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Lineup changes for Quinnipiac, North Dakota for national championship game

TAMPA, Fla. — North Dakota has two changes to its lineup for Saturday’s national championship game, while Quinnipiac has one.

Fighting Hawks second-line Luke Johnson, who was injured in Thursday’s victory over Denver and watched practice Friday with a brace on his left leg, is out.

Rhett Gardner moved from left wing to center, while Colten St. Clair entered the lineup, making his 10th appearance of the season.

On defense for North Dakota, Christian Wolanin replaced Hayden Shaw on the third pairing.

For Quinnipiac, Thomas Aldworth replaced Craig Martin on right wing with center Tanner MacMaster and left wing Bo Pieper.

Here’s how they’ll line up for the championship (8 p.m., ESPN2):

Quinnipiac (32-3-7)

7 Sam Anas-26 Travis St. Denis-16 Landon Smith
24 Bo Pieper-19 Tanner MacMaster-12 Thomas Aldworth
39 Andrew Taverner-23 Tommy Schutt-17 K.J. Tiefenwerth
18 Soren Jonzzon-11 Tim Clifton-22 Scott Davidson

6 Devon Toews-27 Kevin McKernan
13 Chase Priskie-4 Connor Clifton
14 Derek Smith-8 Alex Miner-Barron

34 Michael Garteig
29 Sean Lawrence
35 Jacob Meyers

North Dakota (33-6-4)

9 Drake Caggiula-8 Nick Schmaltz-16 Brock Boeser
29 Bryn Chyzyk-22 Rhett Gardner-14 Austin Poganski
25 Joel Janatuinen-26 Coltyn Sanderson-17 Colten St. Clair
19 Shane Gersich-10 Johnny Simonson-11 Trevor Olson

3 Tucker Poolman-6 Paul LaDue
20 Gage Ausmus-2 Troy Stecher
24 Christian Wolanin-4 Keaton Thompson

33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

Boston College’s Demko gets Mike Richter Award

Thatcher Demko led the nation with 10 shutouts this season (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Boston College’s Thatcher Demko was named Friday the 2016 winner of the Mike Richter Award as Division I men’s college hockey’s top goaltender.

Demko, a junior, led the nation with 10 shutouts this season, including a stretch of six in seven games between Oct. 16 and Nov. 8.

He was eighth nationally with a 1.88 GAA and fifth with a .935 save percentage.

A second-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft, Demko beat out four other finalists for the award: UMass-Lowell’s Kevin Boyle, North Dakota’s Cam Johnson, St. Cloud State’s Charlie Lindgren and Yale’s Alex Lyon.

More coverage of the Richter Award to come.

Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey named 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner

Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

TAMPA, Fla. — Jimmy Vesey made his return for his senior season pay off with the Hobey Baker Award.

Vesey, a Harvard senior who scored 24 goals and 46 points this season, was named the 2016 Hobey recipient Friday night at a ceremony at the Tampa Theatre.

Vesey got the most votes from a 27-person selection committee, beating out fellow Hobey Hat Trick finalists Kyle Connor of Michigan and Thatcher Demko of Boston College.

He was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist in 2015, losing out to Boston University’s Jack Eichel after a 32-goal, 58-point season.

This season, he had five multiple-goal games, including a hat trick against St. Lawrence on Jan. 15.

Here’s the official release:

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award announced today the 2016 recipient of college hockey’s top individual prize is Jimmy Vesey from Harvard University. The announcement came during the NCAA Frozen Four championship in a live ceremony held at historic Tampa Theatre in Tampa, Florida and aired nationally on NHL Network.

For Vesey (pronounced VEE-zee), the second time is a charm as he was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist a year ago when he led the nation in goal scoring. Two is a prominent number for the senior captain of the Crimson. For two straight years Vesey has been named ECAC Player of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, ECAC First Team all-conference and winner of the Walter Brown Award as the best American-born player in New England.

