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Quinnipiac leads Boston College 2-0 after 1 on goals by Taverner, McKernan

TAMPA, Fla. — A pair of first-period goals and an insistent forecheck have given Quinnipiac a 2-0 lead over Boston College after one period.

Andrew Taverner’s sixth goal of the season at 7:20 of the first period gave the Bobcats the two-goal lead. Taverner snuck down the slot and steered in a pass fed from behind the goal line by Travis St. Denis.

Kevin McKernan scored his fourth goal of the season at 2:31 of the first period, unassisted, wristing a shot just under the left pad of Thatcher Demko after Scott Davidson fed the puck out from behind the BC net.

 

Boston College was outshot 8 to 7 but didn’t get its first shot on goal until almost six minutes had transpired.

BC was 0-for-2 on the power play, while Quinnipiac did not have a man advantage in the period.

Line combinations for Quinnipiac, Boston College

TAMPA, Fla. — Here are the lines for Thursday’s first Frozen Four semifinal between Quinnipiac and Boston College (5 p.m. EDT, ESPN2):

Quinnipiac (31-3-7)

7 Sam Anas-26 Travis St. Denis-16 Landon Smith
24 Bo Pieper-19 Tanner MacMaster-20 Craig Martin
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

Boston College (28-7-5)

4 Teddy Doherty-24 Zach Sanford-14 Adam Gilmour
19 Ryan Fitzgerald-18 Colin White-12 Alex Tuch
28 Miles Wood-26 Austin Cangelosi-11 Chris Calnan
21 Matthew Gaudreau-10 Christopher Brown-15 JD Dudek

3 Ian McCoshen-5 Casey Fitzgerald
27 Michael Kim-6 Steve Santini
8 Travis Jeke-2 Scott Savage

30 Thatcher Demko
29 Ian Milosz

Ahead of Thursday’s semifinals, tickets still available

Capacity for hockey at Amalie Arena, shown here during Wednesday’s practices, is 19,092 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa has been lauded for its hospitality at the Frozen Four, but one of the questions about staging college hockey’s finale at such a southerly location is whether fans would make the trip.

For the most part, they have. So far, we’ve seen the typical assortment of team sweaters around the area, which is the only measure we have so far.

Attendance numbers were good when the Frozen Four was here in 2012 — 18,605 for the semifinals and 18,818 for the championship game — but there were tickets available for Amalie Arena (then known as Tampa Bay Times Forum), which lists a hockey capacity of 19,092.

It appears that’ll be the case again in 2016. As of Thursday morning, tickets were available through the NCAA and Ticketmaster for both semifinals and Saturday’s championship game.

On StubHub, meanwhile, secondary-market tickets were going for as low as $25 and $19 for Thursday’s games and $29 for the title game. At Vivid Seats, tickets were starting at $14 and $20 for the semifinals and $21 for the final.

According to StubHub communications manager Cameron Papp, 31 percent of the sales on the site by Wednesday morning were to buyers in Florida. North Dakota followed at 21 percent, with buyers from Massachusetts (7 percent), Minnesota (7 percent) and New York (5 percent) also making up the top five.

The average price for an all-session package sold on StubHub was $236, down 16 percent from last year in Boston. The average sale price for a championship game ticket was $136, down 55 percent from last season.

It should be noted, however, that location probably has a lot to do with the drop. Last season’s Frozen Four in Boston featured two teams from within easy driving distance, Boston University and Providence, both of whom made it to the final.

Denver’s Levin gets NCAA’s Elite 90 Award

Gabe Levin has a 3.961 GPA at Denver (photo: Candace Horgan).

TAMPA, Fla. — Denver forward Gabe Levin was awarded the NCAA’s Elite 90 Award as the player from one of the Frozen Four teams with the highest cumulative GPA.

Levin, a senior Finance major from Marina del Ray, Calif., has a 3.961 GPA.

