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College Hockey:
East Regional preview: Potential for a new player

The Frozen Four could see an unfamiliar face emerge from the East Regional of the 2011 NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.

Minnesota-Duluth was last in the national semifinals in 2004. Yale last made it in 1952. Union and Air Force have never been there.

Here are the previews for the East Regional. Check to the right for game times and locations.

Yale Bulldogs

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Keith Allain, fifth season
Record: 27-6-1 (17-4-1 ECAC, second)
How they got in: Automatic qualifier, ECAC Hockey tournament champion
Regional seed: First
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2010
Best NCAA finish: Third place, 1952
Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: The nation’s most prolific offense has strong support in goal this time around.
Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: East Regional foes Union and Air Force have already beaten the Blue this year, and Minnesota-Duluth also spent time as the nation’s No. 1 team.

20110319 IMG9032 East Regional preview: Potential for a new player

Broc Little shares the team lead with 18 goals (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and the Bulldogs have been hauling around their status as the ECAC’s anointed representatives for some time now.

Their only consecutive losses of the year — in a road-weekend sweep at Rensselaer and Union — ultimately doomed the Blue to second place in the regular season, but resolve and resilience (and some very hot goaltending) elevated Yale to its second Whitelaw Cup in three seasons with last Saturday’s 6-0 bludgeoning of Cornell.

The Elis (and there are few teams with more nicknames than Yale) are a veteran crew that features seven double-digit goal-scorers despite an abbreviated 34-game Ivy schedule. Junior Brian O’Neill and senior Broc Little led the side with 18 goals apiece, while sophomore Andrew Miller’s 45 points claims the team lead in that category.

Seniors Denny Kearney and Chris Cahill are equally lethal, combining for 73 points, but what may surprise many outside the league is how steady the Blue’s goaltending has been all year: Senior Ryan Rondeau finally won the reins to the starter’s position early in the season, and he hasn’t disappointed with a nation-leading 1.83 goals-against average and second-best .932 save percentage. Rondeau is as hot as you can get right now, riding a 202:15, three-game shutout streak.

NCAA first-round opponent Air Force came back from a 3-0, third-period deficit against Yale in Colorado in November, stunning the Bulldogs 4-3 and giving the visitors their first loss of the season (having started 5-0-0). That was the last game in which Rondeau didn’t play for Yale, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Bulldogs wouldn’t take the Falcons just as seriously as any other top-flight opponent.

– Brian Sullivan

Union Dutchmen

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Nate Leaman, eighth season
Record: 26-9-4 (17-3-2 ECAC, first)
How they got in: At-large bid
Regional seed: Second
Last NCAA tournament appearance: Never
Best NCAA finish: First appearance
Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: D-I’s best power play and second-stingiest defense bolstered Union to a 15-1-1 run through the toughest part of its league schedule.
Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: Two weeks off for an inexperienced team might take all the wind out of the Dutchmen’s sails.

20110204 IMG6981 East Regional preview: Potential for a new player

Goaltender Keith Kinkaid has a sub-2.00 goals-against average (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

It took Union all season long to get out from beneath the formidable shadow cast by standard-bearing Yale, but the Dutchmen finally pulled ahead and held on for the one-point win in the standings. On the heels of a very successful 2009-10 campaign, the Dutchmen took it to the next level this year in obtaining their first-ever Cleary Cup as regular-season champions and earning an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

Following three seasons of play in a league dominated by Yale, it somehow seems only fitting that Union should play against another pack of Bulldogs in the East Regional … and that this new opponent would look so familiar.

“I see them actually a lot like Yale,” Union coach Nate Leaman said of Minnesota-Duluth. “They have a very good top line — probably one of the best top lines in the country — and they’re a very good transition team. Obviously, at one point in the season they were the No. 1 team in the country. Very good team, great offensive power, very good power play, and we feel it’s going to be a real good game.”

An extra week off hasn’t fazed the coach whatsoever. In fact, the only thing that could’ve trumped the extra down time would’ve been the ECAC tournament’s Whitelaw Cup.

“It was great for us, to be perfectly honest,” Leaman said of the break. “It was exam week for us last week, so our players had finals Monday through Thursday, so we didn’t see the guys ’til Thursday afternoon.”

