College Hockey:
Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Down to four

Todd: Jim, we’re down to our final four teams and our final three games of the season. Minnesota-Duluth and Notre Dame on one side of the Frozen Four bracket, and North Dakota and Michigan on the other. Granted, that’s two from the CCHA and two from the WCHA so there’s no eastern representation, but from a marketing standpoint, those are some big names in college athletics to be putting in front of the national audience, don’t you think?

Jim: With no disrespect meant, these four names are a little more palatable to the NCAA and its broadcast partner, ESPN, than, say, Vermont, Rochester Institute of Technology and Bemidji State. Having covered both of the regional finals in the east, I can say that Minnesota-Duluth and Notre Dame and very worthy regional champs. Both played near perfect games in the regional final. It seemed that Michigan and North Dakota both earned that “deserving” moniker. Michigan played a tight game with Colorado College, but from what I saw on TV, it was a pretty dominating win. North Dakota, on the other hand, needs no explanation. The Sioux simply dominated their regional. At this point, you have to think they’re the favorite for national champion, no?

Todd: Like you said, no disrespect meant here, but after watching North Dakota and its almost machine-like drive through the regional in Green Bay, I think the only team that can beat North Dakota is named North Dakota. Maybe Michigan can get into the Sioux’s heads in the semifinals, but North Dakota has everything working right at a perfect time. Then again, the team we think is going to win it doesn’t always get it done, right?

Jim: Ask Boston College and I think you have an answer to your question. I think it’s safe to say that BC was the biggest surprise of the weekend. You might put Miami’s loss to New Hampshire on that same level, but BC’s senior class had dominated the postseason. I do believe that the Eagles would’ve had a very tough time with Michigan in the regional final, had they advanced. But I see a lot of Boston College during the season and I couldn’t believe how poorly their defense played in the first and second periods on Friday night.

Todd: It makes you wonder whether Colorado College exposed a weakness, or Boston College players just had a really bad night at a really bad time. Speaking of Colorado College, how strange to put up eight goals on BC one night and then manage just one late power-play goal a night later in the regional final loss to Michigan. Maybe that sums up the Tigers’ season: Plenty of reason to think they could be a really good team because of the top-end talent, but not enough consistency to make it happen.

Jim: I wondered if CC maybe expended a bit too much energy in the BC game. They grabbed a nice 7-2 lead in the second, but they really had to skate and run around with the Eagles to keep them from coming back (as they knew the Eagles could do). And CC wasn’t the only team to look tired in the regional final. I thought the same could be said for Denver, having played the double-OT game on Saturday, and Yale, which got beat up by Air Force and also needed OT.

All three of these teams played the late game in the first round, which leads me to ponder the regional system in general. Might it be beneficial to the NCAA to play two super regionals in big-time hockey markets? You would send eight teams to each regional. Four would play Thursday-Saturday, four would play Friday-Sunday. You would create a great atmosphere in the city and also take away the unfair advantage of playing the early game in the regional semis. Whaddya think?

Todd: It’s an interesting idea. I think we’ve found out that, unless it’s in a competing team’s home area, the stands are going to be fairly empty for the regionals. Fans can only travel so much, especially in today’s economy. So it’s worth putting forward ideas like that, which could shake up the system yet not be a move back to home-ice regionals. I think you’d still have the problem of attendance, though — I don’t know if the fans of the teams who aren’t playing on a given day are going to attend the games with teams they’re not rooting for.

In the end, if boosting attendance is the major concern, letting the higher seeds host is probably the best answer. I don’t think that’s the right way of doing it, though, because then you’re giving a big boost to the home team. It seems that any way you try to fix the regional system, there’s another problem that comes up.

Jim: I think the attendance issue is bigger in the west than the east as there are more drivable venues in the east for many teams. But you’re right, it’s difficult to fix these issues and I believe they have more impact on the host schools/leagues than the NCAA itself, which gets guaranteed revenues from each host. I liked the atmosphere in Bridgeport and Manchester (though Sunday night’s late start had an impact on attendance). St. Louis looked dead and Green Bay seemed to have plenty of empty seats but still a good atmosphere.

Todd: Green Bay was a good atmosphere because of the North Dakota fans. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they make noise for the Sioux. And Western Michigan brought a good cheering section and a band, which were nice to see for the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in a long time.

