College Hockey:
East Regional preview: Conference champs, defending NCAA champ fill the field

As winner of three of the last five national championships, Boston College makes any NCAA regional more difficult.

Then you add that the Eagles are the only team in the 2013 East Regional that didn’t win a conference championship this season and are the only team entering the group with a loss in its last game and you have the makings of a highly competitive bracket.

Top overall seed Quinnipiac won the ECAC Hockey regular season title and the third-place game in the playoff championship. Union took the ECAC playoff title for the second straight year. And Canisius is on an eight-game winning streak after picking up the Atlantic Hockey playoff crown.

Here’s a look at the teams that will be playing at Dunkin’ Donuts Arena in Providence, R.I., this weekend:

Jeremy Langlois (left) has emerged as a top two-way player for Quinnipiac (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

Quinnipiac Bobcats

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Rand Pecknold, 19th season

Record: 27-7-5 (17-2-3 ECAC Hockey, first)

How they got in: At-large bid

Regional seed: First

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2002

Best NCAA finish: First round, 2002

Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: Defense. The Bobcats are led by a veteran defensive group and have a Hobey Baker Award finalist in senior goalie Eric Hartzell.

Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: Inexperience. Quinnipiac hasn’t played in the national tournament since 2002, and faded a bit down the stretch.

Last weekend might not have gone as planned, but Quinnipiac is still right where it wanted to be.

The Bobcats were shut out by Brown in the semifinals of the ECAC Hockey Championship, a game that coach Rand Pecknold said was the worst his team had played all year. Still, Saturday’s 3-0 consolation game win over Yale sent Quinnipiac into the NCAA tournament on a winning note.

While losing out at a chance for the program’s first Whitelaw Cup surely stings, Quinnipiac enters the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and is playing in Providence, the location it wanted.

There’s been some question as to whether the Bobcats peaked too early, evidenced by their 5-4-1 record over the last 10 games.

That stretch follows a 21-game unbeaten streak, which was the best in the nation this year, and resulted in the least-contested title race in ECAC history. As result, the Bobcats could afford to start planning ahead for any possible first-round opponents.

“I’ve actually been taping games at home on DirecTV for months,” Pecknold said of his scouting efforts.

Their opponent will be Atlantic Hockey playoff champion Canisius, which enters the tournament on an eight-game unbeaten streak. The Bobcats and Golden Griffins were former members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, with Quinnipiac owning a 17-7-4 record in the series.

The Bobcats have gotten balanced scoring throughout the lineup. Case in point: Bryce Van Brabant, Cory Hibbeler and Kevin Bui each had a goal in the win over the Bulldogs. The trio entered the game with a combined eight goals on the season.

The Bobcats’ top forwards put up good — not great — numbers, although senior Jeremy Langlois and sophomore Matthew Peca are excellent two-way players. An improved defense is what’s allowed the Bobcats to get where they are. Quinnipiac boasts the nation’s top overall defense (1.62 goals per game) and penalty kill (91 percent).

While senior goalie and Hobey Baker Award finalist Eric Hartzell has had a large hand in that defensive success, the Bobcats also have a veteran defensive group that has played well all season, including Zach Davies, who was named the league’s top defensive defenseman.

The Bobcats looked tentative against a physical Brown team that was content to clog the middle and keep Quinnipiac’s scoring chances to a minimum.

There’s two ways of looking at Quinnipiac’s play heading into the tournament. One, the Bobcats peaked too soon and are coming back down. Two, Quinnipiac has a new realization for what it’ll have to do to pick up the program’s first NCAA win, and more.

“We’re going to take this as a learning lesson heading into the NCAAs,” Bui said after Saturday’s consolation game. “We can’t take a night for granted because it’s one and done. A lot of us haven’t been to the second round or Atlantic City. So we’re going to have to learn fast and I think we’re ready.”

Quinnipiac’s only other tournament appearance came in 2002, when the Bobcats lost to Cornell 6-1 in the opening round.

– Nate Owen

Parker Milner allowed five goals on 26 shots in Boston College’s Hockey East semifinal loss to Boston University (photo: Melissa Wade).

Boston College Eagles

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Jerry York, 41st season, 19th at Boston College

Record: 22-11-4 (15-9-3 Hockey East, second)

How they got in: At-large bid

Regional seed: Second

Last tournament appearance: 2012

Best NCAA finish: Champion in 1949, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2012

Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: Having won three of the last five NCAA tournaments, Boston College knows how to win. This is a team that is composed in the tough situations. It also doesn’t hurt that the Eagles drew arguably the easiest bracket in the regional tournament.

Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: In a single-game scenario, things can get away from you quickly, as the Eagles found out last Friday night against Boston University. Goaltending, thus, is paramount and Parker Milner cannot afford to have any lapses.

Boston College enters the NCAA tournament as the most successful team in this event in the last five years. That, though, is hardly any guarantee that the Eagles will advance to the Frozen Four for the seventh time in the last 10 years.

This year’s Boston College team has shown signs of inconsistency. After winning the Beanpot, the Eagles left two trophies on the table — the Hockey East regular season title and the Lamoriello Trophy.

“It’s who gets hot down the stretch now,” coach Jerry York said. “We certainly feel that this is another opportunity to pursue another trophy and, as we like to tell our kids, this is the shiniest of all of the trophies.”

To do that, Boston College will first have to solve a Union team that advanced to its first Frozen Four a year ago and played well down the stretch to capture the ECAC Hockey title.

One major key will be the play of BC’s defense. A bit of a patchwork unit all season due to injuries, the Eagles defenders will be pressured significantly by the Dutchmen.

York, returning behind the bench after missing the last two games recovering from a second eye surgery, plans to play just five defenseman on Saturday, leaning on TV timeouts to give his team the opportunity to stay fresh.

“We’re going to look to two seniors to really settle us down there in Patrick Wey and Patch Alber,” York said. “We’re going to move Danny Linell back to forward. With Patch returning to health, we feel five defensemen can play on a regular basis and let us move Danny back to forward.”

The Eagles also will have to get stabilizing goaltending from Parker Milner, who struggled in last Friday’s 6-3 loss to Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals.

The one thing BC cannot count on in its regional is familiarity. BC has never played any of the other three teams. Quinnipiac and Canisius will join Union in hopes of keeping BC from another Frozen Four.

“Generally there are teams in our region that we’ve had history with,” York said. “Usually it’s North Dakota.”

York said he more than respects Union given how well it played a season ago. He calls Canisius the Cinderella team, comparing it to the Florida Gulf Coast team that is making history in men’s basketball. As for Quinnipiac, the No. 1 overall seed, York knows this is a good team despite its 6-4-1 record down the stretch.

“Quinnipiac is the No. 1 seed in the country and you don’t get that by shopping at CVS,” York said.

Still, given the Boston College recent resume, particularly of the senior class, you could consider the second-seeded Eagles a favorite to reach the Frozen Four.

“Our mind-set is this is a mini-tournament in Providence and the winner of this goes right to Pittsburgh,” York said. “We’re very, very excited about this.”

– Jim Connelly

Union’s Max Novak celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period of the ECAC Hockey championship game (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

Union Dutchmen

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Rick Bennett, second season

Record: 21-12-5 (10-8-4 ECAC Hockey, fourth)

How they got in: Automatic qualifier, ECAC Hockey playoff champion

Regional seed: Third

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2012

Best NCAA finish: Semifinalist in 2012

Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: Union has been there before and the Dutchmen are playing as well as they have all season.

Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: Two words: Boston College. The defending national champions await in the first round. Take nothing away from Union, but the Eagles present a daunting matchup.

There was plenty of conjecture in the media that the Dutchmen experienced a bit of a falloff from last year’s Frozen Four run, but the numbers say otherwise.

Union won its second straight Whitelaw Cup and is making its third straight NCAA appearance. Those are the marks of a program on the rise, which it’s safe to say Union has been over the last few seasons.

“If you keep writing peaks and valleys, you’re going to keep our bulletin board stocked,” Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett said. “It’s all part of the racket that we’re in with sports. We just have to deal with it. These guys have done a tremendous job.”

Still, the numbers do show that this season has had its challenges. Union went through a stretch with only two wins in 11 games but enters the NCAA tournament winners of five straight and seven of its last nine.

While last year’s top scorers Jeremy Welsh and Kelly Zajac, along with steady captain Nolan Julseth-White, are all playing professionally, there’s plenty of familiar faces from the Frozen Four team.

Goalie Troy Grosenick had some injuries this season, but he and the Dutchmen defense have allowed just five goals over their last five games.

Forwards Wayne Simpson, Daniel Carr and Kyle Bodie provide plenty of offense up front, while Union recently has also gotten contributions from Max Novak, Kevin Sullivan and Josh Jooris.

