Hockey East picks – Mar. 6-8

I picked up two games on Dave last weekend, but still have a massive hill to climb, particularly as I don’t expect Dave to pick too differently from me in this first round of the playoffs. Because these series are best two-of-three, we will pick all three games, even if we believe there will be a two-game sweep. So if you see us pick a team to win three games, understand why.

Jim last week: 8-2-1
Jim to date: 151-81-25
Dave last week: 6-4-1
Dave to date: 155-77-25

Hockey East first round (Friday-Sunday)

No. 12 Massachusetts at No. 5 Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: If UMass were at home, I’d have more faith. On the road, I think this should be Notre Dame’s series.
ND 4, UMass 2; ND 3, UMass 2; ND 3, UMass 1
Dave’s pick: Notre Dame’s performances down the stretch — better than .500 in six games against Providence, BU, and BC — have me convinced. The Irish should sweep or, at worst, emerge in three games.
ND 4, UMass 1; ND 3, UMass 2; ND 4, UMass 1

No. 11 Merrimack at No. 6 Northeastern
Jim’s pick: If there is one series I see a potential upset, it is this one. Not because I don’t believe in Northeastern, but because I do believe goaltending can steal playoff games and Merrimack has a stud in Rasmus Tirronen. Still, I’m picking NU in 3.
NU 3, MC 1; MC 2, NU 1; NU 2, MC 1

Dave’s pick: I can’t agree with Jim on this one. Merrimack has won only a single game since Jan. 17 and the was one in which Lowell thoroughly outplayed the Warriors. I’d be surprised to see this one go to three.
NU 4, MC 1; NU 2 MC 1; NU 4, MC 1

No. 10 Maine at No. 7 Vermont
Jim’s pick: I think Maine has the potential to be a dangerous out, and it is hard to beat a team SIX times (Vermont was 4-0 vs. Maine this season) in a single season. That said, I’m not picking against Vermont.
UVM 5, Maine 3; UVM 4, Maine 1; UVM 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I think this is the series most likely to go to three games or have an underdog emerge with the upset. Vermont has been too lukewarm for me to think this matchup will be a cakewalk.  I still think, though, that the Catamounts will emerge.
UVM 4, Maine 3 (OT); UVM 3, Maine 2; UVM 2, Maine 0

No. 9 Connecticut at No. 8 New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Despite the fact that these two teams are closest in the standings in terms of a first-round matchup, I think this could be the most lopsided as each team ended the regular season headed in different directions. That said, Rob Nichols could be a dangerous factor in this series that you should watch for.
UNH 3, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 2; UNH 3, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: I agree that despite the usually tight eight- vs. nine-seed matchup, this series isn’t likely to play out that way. UNH is running on all cylinders; UConn, running on empty.
UNH 3, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 1

139 COMMENTS

  1. The kid who took the penalty resulting in the
    “Bullshit” chant from Lowell fans? None other than 2011 NESCAC Player of the Year Joe Houk.

  2. This is one of the best articles written about the frozen four. Thank you. So true about the commentary.. lol.. how about the “nickname” for UMass Lowell’s goalie.. “the futon”? not even flattering!

    Anyways, Saturday will be an exciting game.

    • I blame myself for Lowell not playing well. I had to DVR the game (work and dinner with the family). I only watched the last seven minutes of the second period. That was the only part of the game the Riverhawks (Red Hawks?) were not completely dominated by Yale, with the exception of Connor Hellebuyck. Lowell kept waiting for a mistake that Yale was not going to make.

      • Joe, that explains everything. I did not see Lowell losing unless they somehow beat themselves. Now I know what really happened. Next year, try to watch the whole game, in fact perhaps you should attend. I think the game will be in Philadelphia. Still, Yale deserves a ton of credit, (even though they crushed my bracket at Minnesota).

        • If BU is there, I am there, but otherwise, it will be a few years before I go to Frozen Fours. I am shooting for next year’s D-III Championship with the boys. It will be a lot cheaper.

  3. Brian, fun piece. Yesterday was awesome. Big props to the North Dakota fan who saw me in my Yale hat and fist bumped and said they played a great game in the regional and a great game against Lowell. Fans of several teams told me how much they enjoyed watching Yale and noted the overall team play of Yale. Fantastic experience!