The Dutchmen returned to the ice with clearer heads and total focus, he said, as the youth-driven squad prepares for a favorable position.

“I think Bridgeport is absolutely the best draw for us,” Leaman said. “With the amount of alums that we have in Connecticut and New York City areas, I think we’re going to get a real good turnout of Union fans.”

Union boasts nearly a half-dozen dangerous strikers, but it was freshman Daniel Carr who led the team in goals (20) and junior Kelly Zajac — does that surname ring a bell, WCHA fans? — who leads the crew with 42 points. Sophomore goaltender Keith Kinkaid has been exceptional this year with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average.

– Brian Sullivan

Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Scott Sandelin, 11th season
Record: 22-10-6 (15-8-5 WCHA, fourth)
How they got in: At-large bid
Regional seed: Third
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2009
Best NCAA finish: Runner-up 1984
Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: When the Bulldogs score, look for Nos. 12, 22 and 37 on the ice. Justin Fontaine and Mike and Jack Connolly are very good puck movers and are extremely dangerous in the offensive zone.
Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: There’s a big obstacle in the way. Should UMD beat Union on Friday, the Bulldogs will likely get the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, Yale, Saturday.

umd J Connolly East Regional preview: Potential for a new player

Minnesota-Duluth's Jack Connolly is a Hobey Baker finalist (photo: UMD Athletics).

The way last weekend turned out for Minnesota-Duluth at the WCHA Final Five was the exact opposite of what the Bulldogs expected, but that’s in the past and UMD has a clean slate.

Days after UMD was bounced from the Final Five with a 3-2 overtime loss to Bemidji State in Thursday’s quarterfinals, the Bulldogs have shifted their focus toward what’s ahead.

“One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to try and win a national championship,” said forward Jack Connolly. “It’s a completely new season starting this weekend, and we would love to get a couple of wins this weekend to get back and play in St. Paul.”

No. 3 seed UMD will face second-seeded Union in the East Regional semifinals at 3 p.m. EDT Friday in Bridgeport, Conn. The winner will face either Yale or Air Force in Saturday’s championship game.

It was the second season in a row in which UMD lost in the Final Five quarters, and the quarterfinal loss to North Dakota ended the Bulldogs’ season in 2010. They finished 17th in the PairWise Rankings.

UMD was ninth in the PairWise at the completion of the conference tournaments this season, good enough for an at-large bid.

The Bulldogs put themselves in position for an at-large bid this season, thanks to their big guns on offense.

Jack Connolly’s 16 goals and 39 assists make him one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists. He leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 55 points, has scored at least one point in 14 of UMD’s last 15 games and has played in 121 straight games.

Connolly has failed to record a point in just six games this season.

Justin Fontaine has 20 goals and 32 assists, has a team-leading 10 power-play goals and is on an eight-game scoring streak.

Mike Connolly leads UMD in goals with 26, seventh-most in the country. He also has 23 assists and has scored points in eight out of the last nine games.

“We’re focusing on this week of practice and trying to get back to the way we were playing before Christmas break,” Jack Connolly said. “There’s been great tempo and we’re really looking forward to getting back on the rink and playing Union this week.”

– Tyler Buckentine

Air Force Falcons

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Frank Serratore, 14th season
Record: 20-11-6 (14-7-6 Atlantic Hockey, second)
How they got in: Automatic qualifier, Atlantic Hockey tournament champions
Regional seed: Fourth
Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2009
Best NCAA finish: Regional finalist, 2009
Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: The Falcons have plenty of experience, making the tournament for the fourth time in five years. Air Force’s last trip to the tournament resulted in an upset of Michigan in Bridgeport.
Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: Yale and potential quarterfinal-round opponents Union and Minnesota-Duluth will not be taking the 16th-seeded Falcons lightly. Air Force erased a three-goal deficit to defeat Yale 4-3 on Nov. 14. Plus, Atlantic Hockey has pulled off some big upsets in the tournament in recent years.

DSC 8958 East Regional preview: Potential for a new player

Jacques Lamoureux (right) scored three goals at the Atlantic Hockey championship (photo: Omar Phillips).