The Dutchmen feature an aggressive forecheck and can convert turnovers into goals quickly. They also have several defenseman who can jump into the play, including Shayne Gostisbehere, Greg Coburn and Mat Bodie.

Union gets a tough draw in defending national champion Boston College. The Dutchmen and Eagles have never faced each other, although Gostisbehere and BC forward Johnny Gaudreau were members of the gold-medal winning U.S. World junior team this winter.

“Last year was really special; just going through some ups and downs makes it as special,” Bennett said of the Dutchmen winning their second straight league title. “I don’t want to take away from last season, but this season with these guys has been phenomenal. It just never gets old. It’s a lot of fun to work with these guys.”

– Nate Owen

Preston Shupe (left) has 16 goals and Kyle Gibbons has 20 goals this season for Canisius (photo: Omar Phillips).

Canisius Golden Griffins

Schedule :: Stats :: Roster

Coach: Dave Smith, eighth season

Record: 19-18-7 (12-13-2 Atlantic Hockey, seventh)

How they got in: Automatic qualifier, Atlantic Hockey playoff champion

Regional seed: Fourth

Last NCAA tournament appearance: None

Best NCAA finish: None

Why they’ll get to the Frozen Four: The Golden Griffins are on an incredible roll, plowing through the field in the Atlantic Hockey tournament as the seventh seed. Canisius is on an eight-game winning streak, the longest in the nation and best in school history.

Why they won’t get to the Frozen Four: As the 16th seed, Canisius has the toughest road to Pittsburgh.

It’s been a wild ride for the Golden Griffins, who were in ninth place in Atlantic Hockey going into the final weekend of the regular season.

Canisius hasn’t lost since, winning its first Atlantic Hockey title and first trip to the NCAA tournament.

Coach Dave Smith said that his team is living in two worlds right now, trying to temper the excitement and anticipation of the uncharted waters ahead and trying to focus on the task at hand, which starts with a matchup against top-seeded Quinnipiac.

“We’ve talked about it,” Smith said. “This is my third trip to the NCAAs, including two [as an assistant] with Mercyhurst. You have to prepare for the distractions but at the same time have fun.

“I told the players you have to take all that and put it in a box. You have to separate the different worlds but try to have a great experience in each of them.”

The last month has been a great experience for Smith and his team, which has 15 freshmen and sophomores.

“The players have matured through the season,” he said. “The team has taken on the personality of the [four] seniors. The seniors have each contributed something. [Chris] Barrea hasn’t played, but he’s a leader and very resilient. Torrey Lindsay is a captain and is also the captain of our [third-best] penalty kill. Ben Parker captains our defense. And Preston Shupe is a highly skilled scorer and has scored some very big goals for us.”

A pair of juniors, forward Kyle Gibbons and goaltender Tony Capobianco, also have led the way during the Golden Griffins’ hot streak. Gibbons, who named MVP of the Atlantic Hockey tournament, has 34 points since the first of the year, tops in the nation. His 17 points in March are also the most in Division I.

Capobianco has appeared in 40 games this season, posting a .935 save percentage. He made 75 saves in Rochester last weekend and 90 the weekend before that at Air Force.

Capobianco and the rest of the Griffs will look to keep things rolling against Quinnipiac, the top seed in the tournament. Like Niagara, which Canisius defeated in the AHA semifinals, the Bobcats feature a Hobey Baker Award finalist (Eric Hartzell) in net.

“We’ve watched them on tape and obviously they’re very good and had a lot of success this season,” Smith said. “We played them early last season (7-1 and 4-0 losses) with 20 freshmen and sophomores so this will be a good look at how far we’ve come.

“Our key is going to be focus and playing the kind of hockey that’s gotten us this far. Our league has prepared us well for the NCAA tournament.”

– Chris Lerch

The following is a self-policing forum for discussing views on this story. Comments that are derogatory, make personal attacks, are abusive, or contain profanity or racism will be removed at our discretion. USCHO.com is not responsible for comments posted by users. Please report any inappropriate or offensive comments by clicking the “Flag” link next to that comment in order to alert the moderator.

Please also keep “woofing,” taunting, and otherwise unsportsmanlike behavior to a minimum. Your posts will more than likely be deleted, and worse yet, you reflect badly on yourself, your favorite team and your conference.

  • whoknows81

    Canisus – toughest road to the Frozen Four? Why don’t you look at the brackets again and re-think that thought. Any team coming out of the Northeast has the toughest bracket to get through. Sure, B.C. will be a challenge but the Quinnipiac game can go either way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.lerch Chris Lerch

      Any game can go either way. But by every criteria there is, Q is the #1 team in the nation.