Next year’s western regionals are in Green Bay and St. Paul, so I’m sure the NCAA would love to see Wisconsin and Minnesota back in the tournament to help the attendance figures. Michigan Tech is the host in Green Bay, but the Badgers would be the big draw.

Jim: Well, out east you have Worcester and Bridgeport. Certainly, the NCAA is praying Yale stays strong despite its graduation losses. Their fans made the difference in that region. Worcester is almost always safe because of the massive number of teams in the area.

Anyway, moving on. Hobey Baker balloting is this week. I’m looking at the list of 10 finalists and realize only a few had an impact this past weekend. Matt Frattin continues to make his case, while Andy Miele struggled in Miami’s loss. At the same time, Jack Connolly was a monster for Minnesota-Duluth. Carter Camper, Cam Atkinson, Chase Polacek and Paul Thompson were all in action, but none of them did much. Based on this past weekend, I feel like I could predict the Hat Trick.

Todd: Did Miele play himself out of the running in your mind? It’s tough to judge a player on one game, but that’s what happens when the voting takes place after the regionals. Some of those players aren’t going to go out on a high note, and often, they pay the price when it’s a close race.

Jim: Definitely not. Miele is still a leading candidate in my opinion. He still is a shoo-in for the Hobey Hat Trick. Whether he wins it is yet to be seen, but I think he still could be the favorite.

So, before we close, let’s go back to the Frozen Four. Now that we know the teams involved and the matchups, who plays for the national title and who wins the crown?

Todd: As I said, I think it’s North Dakota’s tournament to lose. My guess is they’ll play Minnesota-Duluth in the final, and I’ll pick the Sioux to win there. UMD and Notre Dame might be a toss-up, but I think the Bulldogs’ top line will help them get through. But I didn’t see very many cracks in the Sioux last weekend, so my impression is that beating them is going to take something extraordinary. How do you see it shaping up?

Jim: I flipped a coin on the Notre Dame-UMD game and it came up Irish. So I say it’s Notre Dame vs. North Dakota. And I’m in your corner with the Sioux. Can’t find a way for them to lose. And I’ll go a step further to say that the NoDak-Michigan game might be the national title game.

This will be our last TMQ of the season. On behalf of Todd, let me say thanks for reading and enjoy the Frozen Four.

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    I’m a Sioux fan. Like most Sioux fans, I honestly believe the Sioux are the best team every year. Lately, they’ve been letting me down. I have seen them start slow recently, which is troubling. I do think they are by far the best team, and I also think that tired Denver team was the best team left last Sunday besides them. Lets just make sure no weak goals get in and we will win it all.

  • Suture1

    I TOTALLY agree with Jimbo…..we need two super regionals. This business of seeing 1,500 fans in the stands for these regional games (I;m not sure how many were at the G.Bay regional with ND’s throng of fans). I have been saying this all year…you simply cannot use the national tournament to build college hockey. I went to the 2007 NT in St. Louis and, quite frankly, it was very disappointing. The city on the whole had no idea the FF was even going on. Contrarily, look at the Final Five in St. Paul…it was superb and there was a great awareness in the Twin Cities. I did not think about the whole “late game” issue but the super regional would also alleviate any fairness issues in this regard. I am a Sioux fan but my comments are not subjectively based, I like your idea Jimbo. Ok, time to get ready for the FF…..I have a center ice suite and will be watching with caviar in one hand and Johnnie Walker in the other….GO SIOUX!!!

    • Joe C

      The Frozen Four in 2009, played in Washington’s Verizon Center, was packed to the gills and had a great atmosphere. This was with Vermont and Bemidji State, two teams not known for massive traveling fan bases. Then again, it was on I-95 and is probably the southern limit for good attendance. I-90/I-80 along with I-94 and I-96 seem like the other

      Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will also be fine. OH, IL, MI, WI, MN, NY and New England. I even think Montreal (hosted by UVM) would be a great Frozen Four if the committee thought outside the box. I am sure North Dakota would work attendance-wise and I imagine Denver would do nicely.

    • Crovin

      Only 1500 fans at a regional? That’s pretty sad. There were well over 2000 people at the Ralph Engelstad Arena last Sunday just to watch the Sioux play on TV.

  • BU Season Ticket Holder

    North Dakota will win it all!