Jimmy Vesey finished the season recording 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 33 games. Over the past two years, he has scored more goals than any other player in college hockey — 56, after bagging a nation’s best 32 last season. It was a happy day on campus a year ago when Vesey spurned offers to turn professional in order to return for his senior year as a student-athlete. However, he did play alongside many pro players when he represented the U.S. in the World Championships last May. He was a third round draft pick of Nashville of the NHL

Hobey Baker was the legendary Princeton (1914) hockey player known as America’s greatest amateur athlete one hundred years ago. He redefined how the game was played with his coast-to-coast dashes in an era when hockey was contested with seven players and no forward passes. Baker, a member of the U.S. Army’s Air Corp, died testing a repaired aircraft at the end of World War I after he had completed his military service. The Hobey Baker Award criteria includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements. Vesey was selected from a group of ten finalists by a 27-member selection committee and online fan balloting.

A dynamic offensive talent as his stats verify, Vesey was an impact player in all phases of the game. Regular shifts and power play duties were the norm, but he was often underestimated in his defensive responsibilities. Vesey was a fixture on the penalty kill and was widely recognized as the hardest worker on the team. His compete-level made Vesey a difference maker.

A native of North Reading, Massachusetts, Jimmy is a Government major and has been ECAC All Academic every year. Off the ice, Vesey helped raise money for the Travis Roy Foundation and the Franciscan Hospital for Children. He provided manual labor at Cristo Rey High School in Boston to prepare it for the school year and volunteered time with local youth teaching them to skate.

More coverage to come.

Quinnipiac excels when it’s able to work its system

Quinnipiac finishes up practice on Friday (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Quinnipiac’s defensive scheme has given teams fits all season, contesting neutral ice and forcing teams outside of their comfort zone.

This week, Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold and his players have talked about the importance of focusing on the style of play that’s resulted in a 32-3-7 record and a place in the national title game.

Pecknold refers to the style of play as his team’s “identity”: Battle hard on the forecheck without overcommitting and frustrate opponents in the neutral zone.

When asked about his 1-3-1 forecheck, Pecknold corrected the questioner.

“First off, we refer to it as a 1-1-3,” he said. “You can call it whatever you will. Some people call it a left-wing lock, which is not the right term.

“It’s something that allows us to kind of clog up the neutral zone a little bit. Our guys buy into it. It’s not a passive 1-1-3, it’s aggressive and we want to close gaps and create turnovers and deny time and space. I don’t want to get into all the intricacies of running a good 1-1-3 but it definitely caused problems for BC.”

Quinnipiac knows it needs to execute to perfection if it wants to shut down North Dakota’s top line of Nick Schmaltz, Drake Caggiula and Brock Boeser.

“I think they present challenges like Harvard’s top line and Boston College’s top line,” said Quinnipiac defenseman Devon Toews. “They have speed, size, skill. We’ve got to play our game and get in their face and take away their time and space, and we’ll be fine.”

“And it’s a good equalizer when you go up against teams [like Boston College and North Dakota],” said Pecknold. “It slows people down a little bit. But in the end it’s not just about the 1-1-3. We want to play offense off our forecheck. We got some good goals off forechecks [against Boston College].”

To be successful against the Fighting Hawks, the Bobcats know that they need every player to continue to focus on the type of play that’s gotten them this far.

“It really starts off the ice and guys being one big unit,” said Jonzzon. “I think that’s really translated for us. And I think that guys have bought in because they know the guy next to them is buying in.”

Quinnipiac’s seniors vow to learn from coming up short in 2013

Quinnipiac senior Alex Miner-Barron takes a few extra moments on the ice after the final practice of his collegiate career (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Six Quinnipiac seniors will play their final college hockey game on Saturday, ending their careers with a chance to be national champions.

Most had that opportunity three seasons ago when, as freshmen, they saw their team come up just short in a 4-0 loss to Yale in the title game in Pittsburgh.