  4. First of all saying the ECAC is a top tier league is a little bit of a stretch. As a few people have said here already, you can’t judge a league by the success of one or two teams. Case and point Bemidji State making the frozen four in 2009. You certainly wouldn’t say the CHA was a great league…this coming from a BSU alum! I will say that the overall parity in college hockey has come to the forefront and obviously there are going to be teams from all the leagues that can play with anyone. This is one of the reasons why the NCAA tournament is so great for true college hockey fans. Anyone can win against anyone in a single elimination setup. If Yale plays Minnesota or North Dakota in a best of 7, I have a hard time believing they move on. The reason everyone talks about the WCHA and HEA is because the strength of the league year after year after year. So Maybe the ECAC is making a comeback, but one or two years of success doesn’t imply dominance.

    • I respect your post however…..why do you think Yale would not move on in a seven game series against UND or Minnesota? Did you think they would beat UND, Minnesota and then UML? Me either. One great thing about D-1 college hockey is what we are seeing this year at the NCAA’s. “Upsets” that in reality are not really “upsets” after all. It’s not Yale’s 10 year record playing North Dakota’s 10 year record. It is 2013 Yale playing 2013 North Dakota in one game for the right to move on. I also agree you can’t judge a whole league by the success (or lack thereof) of one or two teams. Yale just seems to want it more right now. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you played in high school or USHL or AAA elite leagues to get to D-1 college hockey. If you want it more and play for each other, anything is possible.

  5. Brown fan here. Loved the piece! One thing I’d like to see, going forward, is for the Ivy League teams to start playing the same number of games as everyone else. If Colgate and RPI can play 34 regular season games, there is certainly no good reason the Ivies can’t. It couldn’t help but make the league even stronger. Apologies if this topic has already been beaten into the ground. And best of luck to both Quinnipiac and Yale in the final. You’ve made us proud!

  6. Brian – Your topic and article was widely read and thought provoking. I would love to see a panel discussion of 6 or 8 very experienced head coaches (i.e. Blais, Gwozdecky, Parker, York, Lucia, Eaves, Gawdowsky, Vaughn, etc.), directly address the topic of inter-league play and scheduling smaller market D-1 teams and specifically what goes into their thought process. Issues such as how far out they schedule, is revenue sharing an issue, do they reciprocate with home and home dates alternating years, when teams go west (and vice versa) do they always try to play twice if possible? Do small market teams from the east even try to get on a Wisconsin North Dakota or Denver home schedule? How hard is it to do? Like the NHL, the fans win when everyone plays in every other team’s building. In my opinion, this would be great for the college game too. I realize there are only so many weekends during the college season and travel budgets are a factor.

    • Perhaps lost in this discussion is the fact that there are small market WESTERN teams, also – the Alaska teams, Michigan Tech, Bemidji State, Mankato, etc. They need to be included, too, How hard is it for them to get on the schedule of, say, BC, or BU, or UNH?

    • I’m hoping this is a bright side to the smaller new leagues, BigTen(6 teams) and NCHC(8 teams). BTHC will only have 20 league games which leaves a lot open for scheduling a variety of non conference games. Perhaps HE will someday split into two leagues, doubling their teams’ chances of getting an autobid. With more interleague play, national rankings will be more meaningful as well…

  7. Welcome to college hockey, ECAC. It’s about time. So, where is Quinnipiac again? Kentucky? Regardless, even a blind squirrel finds a……..

  8. Better solution, Adapt the NHL playoff style, Turn the Tourney into a set of best of three series, Higher seeds host.

    • I think that would be a bad idea for college hockey. The problem with a best of 3 format is it inherently takes the best teams and puts them at an advantage.

      It’s good for the Yales and Unions to get a natty here and there. I seriously doubt these teams would regularly beat teams like Minnesota, North Dakota, BC, BU, Denver…in a 3 game series. It’s possible but I don’t believe it’s likely.

      1 well played game and it’s a toss up. Which is good for the underdogs.