  • fishinwilly

    Its hard to argue with the Sioux being a machine, I dont think weak goals will beat any team in the Frozen Four. It will come down to desire and great special teams. One thing that ratings and statistics can not measure is flow and desire. It will take intense desire to beat the North Dakota Machine. The whole team plays with an extreme flow fueled by their desire. UMD has the same ability their defense is playing extremely well, their offense and special teams are playing well and Kenny Reiter is on top of his game. Not many expected UMD to advance the East Regional except themselves.I think it will come down to North Dakota and UMD in the final game.

    • collegehockeyfan

      I picked them to win that regional! They are a good team, but I don’t think they are a great team. There’s no doubt in my mind they were better than Yale and Union. One thing that may happen is if any of these teams can stop their first line for 1 game and UMD will be done. There has been some, but very little contributions from any other line on the bulldogs. Reiter will have to be standing on his head as he will see A LOT of shots. If he’s on I think they have a shot.

  • SquidStack

    Hey Jim, obviously you are still in denial that your Yale team lost, and continue to underestimate Duluth. No worries though, because UMD plays best when the Eastern media labels them the underdogs. Unlike Yale, they have played elite hockey teams all year, and are the only FF team to beat the Sioux this year. Too bad you are stuck out East and never get a chance to see the best teams in college hockey play.

    • collegehockeyfan

      Notre Dame also Tied UND in Grand Forks, can’t count them out either, they also have a line that can put the puck in the net. Should be fun to Watch!

  • WI Sioux fan

    Folks, if you didn’t see Michigan play CC then you have no idea how good Michigan can be. They have speed to burn and skilled players on every line. If they play tough defense UND will have all they can handle. also their goal tender is playing very well now.

    While I cheer for the Sioux, this game is argualbly the best two teams.

    • collegehockeyfan

      agreed, can’t take them lightly at all. But wow! I love this back and forth discussion!! I have never been so into an article on this site! Please keep this going until the FF!!

    • bluetell

      I can’t wait for the game. The winner of NoDak-Michigan will undoubtedly be the favorite to win the national title game.

  • the new improved WCHA

    Super regionals in a hockey market is a good idea and at least in the venue where NoDak is playing the green sweaters will be in the stands for the entire weekend. The story of tUMD all season has been will the defense show up for the entire game (the offense has been pretty consistent all year); Reiter standing on his head all weekend was a bonus. tUMD can skate with anybody when the whole team shows up; nevertheless the Sioux looked like college version of the Soviet Olympic teams from the 70′s-80′s. It will be a good frozen four.

  • Cgp_999

    The best way to fix regionals is to make sure they are at hockey-hot bed campuses: Grand Forks, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, Ann Arbor, Boston, Bridgetport, Worcester, Manchester and Madison. There are probably some other ones that I left out but these are the best places for regionals, either on campuses or near all hockey mad areas. Rotate among these and place any school nearby into their closest regional instead of making Boston College go to St. Louis, etc.

    I would also like to see after MN and UW go Big Ten, the Final Five rotate between Duluth and Grand Forks, guaranteed attendence and great college hockey atmospheres.

    • #1 Ranked Sioux

      I wish the NCAA would get off their white-collared arses and allow television become the marketing campaign of college hockey! You CANNOT put a regional in St. Louis and be happy with 1,500 fans….. How stupid can you be? Is there some money exchanged under the table, boys???

      Another issue to Cgp_999′s argument is the NCAA won’t allow a regional tourney in Grand Forks because of the Fighting Sioux name. UND is not allowed to host a post-season game, so therefore the NCAA loses out on 12,500 standing-room-only attendance on both nights no matter which teams come to town. The area simply loves hockey!

      Believe me, hockey lovers, the NCAA is a corrupt as the Libyan/Syrian governments. The whole Cam N. in football this last fall proved that point. They turned their head and let it slip under the rug because of $$$$. PERIOD!

      Tell me WHY any college hockey fan base will travel to FLORIDA for a regional or national tourney? What the hell are they thinking in that ivory tower? The northern 10 states is where it’s at, ya fools!

      • Guest

        You got that corrupt part right; the NCAA and International Olympic Committee qualify Bernie Madoff and the US Senate for sainthood.

  • Enron

    I personally think that UMD is the only team left that can skate with UND. UMD is most familiar, and as mentioned the only team left that has beaten UND (in their barn). Granted UND spoiled the opening of the ‘Dogs new arena on Dec 31st in a 5-0 whaloping, but that’s just good motivation to come back at beat them on a National Stage. Vengance here could be sweet for UMD. Go Kenny and Go ‘DOGS!