The element of surprise won’t be there for the Air Force Falcons this time, not after defeating Michigan in the same building two years ago, and after beating Yale earlier this season in a game in which Air Force had 10 power plays.

“I’m sure Yale is looking forward to playing us again,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. “Playing someone else, we might have had the chance to sneak up. But then again, anyone with a working memory knows what the Atlantic [Hockey] champions have done to No. 1 seeds.”

Air Force is coming off a 1-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology in the Atlantic Hockey finals, played in a front of a record, partisan crowd at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. Rookie goaltender Jason Torf was the difference, making 40 saves in posting his second shutout of the postseason after not recording any in 23 starts in the regular season.

“We’ll see if the boy or the man shows up,” said Serratore of his 19-year-old goalie. “He’ll be going into the game with a lot of confidence. He did a great job overcoming a hostile environment [in Rochester].”

Senior Jacques Lamoureux has been doing what he goes best: score goals. The former Atlantic Hockey player of the year and Hobey Baker finalist scored Air Force’s final three goals of the AHA tournament, two third-period goals to erase a 2-1 Holy Cross lead in the semifinals, and the lone tally in the 1-0 win over RIT. Lamoureux has 79 goals in three seasons with the Falcons after scoring once in his freshman season at Northern Michigan.

“He looks and find seams in the coverage,” said Serratore. “He has great instincts. A sixth sense around the net. Just a knack for scoring goals. And the goals he scores, they’re big goals. He had a couple [of goals] when we beat AIC 12-0 but other than that so many of his goals have been game-winners or back-breakers.”

As impressive as Lamoureux and the rest of the Falcons offense has been, credit also has to go to the Air Force defense, which has contributed 27 goals and 70 assists so far, as well as limiting the opposition to just two goals in the championship semifinals and finals. Juniors Scott Mathis and Tim Kirby were named to the AHA all-tournament team.

“Our defense is mobile and skilled,” said Serratore. “They’ve very quick and almost like another having another offense.”

Playing at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport also has its appeal to Serratore.

“It’s familiar territory,” he said. “We know the rink. We played Sacred Heart there this season and we were there last time [the Falcons made the NCAA tournament in 2009]. It’s Yale country but we’ll be ready.”

– Chris Lerch


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  • SIOUXME

    UND and DU got screwed getting put in the same bracket. I think these two teams, along with BC, are probably the most talented in the tourney. That said, if the Sioux get Gregoire back, they should advance. Yale and Union in the same bracket is a travesty. I know they are proven to be very good, but they did not play a consistently hard schedule. I bet they are a UNO in the WCHA, not number 2 in the country.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N2OICDAG4QBRJKEV3X7BOF4YEM P. C. Majxx

      NCAA pairwise picking for the tourney bracket is bs from the get go, either way… Go Sioux!

      • BU-HE-Fan

        So, the process of PWR picking was fine from 2002-2006 when WCAH won 5 in a row, but now that HE is flexing its muscle, at the expense of the vaunted all-omnipotent WCHA, it sucks?? Top teams from the same conference have been plsced in the same regional since they started regionals in 1992. Deal with it.

        Even though UND had their heads handed to them twice @Maine back in October, they are clearly one of the top 3-4 teams in the country right now. But Denver lost at home badly to BC and stumbled into the playoffs losing 4 of 7 to some conference bottom feeders. They got the seeding they deserved, but I forgot. They come from the WAAAAAAAAA-CHA!!!! What a bunch of girlie-men (and women I guess).

        • Can’t wait for #8

          I’d like to see you stand up to the smallest player in the dub. You can type all you want about dub players but I know you would never have any guts to say any of this to a players face. So quit being a dumbass and talk about your own team.. o wait you can’t… conference.

    • sioux me

      gregoire will be back, he was held out for precautionary measures during the final five. what team besides the sioux have 2 number 1 lines? sick nasty…love it

      • BUHEFAN

        So Sue-me, love the way you answer your own whiny updates.

    • http://profiles.google.com/emploch Eric Ploch

      UNO lost to quinnipiac twice. Yale beat quinnipiac twice and one of those times was 5-1. Comparing against common opponents is hard to do by when you lose to a team twice, and another team beats that team twice its hard to say you’re on the same level

    • Duluth06ChE

      Ummm, shouldn’t you be glad Yale and Union are in the same bracket? It means only 1 of them can advance to the Frozen Four. Oh right, you’re a Sue fan and think any team not in the WCHA sucks. How has that worked out for your team the last few seasons?