Only Travis St. Denis participated in that game, but fellow seniors Alex Miner-Barron, Soren Jonzzon, Tom Hilbrich, Michael Garteig and Jacob Meyers took away the same lesson: Don’t take it for granted.

“Freshman year was an unbelievable step,” said Jonzzon. “We were happy to be there.”

But after the loss, the Bobcats realized two things: It takes more than a “happy to be here” mindset to win, and even as the No. 1 seed, you can’t take anything for granted.

“In the national championship, anything can happen,” said Garteig. “We learned that in our game against Yale. We learned from our mistakes and the seniors that were there are hungry to get back at it this year.”

“I think the program has now gotten to the point where we don’t think getting here is [enough],” said Jonzzon. “It’s great that we got here, but we’re here to win the national championship. So I think winning tomorrow would be kind of the next step in the progression of the program itself.”

It’s taken Quinnipiac three years to get back to this point: one more shot for the seniors that have led the Bobcats to four straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Just one goal remains, and expect this senior class to keep the Bobcats focused on the prize.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” said Garteig. “We’re not. We have to seize the opportunity.”

North Dakota’s Berry looks back to the call that changed his career path

Brad Berry took over as North Dakota’s head coach this season (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Brad Berry is a good husband. This is a fact indisputable, given what he said in Friday’s news conference.

“Everything,” he said, “goes through your wife as far as [the] decision-making process.”

Clearly, this is a man that knows a little about life.

There was this one time, however, that Berry didn’t consult his wife, Suzanne, about a significant decision that changed his life — when he got a call from Dean Blais asking him to serve as an assistant coach at North Dakota, back in 2000.

“I was just coming off of pro hockey,” said Berry. “The crossroads of life, what do you do after you play, and the phone call came in the late summer. I was just married, had two young children at the time, and everything goes through your wife as far as [the] decision-making process.

“This one didn’t go through my wife. It took me about point-five seconds and I said, ‘Honey, we’re going back to Grand Forks.’”

The calculated risk seems to have turned out all right.

Berry spent a total of nine seasons as an assistant at North Dakota, first under Blais from 2000 to 2006, and then again under Dave Hakstol from 2012 to 2014. In between, Berry served as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (2006-08) and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets (2010-12).

Prior to coaching, Berry had a long professional hockey career. After playing three seasons for North Dakota (1983-86) the defenseman played in the pros from 1985 to 1999, starting in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets and ending with six straight seasons with Kalamazoo of the IHL.

He said that he’s still very grateful for the initial opportunity to coach alongside Blais.

“He recruited me as a player back in 1983 at UND,” Berry said. “He asked me to be a part of the North Dakota family as a player a long time ago, then he asked me to be a part of the North Dakota family as a coach. It’s a great honor.”

Berry has a chance to become the only first-year head coach to win the Division I national championship. Jeff Sauer won in his first year as head coach of Wisconsin in 1983, but Sauer had already been a head coach with Colorado College. Tim Whitehead played for a national championship in his first year as head coach with Maine in 2002, but Whitehead had also been a head coach at UMass-Lowell.

Two other NCAA coaches reached the national championship in their first year as head coaches, Minnesota’s John Mariucci (1953) and North Dakota’s Gino Gasparini (1979).

After clearing ‘semifinal wall,’ North Dakota seeks ultimate goal

North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula practices Friday (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — “It’s nice to break down that semifinal wall.” That’s how sophomore goaltender Cam Johnson put North Dakota’s 4-2 win over Denver on Thursday into perspective.

The Fighting Hawks are making their third consecutive appearance in the Frozen Four, but this time they survived their first game and will play for the national championship. In 2014, North Dakota lost 2-1 to Minnesota in Philadelphia. Last year, the Fighting Hawks lost 5-3 to Boston University in Boston.

Thursday night, even when North Dakota saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the third period, the team knew it wasn’t going down without fighting hard for what had been so close in two previous seasons.