He has been accepted into Harvard Law School but told the DU Clarion that he hasn’t yet decided on his plans.

“I’m going to wait at least until the season is over before I make up my mind,” Levin told the paper. “I’ve gotten into some other universities and I’m still waiting to hear back from some, but they’re [Harvard] definitely the best one so far.”

Levin, the recipient of the NCHC’s inaugural postgraduate scholarship, missed the Pioneers’ Dec. 4 game at North Dakota so he could rest before taking the law school admission test in Grand Forks the next morning.

It was one of only two games missed this season by Levin, who has five goals and 13 points.

In Frozen Four practice, North Dakota shows balance between focus, fun

North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson and goalie coach Karl Goehring watch practice Wednesday (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — If you win a shootout in a North Dakota practice, you’re going to pay the price — and you know it.

“It’s kind of tradition here at North Dakota when we do a Thursday shootout before the weekend series,” said junior defenseman Troy Stecher. “At the end, when there’s a winner, we all sort of dog pile him. Luke Johnson was the lucky victim this week.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a tradition that we have and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Said Gage Ausmus, another junior defenseman, “That’s why I never win shootouts, so I never get dog piled.”

Stecher delivered the explanation of the dog pile in the most businesslike manner, sounding as though he was defending the practice after the Fighting Hawks left the ice Wednesday afternoon. By contrast, Ausmus played the moment for laughs.

And that, in a nutshell, is this North Dakota team — absolutely focused on the business at hand but able to enjoy any given moment.

In Wednesday’s practice, the Fighting Hawks looked loose but not unfocused. That, said coach Brad Berry, was part of the plan.

“I think there’s a balance,” said Berry. “This is a very special group. We’ve said it all year long. The three guys that were to the right of me and a bunch of juniors and seniors in that locker room, we’ve been here before. We’ve experienced a little disappointment the last couple of years in Philadelphia and Boston.

“They’re hungry, but they’re focused, they’re committed, they’re dialed in. But at the same time, there’s a little bit of levity there as far as being a human being, too, and enjoying it. We’re all about that. Tomorrow is the game day and they’ll be ready to go.”

Intensity comes through when Denver hits the ice

Denver coach Jim Montgomery won the 1993 national championship as a player at Maine (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — When the Denver Pioneers took the ice for the last practice of the day Wednesday at Amalie Arena, it seemed the intensity level was up compared to the practices of the other three teams.

At one point, Denver rotated through all of its lines and defensive combos in five minutes of back-and-forth simulated game play.

“That’s just the way we practice,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “I think a lot of our personality on the ice in games comes from our personality in practice. And a lot of it emanates from me. Intensity is what I was about as a player. And as a coach, I think to get these guys to realize that all this type of stuff, it’s awesome that we have so many journalists here and that we’re on so many different websites, but we’re not used to that. So we’ve got to get back to what matters most, and that’s our preparation, and if we’re business-like, and especially if I’m business-like, I think it gets our players on the right page.”

From an experience and success standpoint, Boston College coach Jerry York leads the way, as he was won five national titles — four with BC and one with Bowling Green. BC also has 14 players with previous Frozen Four experience who were on the 2014 squad that lost to Union in Philadelphia. North Dakota has been to three straight Frozen Fours, and has 16 skaters from those teams, as well as coach Brad Berry, who was an assistant the last two years. Quinnipiac played in its only Frozen Four in 2013, losing the national championship to Yale, and has seven seniors who played on that team.

Denver, by contrast, hasn’t made a Frozen Four since 2005, the last year it won the national championship, so none of its players have been to this stage. However, they can draw on the experiences of their coach, who was a captain at Maine in 1993 when the Black Bears won the national championship.

“The biggest contrast I guess is what I was just talking about … I’ve got to get everybody on the right page,” said Montgomery. “I’ve got to get everyone’s focus and mentality channeling in the right direction. When I was a captain, I had to do that a little bit at Maine, but we had such an easy group, and to be honest, we were better than everybody else, so it was a little bit easier. It was just about yourself.