      • Bob Neal

        Somehow a lot of ECAC teams got enough TUC points so Quinnipiac had a high Pairwise. They have barely beaten a lot of bad teams. They would have been 4th or 5th in HE. Maybe 6th or 7th in the WCHA. No one outside of the ECAC thinks that they should be #1. No one. BC got very lucky.

        • jmsptrk

          Let’s see how lucky they feel Sun night.

          • Joseph Crowley

            Let’s see if they get to Sunday night or whether they have a golfing date with the Terriers.

          • jmsptrk

            My money is on the latter. Golfers Beanpot!

        • http://twitter.com/colbyunion Doug Giron

          Sorry to troll on this BC website, but this region will pose two of the toughest games for BC all year.

          • JakeB

            I thought this was the East Regional blog? No?

          • jmsptrk

            a bit presumptuous.

        • jiampje

          Hey Bob -

          How did the WCHA teams do in the Regionals? Looks like Wisconsin, DU and Minnie will all be watching from their couch next weekend. Not to mention, North Dakota getting beat by who? Niagra for two periods? Not exactly a dominate conference.

    • jmsptrk

      I get your point. The NE does seem to be the toughest region from top to bottom. but personally, I think niagra has the toughest road—as they would have to beat north dakota and (most likely) minnesota to make the frozen four. fat chance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.winjum.5 Scott Winjum

    The east region is set up for BC to win. It is the weakest overall bracket.

    • JakeB

      If they can all of a sudden start playing championship hockey. I’ll go out on a limb and disagree… BC is ripe to get knocked off. Seen them 5 times during the entire season, each time they’ve been beaten rather handily. Not only has the top line has been inconsistent (and in a funk right now), but Milner has been great very few times, mostly solid the rest. I’d say this is the weakest BC overall in the past 5-6 years. The region is a toss-up. So we’ll see… enjoy the games.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Doyle/1614803 Danny Doyle

        BC’s 2009 team was definitely weaker. After starting the season #1, they got beaten at home by Notre Dame 7-1 and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament.

        • JakeB

          That I know… I said 5-6 years, leaving one year open, if you have to be picky. Record-wise they were 19-14?, talent-wise this one isn’t close. They had a tough year, but that team had no business missing the NCAA’s in between 2 national championships seasons. I don’t see this team getting a whole lot better next year. They basically have one line and another player or two that will score, instead of 3 scoring lines. The power play is more inconsitent. The penalty kill rarely produces a short-handed goal. The underclass talent coming up is not as strong as in the past, unless they have a stellar freshman class coming in. Again, just my opinion… based on the games I’ve seen. Watch, they’ll blow through the regional, and I’ll have to eat my words… so be it.

          • Terrier Hockey

            If you don’t see this BC team getting better you clearly haven’t looked at their incoming freshmen. They should handily win hockey east next year.

        • Terrier Hockey

          That was a strong year for Hockey East. BU was insane, Northeastern was right up there with BU and was our most heated rival at the time, UNH was strong, and UVM was very good. 2 HE teams made the Frozen Four.

    • jmsptrk

      It is. But I still think Q makes the FF. BC has been playing mediocre hockey at best lately.

      • Chrisgal

        April13 comes early. Nice to see you’ve fixed your grammar…..

        • jmsptrk

          funny. it’s as if you believe i actually care what you say.

          • Chrisgal

            Well, you keep responding, genius. Too bad Niagara didn’t hang on, huh?

          • jmsptrk

            you’re intelligent because you use sentence caps. it is an impressive feat—finding the shift button when you type. how do you do it with such consistency? clearly, you must have graduated from a school with a rigorous academic standards.

    • http://twitter.com/colbyunion Doug Giron

      Or the toughest . . .

      • JakeB

        Nice Doug, short and sweet!

    • UnionTampa

      Union will have to beat the defending champ and #1 team in country.. Sounds easy enough…

      • Leggs2

        Gotta beat the best to be the best.
        Hey, UT, how R U?!
        You’ll have to change your screenname to “UnionPittsburgh”!!

    • Justin

      Yea the #1 overall seed and a Frozen Four participant from last year. Clearly you are from Minnesota or North Dakota.