    • collegehockeyfan

      when UMD beat UND in GF, there was less than a minute in OT. The Irish also played a series in Grand Forks and tied one game. the Irish had several opportunities in OT as well as UMD. The thing i don’t want to see is UMD overlooking the Irish.

      As seeing both UMD and Notre Dame play the Sioux in Grand forks, I would not assume that UMD will make it to play the Sioux or the Blue.

  • Jdorf40

    I like it fellas. I only have 2 concerns when I read what everyone is writing in the blogosphere. I too think that the Sioux are playing as a machine, but I’ve seen it more times than not, with a week off between games, it’s like the machine gets over lubricated. I really hope that doesn’t happen to the Sioux. I would love to see UMD and the Sioux in the finals. Sandelin is a heckuva coach and UMD is a very classy program. It’d be a shame to see either side have to lose.

    My other concern was with the Hobey. How does Frattin not win it? The only thing that could keep him from winning would be to bring his off ice incidents into the mix (which I feel is wrong considering that they didn’t happen this year, and he’s obviously made the necessary changes in his life). Going into the conference tourneys the race was extremely close. But after scoring the game winner in back to back games (1 with less than 5 minutes left and the other in double OT) in the conference tourney, scoring against RPI and adding another point against DU…how does anyone pass him? The guy had a goal in 9 straight games. People from Miami have hung their hats on the fact that Miele performed well against the top opponents over the course of the season and Frattin loaded up on Michigan Tech, but who was coming thru in the clutch during tournament time even though he wasn’t on the ice with another Hobey Hopeful? His name is Matt Frattin.

    • collegehockeyfan

      you can also make an argument that Miami padded the stats against their inferior opponents as well… it will be a tough decision for the committee

  • Central Scrutinizer

    Does the NCAA accuse the ND Fighting Irish of being a racist name the same as the ND Fighting Sioux?

  • http://twitter.com/SportsDoc63 Ron Seeley

    It would appear that all 4 teams left have excellent coaching staffs, and that’s a huge bonus, but doesn’t really give any one team an edge. Same with goal tending. Right now all four are playing well, and need to continue to do so for their teams to win.

    It seems the Sioux have the deepest team, top to bottom. They will try to roll 4 lines and wear opponents down. And they have the leading goal scorer in Frattin with 36. Plus, they haven’t lost since Jan. 28th. They can win a shootout or a 2-1 game. This is their Tournament to win, not always an easy hat to wear.

    Michigan has great pedigree and maybe a chip on their shoulder for the Title drought they are experiencing. They do not have a 20 goal scorer, so they need the game to be played more defensively, keeping the score down. A 2-1 or 3-2 game is more to their liking.

    Notre Dame has never won a National Title, but their head coach, Jeff Jackson, won two at Lake Superior State and assisted the Lakers in a third. They have a young group, who will only grow from this experience. They are probably better suited for the future, but anything can happen, and Jackson won’t let them come in unprepared, so though not the favorite, they are dangerous.

    Minnesota-Duluth has the best line in hockey with Connolly-Connolly-Fontaine. They were great early, then dipped when Dylan Olsen bolted unexpectedly after the World Juniors. They seem to have righted the ship lately. The wild card is Reiter. He was awesome in the Regional, many times this year he has been merely average, they need him to be awesome. Duluth can score in bunches, and would do fine in a higher scoring game.

    I have no idea who will win. Go Sioux!

    • Slapshotman

      Easy Reiter is on his game….. Smart $ is on the BULLDOGS!!!

  • bdk

    The sioux have certainly been playing hot and better than most if not the best for a long time….but now a two week break? they have been going very strong every single weekend in a row for 3 months. BUT the sioux usually do not play as well early in the year when there are occasional breaks for a week off and such…could be something to think about.

    • Sara

      The Sioux didn’t have a week off until February of this year. They played in a tourney in Alaska so they got extra games. So they only had one weekend completely off all season.

  • Haroldhendu

    Is the Frozen Four on an olympic-size sheet of ice? that changes everything.

    also, how would a Big Ten conference handle that? sometimes Olympic-ice sometimes NHL? imagine if some college football teams played on a field 20 feet wider than others.

  • BU fan in Chicago

    Fort Wayne last year; St. Louis this year. The NCAA needs to think about where these regionals are. Green Bay would have been fine if Mich Tech or UW made the tournament. There should be a rule that there must be at least one Div 1 program within 50 miles from a host site.

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