      • Can’t wait for 8

        Alteast UMD is in our conference so we can beat you every year

    • Matto

      another round of how great DU is? Gimme a break. They’re stuck in the same region as UND in part because they lost a home game to Michigan Tech.

      • http://twitter.com/topherbaron Topher Baron

        that Tech loss didn’t change anything for DU, since Tech was so far away from being a team under consideration. Losing to the Sioux in the FF championship game did though, had they won, they’d be likely the 5 seed overall. Yale lost a few games that were against teams they shoudln’t have lost to, but it didn’t matter because those teams were so terrible in the Pairwise’s eyes…

        • Matto

          Winning pct matters to Pairwise, so yes, Denver’s loss to Mich Tech mattered. Besides, it’s just embarrassing. They also lost at home to a bad St. Cloud team, and that hurt them more because St. Cloud somehow made it in to the TUC list.

          • random junk

            St. Cloud gets to be a TUC because they play teams like North Dakota and Denver. Regardless of if they win or lose they get the Strength of Schedule boost.

            Interestingly, if you go back to the old rule that a TUC was one in the top 25 of RPI St. Cloud is still a TUC. The only change to the tournament would be Dartmouth in at 14, Colorado College drops to 15, and RPI is out at 16.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_POJ7NAFPJEDI3PW72PQ4GI4OFY Anonymous

    I never heard any fans whine more than Sioux fans and I live near Red Sox nation so that says something.

    • UNDnursing

      you are whining right now, hypocrite

    • boolaboola

      I know, right? I used to have zero opinion about people from North Dakota, and last year thought how great it was going to be to play a traditional powerhouse and show them what Yale’s got.

      Now, all I can think of when I hear NoDak is that its a state covered in thousands of babies, whining on about everything from their own school’s administration to why even though they’re #1 in the polls they still don’t get respect. Just shut the heck up already, will ya? I get it…you have nothing else to do up there but sit on message boards and cry like a two year old. If the ECAC teams are that bad then they’ll get bounced and it’s no skin off your back. If NoDak’s that good then they’ll win it all. But for chrissakes let the kids play the damn game before prattling on about how disrespected you are. (And of all teams! You’d think NoDak was never thought of as a national powerhouse.)

    • Bj13

      Granted Union fell on their face against the 12th seed Colgate in the ECAC tourney (After having 3rd period leads in both games) but don’t count them out. They are the regular season champs, went on a 15-1 streak at one point during the season, and with time off this could actually help. There are a ton of Union alum in CT and the fan base will be huge in Bridgeport. Minnesota Duluth is a solid team and it should be a good game, but I see Union winning.

  • Umdguy2002

    I am a big UMD fan, but I do have to agree, putting the two best teams from the best conference in the same bracket wasn’t really fair. I am very happy with the draw we got though, no WCHA team until the championship.

    • Duluth06ChE

      Yeah, except for the fact that they bracketed the tournament EXACTLY LIKE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO! I’m also a UMD fan and a big WCHA booster, but I have no problem with the bracketing. Yale and Union could also be complaining about being slotted together, but I haven’t heard anything from their fans.

      If anyone should be complaining it should be Miami. Instead of taking the trip to St. Louis to play CC like they should, they have to travel to Manchester to play UNH in what is basically a home game for them. That was a total shaft just because of the first round matchup between BC and UNH. But hey, that’s just the way it works out.

      In conclusion, I agree with the first poster, UND fans whine like it’s their sole purpose in life.

    • Matto

      The WCHA hasn’t placed multiple teams in the Frozen 4 in several years. What makes you think this year will be any different? As for “best conference,” both the Hockey East and CCHA have been better — much better — than the WCHA over the past 4 seasons.

      • http://twitter.com/topherbaron Topher Baron

        they probably will this year. BC could easily go down…and if UMD can beat Union, they will be ready for Yale (unless it’s AF).