  • fcc56

    I’ve already mentioned this elsewhere but I think it bears repeating since the USCHO writers seem to be ignoring it. Since their demolition by Minnesota at the end of December, BC has exactly two wins (UNH and Providence) and two ties (UNH and Yale) in its games against teams with winning records (and Providence won fewer than half its games). That sort of play will not even get them to Sunday, let alone Pittsburgh. You might even argue that the committee set up this region to favor Quinnipiac.

    BC’s goaltending will need be much better than it has been. Milner’s not even in the top 32 statistically and he gave up some pretty soft goals to BU in the HE tournament. That game reminded me of the regional BC lost to CC a few years ago, where CC was able to get behind BC’s defense and the goaltender didn’t make the saves. Which is also what happened in the Worcester regional in 2005, where BC barely beat Mercyhurst despite allowing the Lakers to get behind the defense repeatedly (and the Mercyhurst goalie made 50 saves); UND was watching and did the same thing the next night, skating away with a 6-3 win (after dominating BU 4-0 the previous night).

    The other problem BC is having that is not getting much comment is the excessive number of penalties it is taking; for example, ten in the OT loss to Merrimack, including three in the 3rd and one in OT that led to the winning goal. Too often its been their top offensive players in the box—Whitney, Gaudreau for five in that BU game. Whitney, Arnold, Mullane, and Gaudreau are 3–6 on the team in penalty minutes, behind only blue-liners Matheson and Wey. I personally think this is a sign of frustration. These guys aren’t scoring in the second half they way they were in the first—lots of 1, 2, and 3-goal games for BC since the first of the year. This might explain why BC has only one shorthanded goal this season, when they frequently lead the country in that statistic.

    Here’s hoping UML or UNH make it to Pittsburgh. I bought tickets with the expectation that BC would be there, but I would at least like a HE team to cheer for. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Doyle/1614803 Danny Doyle

      While I agree that BC is taking too many penalties, they were also one of the nation’s most penalized teams last year. I’m just not so sure BC is taking penalties because of frustration.

      • Joseph Crowley

        Last year, BC destroyed teams on the PP and PK, as well as the random odd-man rush that came after Millner made ten great saves.

        This year, Millner is not making all ten great saves and the counter-attack is not clicking.

        Up 2-0 against BU and yet, BC made almost nothing of its odd-man rushes, Power Plays and Penalty Kills. Also, there is a difference between aggressive penalties (think Joey Diamond at Maine) compared to silly ones in the offensive end, the hits from behind into the boards and the retaliations. Smart teams get even on the scoreboard, like BC used to do. This year, not so much.

      • UnionTampa

        BC penalties will cost them goals against Union… That could be a major issue in this game…

    • jmsptrk

      agreed. I have Q in the FF.

    • ChuckGandCrew

      I agree BC is not playing well, but Providence was a win against Lowell on the last night of the regular season from winning HE season title. Watch out for them in the next two years. They are legit. And is arguably the best team not in the tournament.

  • http://twitter.com/colbyunion Doug Giron

    U has won 6 straight and 8 of 10.

    • 4life4america

      Union is 11-0-1 in the last 12 home games. I wish we were playing at home.

  • Leggs2

    The Union Dutchmen are playing as well as any team in the nation right now. They are solid in every phase of the game, and play a disciplined, smart style. They have the playoff experience to be a factor. Can they beat the defending champs BC? Maybe, maybe not. Depends upon how well BC plays, as I expect U will play a strong game. If the Eagles look beyond the Dutchmen, look out.

    • UnionTampa

      Once again leggs2 is right on the money!

  • UnionTampa

    If union gets by BC.. the hamden sugarcats aren’t gonna stop the dutchmen from a second straight FF… That said, Compared to where we were 4 weeks ago, I’m friggin giddy we got this far… It’s gravy for us… Go U!

    • Leggs2

      Two consecutive ECAC Tournament trophys and third straight trip to the dance aint too shabby! I’m giddy too UT. The Eagles can be had…

    • http://twitter.com/DOriginalDonald Donald Paluga

      Tell that to Minnesota

  • ChuckGandCrew

    Union takes this region. No question.

  • UnionTampa

    Union has outscored opponents 26-5 in the last 6 games

  • ChuckGandCrew

    There’s something that feels wrong about asking a Jesuit school to play on Easter Sunday.

  • Terrier Hockey

    Union is more consistent than BC. You can expect them to play a good game. That being said, BC’s highest level of play should be better than Union’s equivalent.

North Dakota 2016 National ChampionsBNY Mellon Wealth Management