“And now, as a coach, you come back — the only thing I do like about my playing days that I can draw to the team is sharing the experience with them about how it’s a great event, but when it’s time to play, you’ve got to be in the moment.”

Upperclassmen credited with helping keep North Dakota on the rails

North Dakota freshman Chris Wilkie’s helmet sports a Frozen Four sticker (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — In their third straight run at a national title, North Dakota brings a team that has some experience on the national stage. But with 11 freshmen on the roster and only four seniors, this Fighting Hawks team is significantly different from the squads that bowed out in the 2014 and 2015 semifinals.

“We started the season as a young team with 11 freshmen, and we tried to get those guys up to speed as fast as we can,” said junior defenseman Troy Stecher. “I’m really confident that we have. We’re a really mature group now and we understand the task at hand.”

While the Fighting Hawks are led in scoring by freshman Brock Boeser (26-28–54), coach Brad Berry said that it’s the locker room leadership of the upperclassmen that has given North Dakota a chance to compete for another NCAA championship.

“You look at the Brock Boesers and the younger players in our group and it’s no coincidence,” said Berry. “They’re very good players; they’re very gifted and talented. But … a lot of the leaders in the locker room have been a big part of his development.”

It’s not just in nurturing the newcomers that the character of this North Dakota team has been defined. In the first half of the season, both of UND’s scholarship goaltenders were injured and a junior walk-on who’d never played a game, Matt Hrynkiw, stepped into the cage. The team rallied around him, and from Oct. 10 through Nov. 21, Hrynkiw played every game, going 9-1-2 with two shutouts to his credit. This, from a player who practiced with the team for two years previously never even expecting to see game action.

Berry said that the coaching staff calls this team “a special group.”

“We talked about it in the mid part of the year when we went through all the injury problems … and a third-string walk-on being our No. 1 goalie, reeling off nine wins in a row — it’s that special bond, that team-first mentality. The next man up has to do the job. It’s because of the leadership. It’s been a big part of us not only staying on the rails this year but for the development of freshmen.”

The leadership and team-first mentality extends to playing passionate but disciplined hockey, said Berry. “We take our lunch boxes and we go to work every day and it’s all about the work and the humility and getting after it,” he said. “In saying that, we want to be aggressive on the ice but we do talk about discipline.

“That’s a great word we use every day in our locker room, about playing with tenacity but playing disciplined. Again, it’s going to be an important factor this weekend going forward.”

The Fighting Hawks take an average of 11.3 penalty minutes per game, down from 13.4 a year ago. In the Midwest Regional, North Dakota took a total of four penalties — two per game — for eight total minutes in the box.

“I thought we did a really good job in Cincinnati and even in the Frozen Faceoff of limiting our penalties. That’s playing with heart, but playing with discipline.”

Top lines can dictate success for Denver, North Dakota

Denver players raise their sticks at the end of the formal part of practice Wednesday (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — When Denver faces North Dakota on Thursday in the second semifinal game of the Frozen Four, fans of college hockey will get a chance to see two of the top lines in the country square off. Denver’s Pacific Rim Line of Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell will try to match North Dakota’s CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz.

The teams have faced each other five times this season, and so far, the success of each squad’s top line has dictated the results of a 2-2-1 season series.

In the first two games Dec. 4-5 in Grand Forks, N.D., Boeser, Caggiula and Schmaltz scored six of North Dakota’s nine goals in 5-1 and 4-0 wins while racking up 10 points total. Gambrell, Heinen and Moore were held without a point.

In the rematch in Denver on Feb. 12-13, the Pacific Rim Line dictated the play with 18 points and six goals in 6-4 and 4-1 wins. The CBS Line was held to six points and two goals. That was indicative of an overall strong second half for Gambrell, Moore and Heinen, who struggled at times in the first half.

