NCAA West Regional Preview: North Dakota vs. Boston University

Two seasons ago, UND cruised through the NCAA West Regional at Scheels Arena (Fargo, North Dakota) with a pair of 4-1 victories (vs. Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State). The reward for that accomplishment? A Frozen Four semifinal matchup against Boston University at TD Garden (Boston, Massachusetts). Dave Hakstol, coaching his last college game, saw his team fall behind 2-0 and 4-1 before mounting a late third-period comeback that fell just short (BU’s Jack Eichel potted an empty-net goal with just under twenty seconds remaining to make the final score 5-3).

It was that unfinished business, coupled with a heartbreaking last-second loss to Minnesota in the 2014 national semifinals, that fueled last season’s title run, the eighth in team history.

This time around, it’s the boys in green and white who have the benefit of playing a virtual home game. Boston University has not played well away from Agannis Arena this season, going just 10-8-1 on the road (compared to 13-3-2 at home). Furthermore, since the start of the 16-team format (2003), this is the fourth time that BU has had to fly to a regional. The previous three resulted in first-round losses. Here are the final scores for those three games:

Michigan State 5, Boston University 1 (2007 – Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Minnesota 7, Boston University 3 (2012 – St. Paul, Minnesota)

Denver 7, Boston University 2 (2016 – St. Paul, Minnesota)

In short, things do not look good for the Terriers.

For both schools, the underclassmen have been leading the charge, and that’s no surprise, given the fact that there are 21 combined NHL draft picks on the two rosters (BU 11, UND 10), and those players tend not to make it to their junior or senior seasons in college.

The Terriers’ freshman class, led by forwards Clayton Keller (20-22-42) and Patrick Harper (12-22-34) and defenseman Dante Fabbro (6-11-17), has scored 56 goals and notched 135 points this season. First-year goaltender Jake Oettinger (20-10-3, 2.09 goals-against average .927 save percentage) has carried the load between the pipes for fourth-year head coach David Quinn (82 career head coaching victories at BU).

Clayton Keller’s 42 points are good for ninth place on the all-time BU rookie scoring list, far short of Jack Eichel’s 71 points (2014-15) but the second-highest freshman total at BU since Tony Amonte scored 58 points as a Terrier in 1989-90.

Here’s the Boston University scoring breakdown by class:

Freshmen (six forwards, two defensemen):
56-79-135 in 253 games played (0.53 points/game)

Sophomores (five forwards, two defensemen):
43-87-130 in 200 games played (0.65 points/game)

Juniors (two forwards, three defensemen):
12-24-36 in 114 games played (0.32 points/game)

Seniors (two forwards, one defenseman):
6-11-17 in 98 games played (0.17 points/game)

Here’s the North Dakota scoring breakdown by class:

Freshmen (five forwards, three defensemen):
33-57-90 in 262 games played (0.34 points/game)

Sophomores (six forwards, two defensemen):
62-88-150 in 251 games played (0.60 points/game)

Juniors (three forwards, one defenseman):
27-50-77 in 152 games played (0.51 points/game)

Seniors (one defenseman):
2-7-9 in 37 games played (0.24 points/game)

For Boston University, first- and second-year players have scored 99 of the team’s 117 goals this season. For North Dakota, first- and second-year players have scored 95 of the team’s 124 goals this season.

In terms of overall point production, BU’s freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 265 of 318 points scored (83.3%), while UND’s freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 240 of 326 points scored (73.6%).

A fast start will be key for both squads in today’s NCAA West Regional semifinal. Boston University will want to get an early lead and attempt to quiet the partisan crowd at Scheels Arena, while Brad Berry’s squad will surely want just the opposite – to keep the fans in the game with some early success. To that point, the Terriers have allowed the first goal in their last nine games, with a record of 4-4-1 in those contests.

Boston University seems to have an edge in the special teams battle, boasting the fourth-best penalty kill in the country (87.0 percent) and a power play that clips along at 19.9 percent (21st). North Dakota’s penalty kill checks in at 83.6 percent (19th), and the team has scored on 19.2 percent of power play opportunities (24th).

More specifically, BU has outscored opponents 33-24 in power play/penalty kill situations and added nine shorthanded goals. In the same situations, UND holds a 32-27 advantage with six shorthanded goals.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country, while Boston University’s slate of games ranks as the ninth most difficult.