Said coach Brad Berry: “When it was 2-0 and they made it 2-2, at the 10-minute mark [in the third period], it was not only the coaches but it was the players on the bench that all reiterated the same thing out of their mouths: ‘We’ve come too far. We’ve come too far. We’ve put too much into this thing. We don’t want this to happen like it did the past two years.’

“So guys know. And they believe. I think it’s a tribute to the relationship and the resiliency in our locker room, and that comes from the players.”

Junior defenseman Troy Stecher said that the way the past two seasons ended for North Dakota has been a motivating factor for the whole team.

“Yeah, it creates a little fire within yourself,” said Stecher. “You work so hard. You set a goal within the summer, not just the beginning of the year.

“We weren’t shy about talking about it. And some people may not like that, but that’s just the confidence within our hockey group, that we support each other and we have each other’s backs. For the sophomore class, junior class, senior class, we kind of understand that feeling of disappointment. But at the same time, we played really well in Cincinnati in the regional and we remember how good we felt there and we have an opportunity to feel that way again.”

“We’re very close and we communicate daily,” said Berry, “and to the point where we bring things up that might be uncomfortable to talk about, but it doesn’t matter. We’re a tight group. We talk about the heartache and the pain that we’ve got to.”

North Dakota last played for a national championship in 2005 in Columbus, Ohio, a 4-1 loss to Denver. The Fighting Hawks won their last national title in 2000, a 4-2 win over Boston College in Providence, R.I. Stecher said that he and his teammates are eager to contribute to the program’s tradition.

“This program prides itself on our success and the history, and tomorrow’s another opportunity to do something this university hasn’t done in 16 years,” said Stecher. “So a lot of colleges would be proud just to get to the Frozen Four, and we’ve done that in the past years and fell short and were disappointed.

“We’re really excited for tomorrow. We understand it’s going to be extremely difficult.”

Separate semifinal tickets cause tight turnaround for fans, arena staff

Fans enter Amalie Arena about 10 minutes before the second semifinal game Thursday (photo: Ed Trefzger).

TAMPA, Fla. — When the final horn sounded after Thursday’s Quinnipiac-Boston College national semifinal, a message on the enormous center-ice scoreboard urged fans to leave Amalie Arena.

This season, rather than being issued a single ticket, fans had a separate one for each semifinal game and were required to leave after the early game and reenter.

While the tight turnaround caused some logistical problems, having two separate tickets was a response by the NCAA to feedback from priority ticket holders, many of whom have been attending the Frozen Four for 20 years or more.

“We get feedback from this group of fans quite a bit,” said Kristin Fasbender, associate director of championships for the NCAA. “That’s part of the reason we did what we did last night by emptying the building. We’ve heard from our fans over the years a lot that they don’t like being stuck in the building in essence for six hours.”

The challenge for fans and security alike: getting everyone out of and back into the building in one hour.

Even 10 minutes before game time, people were jammed at the gates as they poured back into the facility.

“It was tight,” Fasbender said. “We’ve been talking with [Amalie Arena security] since last fall that an hour turnaround was all we had, and they all thought we were nuts, but they’ve been nothing but wonderful to work with.”

The NCAA also delayed the one-hour countdown between games for as long as possible, waiting for everyone to leave the ice before starting the clock.

Fan response wasn’t the only reason that the NCAA used separate tickets for each semifinal — it also allowed fans to have different seats for each game so that they could sit behind their favorite team’s bench.

It also provided an opportunity for seats that might otherwise be empty to be filled. “By adding that third ticket, if you can’t get to the 5 o’clock game but you want to give that ticket to someone else, and still go to the late game, you can do that,” Fasbender said.

ESPN’s television broadcasts are another consideration in determining times for the games.

Also a concern is attendance at a semifinal scheduled early in the afternoon.