“I think in the begriming of the year we weren’t doing the little things right, I think, being on the right side of the puck and winning our battles,” Heinen said of the way the Pacific Rim Line caught fire in the second half. “As the season has gone on, I feel Coach Monty has really stressed that with our line and I feel like we’ve done a better job of that lately, and it leads to more offense.”

In what was originally thought to be the rubber match in Minneapolis in the consolation game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on March 19, it seems fitting that in 1-1 tie, the two lines matched each other, each getting a goal and two assists.

“It’s kind of like our power play — when we’re working, things seem to work,” said Moore. “When we are working hard our skill takes over, so we just need to make sure we are working hard. I really think we got a lot more comfortable with talking to each other and being open about things. If we didn’t like something that happened, we talked about it and just worked through some stuff.”

Asked about any plans to control North Dakota’s CBS line, Denver coach Jim Montgomery expressed confidence in all of his players ability to battle, while also subtly teasing North Dakota coach Brad Berry.

“We have four good lines that can play 200-foot hockey,” said Montgomery. “We don’t have last change. They’re going to be able — and I’m sure every time there’s an offensive zone draw, they’ll be out there two out of every three. And we’ll expect that and put out the line that we think can win the faceoff on that side of the ice. Besides that, I’ve already kind of publicly tried to challenge Coach Berry to go head to head, CBS against Pacific Rim. It would be a helluva show, but he wants to go with his defensive line against them. Maybe he’ll bite halfway through the game.”

Denver stresses ‘shot-first mentality’ to improve power-play success against North Dakota

Denver works out on Wednesday at Amalie Arena (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — Although Denver and North Dakota have gone 2-2-1 against each other this season, one area where North Dakota has ruled the Pioneers is special teams: Denver has been held without a power-play goal in 19 tries and has given up three power-play goals to the Fighting Hawks.

Denver’s top line, the Pacific Rim Line of Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell, will be counted on to provide some offense, especially on the special teams, as the two times Denver beat North Dakota this season, the Pioneers scored more than a goal. In its two losses and one tie, Denver was held to a goal twice and shut out once.

“I think our power play just wasn’t where we wanted it to be and it has improved as the season has gone on,” said Heinen. “The main thing is we have to have a shot-first mentality and off that create seams and more shots.”

“I think when we’ve played them before we’ve been outworked; their penalty kill has outworked our power play,” said Moore. “If we outwork and get the puck more, we’ll be fine.”

Task at hand comes into focus for Quinnipiac

A worker attends to the Zamboni during practice day at the Frozen Four (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — The most-often-used phrase by Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold and his players during the postseason has been “focus.”

Pecknold has preached the importance of staying the course as his team racked up a school-record 31 wins, the ECAC Hockey regular season and playoff titles, and an NCAA East Regional crown.

“For us [it's about] continuing to play to our identity,” said Pecknold. “We’ve had success all year long because we’ve done that, and if we continue I think we’ll be rewarded for that.”

It’s especially true for the seven seniors, who made it to the national title game in Pittsburgh in 2013.

“Playing in the Frozen Four my freshman year was an unbelievable experience,” said senior captain Soren Jonzzon, who had a pair of goals and an assist in the East Regional in Albany, N.Y.

“We definitely learned a lot,” he said. “I think the biggest role our seniors have is to really make sure that all the other players are focused on the game rather than all the excitement, whether it be coming off the plane and there’s music playing and people greeting us and things like that.”

There’s that word again. And again:

“In the end we’re here to play a hockey game, said Jonzzon. “Hopefully two hockey games, and we just got to make sure that everyone’s got their focus on that.”

What was that word again?

“One of the things I try to do as a coach with my players, and I believe in it, is we stay in the moment and we focus at the task at hand,” said Pecknold. “When you walk in our locker room, you see on the door it says: ‘Attack the day.’ We’re going to attack the day.”

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