        • Matto

          Optimism is great, but the realistic WCHA max is 2, and that depends on UMD pulling through and UND/DU winning their region (not at all a given). Despite having two teams in St. Louis, we’re not especially likely to see a WCHA team win that one.

      • MNhockey

        hockey east and the ccha are a joke compared to the wcha

  • easterner

    this may come as a huge suprise but there are a lot of good teams in the east. i think a few teams located in a small massachusetts town even won the championship recently (not just the beanpot). on the other hand, we could just give the NCAA crown to whoever wins the WCHA tourney and skip this whole second tournament nonsense – that would be a good solution.

  • Psychic

    Round one:
    Air Force whoops Yale because they can
    Duluth edges a high scoring game against Union by 1 or 2
    Round two:
    Duluth wins a close low scoring game against Air Force

    Tell me I’m wrong….

    • GeauxSioux

      I’d say Yale wipes the floor with Air Force. Yale is at home and will be out for vengeance against a team that took a come-from-behinder from them earlier on.

      I agree with the UMD-Union call – it will be high scoring and will require overtime. UMD squeaks by.

      As for the final, Yale 2-0 after 1 as they strike early and often. 3-2 Yale after 2 with UMD scoring 2 in the final 10 of the period. 4′s up after regulation. UMD closes the book within 10 minutes of the first OT.

      Again, just my opinion!

    • Dogsfan

      I Dont know if Air Force will beat Yale, but I do like UMD coming out of the East as long as thier Reiter shows up

    • Dogsfan

      I don’t know if AF will beat Yale, but I do like UMD coming out of the East….as long as Reiter shows up and plays decent.

    • sue

      You are wrong.

  • GeauxSioux

    Please refrain from generalizing, not all of us hate the rest of the country. I, for one, respect the eastern hockey style. The difference makes for great play come tournament time….very entertaining to watch indeed.

  • Suture1

    Blah, blah, blah…..whaa, whaa…North Dakota people this and ND people this…..whaa whaa… You sound like a 2 year old….get a life boola boo hoo. Wow, what a tool this kid is…

  • http://twitter.com/topherbaron Topher Baron

    Union will be flat after their 2 weeks off. Yale will take care of AF, then won’t know what hit them. UMD to FF

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501157411 Joey Loeffler Jr

    You appreciate the Eastern style? I hope you are leaning towards meaning olympic style and not ‘midget’ style. That’s how the games are played out there . . . highly skilled but two hand touch.

    Now did UND and DU get screwed . . . yes. Is it laughable that the ONLY place that Yale got a #1 rank was PWR . . .yes. Should it matter . . . no. If we’re the best team in the country, go win the championship by beating the best teams so all the haters shut up (let Yale play Atlantic Hockey all the way to the championship game who cares).

    Anything other than a championship is a choke. We’ve choked before in the big show and all you haters have good enough teams where beating us is very likely. I would not be surprised to see BC, DU, Yale, Miami, or Dean Blais win it. (not UNO, just Dean Blais) Also I would not be surprised to see UMD or CC bounce somebody.

    Point is, like it or not, UND has the most talent but talent isn’t the only measure of success . . . you have to perform. We’ll see.

  • Jmwatc

    UMD will win the east yale blows haven’t played anybody good all year

  • timmywiggins

    Yale over Air Force 4-1
    UMD over Union 5-4

    Yale over UMD 3-2 in OT

  • Eliblue

    Can the North Dakota supporters who have nothing better to do than attack Yale go back to their own board? Guess what guys? Yale fans are generally enjoying the ride and think the team is playing a fun style with a large group of seniors who will leave the team with a big hole next year, as well as a great legacy. It’s been fun watching this group. I’m looking forward to the tournament and hoping Yale does well. That the UND creeps are hanging out and spending most of their time fanatically attacking people and teams on USCHO. While we’re focused on the game and the fun, your pathologies are taking over the website. I’d personally love to see Yale UND because that would mean Yale went very far. And by the way you UND lunatics, our traditional rival is Harvard. We care nothing about you

  • RedGreenBlue

    Steering clear of the heated opinion, here’s a piece of trivia (courtesy of the Yale Athletic Department Web site): the governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, and the governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, were letter-winning teammates on the Yale hockey varsity during the 1967-68 season.