UND’s all-time tournament winning percentage of .657 (52-25) is the best in Division I men’s hockey history. Since 2004-05, North Dakota has gone 18-4 (.818) in NCAA regional games and qualified for the NCAA Frozen Four in eight of those twelve seasons.

Boston University Team Profile

Head Coach: David Quinn (4th season at BU, 82-53-17, .595)

National Rankings: #6/#6
This Season: 23-11-3 overall, 13-6-3 Hockey East (t-1st)
Last Ten Games: 5-4-1 (including one overtime win)
Last Season: 21-13-5 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 12-6-4 Hockey East (t-4th)

2016-17 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.16 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.27 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.9% (33 of 166)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (161 of 185)

Key Players: Freshman F Clayton Keller (20-22-42), Freshman F Patrick Harper (12-22-34), Sophomore F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (13-19-32), Sophomore F Bobo Carpenter (13-18-31), Sophomore F Jordan Greenway (10-20-30), Sophomore D Charlie McAvoy (4-20-24), Freshman D Dante Fabbro (6-11-17), Freshman G Jake Oettinger (20-13-3, .927 SV%, 2.09 GAA, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 55-21-7, .705)

National Rankings: #10/#10
This Season: 21-15-3 overall, 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 (including one overtime win)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)

2016-17 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.18 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.56 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.2% (32 of 167)
Penalty Kill: 83.6% (138 of 165)

Key Players: Sophomore F Shane Gersich (21-16-37), Freshman F Tyson Jost (16-19-35), Sophomore F Brock Boeser (16-17-33), Junior F Austin Poganski (12-13-25), Sophomore F Rhett Gardner (7-13-20) Junior D Tucker Poolman (7-23-30), Sophomore D Christian Wolanin (5-16-21), Junior G Cam Johnson (20-12-3, 2.38 GAA, .904 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: April 9, 2015 (Boston, MA). In a battle of heavyweights, UND outshot the Terriers 39-28 but trailed for 55 minutes of the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota made it interesting with two late third-period goals but came up just short. Jack Eichel notched three points for BU, including an empty-net goal with under twenty seconds remaining that made the final score 5-3.

Last meeting in the NCAA Regionals: 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-breaking tally with six seconds remaining in the middle frame.

All-time record: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 12-10-2 (.542), 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. The teams first met in 1981.

Last Ten: Boston University has had the better of it lately, going 5-3-2 (.600) over the last ten games between the teams and outscoring UND 32-29 over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

Boston University has outscored opponents 53-28 in third periods and overtime sessions (combined) this season. In second periods this season, UND has outscored opponents 42-27. 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, BU is 10-0-1 when leading after one period of play but just 13-11-2 when trailing or tied. No current Boston University forward has ever scored a goal in the NCAA tournament. Before the 2015 West Regional, North Dakota had played exactly one game in Fargo, a 5-1 victory over the Fargo Flyers on January 18th, 1947. That contest was UND’s second-ever game as a Division I hockey program.

Media Coverage

Friday afternoon’s game will be telecast live on ESPN2 and can also be seen on DirecTV (209) and DISH Network (144). A live stream of the game will also be available via WatchESPN. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

Boston University will give UND fits with its overall team speed and talent, and North Dakota netminder Cam Johnson will need to be up to the challenge, as I expect the Terriers to generate several odd-man rushes in this game. UND’s roster is littered with players who took part in the 2015 West Regional and last season’s title run, and that experience matters. The partisan green and white crowd at Scheels Arena should give North Dakota the push it needs to advance to the regional final. UND 4, BU 3.

Bonus Prediction

In Friday’s second regional semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth will struggle to contain Ohio State’s power play, and the game will hinge on how many penalties are called. If UND is still alive in the tournament, the Scheels Arena crowd might cheer for the underdog Buckeyes. If North Dakota is eliminated in the first game, conference pride among the fans in attendance should turn the tide in the Bulldogs’ favor. As I see it, Scott Sandelin’s crew will find a way to win, setting up an all-NCHC regional final. UMD 4, OSU 2.

Pregame Events (from undsports.com)

The North Dakota Champions Club is hosting an official UND pregame party at Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub. The pregame party starts three hours prior to any game in which UND is participating.

Parking at SCHEELS Arena is limited and fans are encouraged to consider alternate parking options. A shuttle service will run between Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub and Scheels Arena as well as other establishments (check social media accounts for the most current information).

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!