight’s North Dakota-Boston University matchup centers around one of the following themes:

Can UND contain the Terriers’ top line of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, and Danny O’Regan?

The three Boston University linemates have combined for 67 goals and 109 assists this season, and all three have shown the ability to put the puck in the net in any situation. With the top seed and last line change, I expect Dave Hakstol to counter with Luke Johnson’s line against the Jack Eichel line as often as possible. Incidentally, BU boasts the nation’s 2nd-best offense (3.85 goals scored /game); North Dakota is ranked 7th defensively (2.17 goals allowed/game).

Will the game be a penalty fest, or will North Dakota be able to roll four lines?

Trading power plays would seem to favor the Terriers (BU is clipping along at over 25 percent with the man advantage), and while UND’s penalty killers have done an admirable job (84.8% on the season), the Green and White would rather get all eighteen skaters involved and use that depth to their advantage.

Which goaltender (BU’s Matt O’Connor or UND’s Zane McIntyre) will be able to make the key saves to propel his team to the national championship game?

If North Dakota has an edge in this game, it’s in net. While Terrier junior netminder Matt O’Connor (24-3-4, 2.10 GAA, .928 SV%, 1 SO) has been more than capable, his counterpart between the pipes for UND has been outstanding. Junior goaltender Zane McIntyre (29-9-3, 2.00 GAA, .931 SV%, 1 SO) has been everything for North Dakota this season, and the accolades keep piling up for the NCHC Goaltender of the Year. McIntyre, one of five finalists for the Mike Richter award and one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker, was recently named the NCAA West Regional Most Outstanding Player after stopping 48 of 50 shots against Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State.

Offensive capability from the blue line is another strength for UND. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 41 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 29 goals and added 90 assists for 119 points, or 2.90 points per game. And furthermore, Dave Hakstol’s squad is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with eight goals and nine assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

Boston University advanced to the Frozen Four with a pair of 3-2 victories over Yale (in overtime) and Minnesota-Duluth at the NCAA Northeast Regional in Manchester, New Hampshire. For his efforts (3 goals, 1 assist in the two wins), BU senior forward Evan Rodrigues was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. North Dakota dispatched Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State by identical 4-1 scores at the NCAA West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota).

With nine freshmen and only two seniors in the regular lineup, the Terriers are the youngest team in college hockey (20 years, 10 months). North Dakota, with 12 upperclassmen, are more than a full year older per player (21 years, 11 months). And in terms of NCAA tournament experience, UND’s seven seniors have already appeared in 56 national tournament games; BU’s two senior skaters (Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues) have combined for 6 appearances.

BU head coach David Quinn, now in his second season behind the bench and with 37 coaching victories to his credit, is making his first appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four. By comparison, UND’s Dave Hakstol has collected 289 wins in eleven seasons and has his team in the national semifinals for the seventh time.

Boston University Team Profile

Head Coach: David Quinn (2nd season at BU, 37-28-9, .561)
National Ranking: #2
This Season: 27-7-5, 14-5-3 Hockey East (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-2-0 (including two overtime wins)
Last Season: 10-21-4, 5-12-3 Hockey East (9th)

Team Offense: 3.85 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.26 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.6% (40 of 156)
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (133 of 160)

Key Players: Freshman F Jack Eichel (24-43-67), Senior F Evan Rodrigues (21-40-61), Junior F Danny O’Regan (22-26-48), Senior F Cason Hohmann (10-18-28), Junior D Matt Grzelcyk (10-27-37), Junior F/D Ahti Oksanen (24-11-35), Junior G Matt O’Connor (24-3-4, 2.10 GAA, .928 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 289-142-43, .655)
National Ranking: #1
This Season: 29-9-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.29 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.17 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (32 of 163)
Penalty Kill: 84.8% (140 of 165)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (18-18-36), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-7-20), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-17-22), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (29-9-3, 2.00 GAA, .931 SV%, 1 SO

By The Numbers

Last meeting: November 23, 2013 (Boston, MA). UND outshot Boston University 58-31 but could manage only a 3-3 tie in front of 4,378 at Agannis Arena. Eight different North Dakota players figured in the scoring, including Adam Tambellini, who scored a power play goal in the third period but is no longer with the team. Zane Gothberg and Matt O’Connor were the goaltenders of record in the contest and combined to make 83 saves. In a penalty-filled contest, both teams went 1-for-7 with the man advantage.

Last meeting in the NCAA tournament: March 25, 2005 (Worcester, MA). North Dakota’s Colby Genoway (2 goals, 2 assists) led the way as UND blanked the Terriers 4-0 at the NCAA East Regional. BU went 0-for-9 on the power play, and UND’s Jordan Parise turned aside 29 shots for the shutout. The Fighting Sioux would go on to defeat Boston College 6-3 in the regional final and advance to the Frozen Four, best known for featuring four WCHA teams and UND’s 4-2 semifinal victory over Minnesota.

Most important meeting: March 29, 1997 (Milwaukee, WI). North Dakota scored five goals in the second period and went on to defeat Boston University 6-4 for the 1997 NCAA championship (the program’s 6th). David Hoogsteen scored two goals for the Fighting Sioux, including a back-breaker with six seconds remaining in the middle frame.

All-time record: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 12-9-2 (.565), helped by a stellar 6-1-1 (.813) record in games played in Grand Forks. 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 University and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 6-1-0 against Jack Parker’s Terriers.

Last Ten: The series is tied 4-4-2 over the past ten games. UND has outscored the Terriers 32-31 in that span.

Game News and Notes

Boston University has outscored opponents 73-26 in third periods and overtime sessions (combined) this season. The Terriers play on a hybrid sheet of ice at Agannis Arena; the playing surface is 90 feet wide; five feet wider than NHL rinks but not as wide as the Olympic ice sheets (100 feet wide). This season, both teams are undefeated when leading after two periods of play (BU 16-0-0, UND 18-0-1). UND head coach Dave Hakstol (17 career NCAA wins) is currently ninth on college hockey’s all-time tournament victories list.

The Prediction

Boston University’s Jack Eichel will figure in the scoring (and win the Hobey), but it won’t be enough for the Terriers. I see North Dakota’s depth, experience, and resolve factoring heavily in a game that probably won’t be decided until well into the night. UND 3, BU 2 (OT).

Bonus Prediction

Dean Blais and the Omaha Mavericks will prove too much for the Providence Friars, setting up an all-NCHC championship game and sending ticket prices falling. UNO 4, PC 2.