As late as 2007, the semifinals had been at 2 and 7 p.m. Fasbender acknowledged that the early start time wasn’t considered an issue when every Frozen Four was sold out. Despite two crowds of about 18,000 on Thursday, that left more than 1,000 seats unfilled for each game.

The NCAA men’s ice hockey committee will consider each future host city’s location, weather and surrounding neighborhoods in deciding whether to have separate semifinal tickets in future years and how much time to leave between games.

“We will have some conversation about what went well and what we would potentially do differently if we would do it again,” said Fasbender. “These things are up for debate and I don’t think we are locked into anything.”

Quinnipiac’s Cashman lauded for place in program’s rise

Reid Cashman is in his fourth season on Quinnipiac’s staff (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold has talked several times this week about the history of his program — its humble beginnings and rapid rise to one of the top programs in the country.

A big part of that legacy is associate head coach Reid Cashman, who has made his mark as both a player and a coach.

Cashman, who played for Quinnipiac from 2003 to 2007, was the first Bobcats player to earn national recognition as a player as an All-American his final three seasons, including as a sophomore during Quinnipiac’s last year in Atlantic Hockey, and then his final two seasons in ECAC Hockey.

A two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, Cashman holds school records for career assists (125) and points (148) by a defenseman.

“Reid was our first All-American,” said Pecknold. “I believe he was a three-time All-American. He was a big-time player for us in Atlantic Hockey. I remember Reid’s sophomore year he led our team in scoring, the first time for a defenseman.”

When the Bobcats moved to ECAC Hockey in 2005, the conventional wisdom was that Cashman wouldn’t be able to replicate his success. But he dominated that league as well, averaging more than a point per game and being named to the ECAC Hockey all-decade team.

“When we went to the ECAC, people said he couldn’t do that again,” said Pecknold. “Boom. He was just a great player.”

Cashman said he chose to play at Quinnipiac for two reasons.

“The campus and the chance to play,” he said. “It was a beautiful campus and I remember sitting in the office with Rand, who told me we were losing three senior defensemen and that I was going to be on the power play from day one. And true to his word, the first practice, I was.”

After several years of professional hockey in North America and Europe, Cashman got the opportunity to come home to Quinnipiac as a coach in 2012.

“I was playing professionally and started thinking what I wanted to do when I was done with that,” he said. “I was all ready to go back to Germany and the day I got the contract, Rand offered me the job here.

“It was an easy choice. I had just gotten engaged. My wife’s a Quinnipiac alum. We were both excited to come back.”

“We’re really fortunate to have Reid on our staff,” said Pecknold. “He’s one of the best assistants in the game and Billy [Riga], one of my other guys, is also one of the best in the league. They’re the reason we’re up here. I know I’m the one up here getting the accolades and stuff but my staff is awesome. We’ve got a great system going and those guys are phenomenal for me.”

Luke Johnson watches North Dakota’s practice from the seats

TAMPA, Fla. — Forward Luke Johnson did not practice with the North Dakota team Friday. Instead, the junior watched his teammates from the stands, with his left leg braced and crutches nearby.

North Dakota’s Luke Johnson watches Quinnipiac’s practice on Friday (photo: Melissa Wade).

There’s no official word on Johnson’s injury or status, but he left Thursday’s 4-2 win over Denver in the second period after a mid-ice collision.

Johnson (11-10–21) played every game for the Fighting Hawks this season, centering a trio that coach Brad Berry calls “The Heavy Line,” flanked by freshman Rhett Gardner on his left and sophomore Austin Poganski to his right. It’s a combo that Berry likes to match against opponents’ top-scoring lines.

“Well, he’s meant a lot,” Berry said after Thursday’s game. “And again he plays consistent every single game that he plays, but it seems like this time of year he really plays well. He’s a gamer.”

Johnson’s departure “threw a wrench” into the lineup, according to Berry. Johnson had the game-winning goal against Northeastern in the Midwest Regional and another goal against Michigan in Cincinnati.

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