      Perhaps a first round best of 3 would make sense at onsite locations. Still I fear that these smaller programs would struggle.

      • I wouldnt say it would eliminate smaller schools from winning when Union won the Natty a few years ago.Union was flat out playing on fire during the playoffs (shane G was unreal) and Yale is the same case, got hot at the perfect time. if a smaller school gets hot, i dont think a best of 3 series would slow them down that much. In the current format you have to win 2 games in a weekend to advance same concept with best of 3 just playing the same team obviously. IMO I don’t think it makes that much of a difference

  9. St Paul looks pretty good. It looked pretty good last week too. Minnesota will bring in a better fan base than Mankato does, but either one along with St Cloud will have better than average attendance.

    • The Minnesota fan base will start to evaporate if they don’t manage to get the program back up to its pre-Big 10 stature. U of M fans in the cities have too many other options for entertainment and won’t continue to pay the U ticket prices to watch a team they feel isn’t where it is supposed to be. I’ll admit that as someone who worked at one of the MNSCU schools I (you can probably guess which one) it is just a bit satisfying to see the Maroon and Gold empire struggling, considering how much lobbying power they use to keep the MNSCU schools down, athletically and academically.

      MNSU has a smaller fan base for now, but I had the opportunity to watch Minnesota State in the first three years under Hastings, its amazing how far that program has come in just a few years, Verizon Center is pretty dang full even for games against teams like Alabama Huntsville and Lake Superior State, and too be fair I think it would fill up more if the arena seating was a full bowl rather than a U-shape, Sitting on the open end of the U is not ideal for watching a hockey game. MNSU may not be having as good a year as last year, but the program is still on a good upward track.

      • The Minnesota fanbase has ALREADY started to evaporate. Have you been to Mariucci lately? Its like a morgue in there when they play OSU or Sparty.

        • To be fair Judding deserves some credit for recruiting some of the players that Hastings has worked with. But sometimes your program needs a fresh leader with new perspective. Hastings experience in the USHL has served him well and the enthusiasm in Minnesota State for hockey is growing year by year. Its good to see a similar thing happening at Bowling Green and Tech as well.

          • NO DISS ON TROY AT ALL. GOOD RECRUITER AND WAS THE FIRST TO GET THEM IN THE NCAA TOURNEY.

            HASTINGS DIDN’T START FROM SCRATCH … THAT’S FOR SURE.

  10. At what point does the Atlantic stop getting an auto bid? Yet another team in the 20’s stealing a spot from a more deserving team

  11. I’m sure someone has a good explanation but I am not sure why U of Minnesota jumps Cornell to get to the final 16. It has to be an attendance issue because if you look, Cornell more wins and a better winning percentage.

      • DU, I think the Pios will make the tourney if they keep winning. If/when they do, do you want to wager anything that they are sent to Albany..lol…?
        The way I look at it DU, the Pios should be used to playing on the east coast by now. Helll, when I see these brackets, you can pretty much plop Denver in the most eastwardly located city….lol. This year, just getting into the NT should be the main goal, would you not agree? BTW, how is my boy Hillman doing lately? Is he playing with more confidence?

        • No doubt we will be sent back East, as usual. Only hope is to get into 3rd band (9-12) and swap with BU in Cincinnati. Still too much hockey left to worry about rankings though. Hillman doing good so far. Montgomery not afraid to pair him with Zajac, saying a lot since Travis thinks he’s a forward so Hillman needs to stay at home.

    • For the purposes of hid predictions, he takes all division leaders up to this point as the league autobids, as if they have won the conference tournament. Thus, Minnesota State and Bobby Morris move to top 16 and Minny stays as they are the current conference leader and Cornell and PSU get moved out

    • Who really cares right now, there is so much hockey let to be played. Teams are going to be moving in and out until the season is over. Why are they evening doing this dumb Bracketology right now

  12. Here’s and idea. Format the tourney to an 8 team best of 3 series over 3 – 4 weeks first weekend on 1-4 seeds campuses, next weekend at a regional site. For example St. Paul in the west and Boston in the east. Then have a Bye weekend or not and play the championship at wherever it’s chosen. It would be the same amount of traveling for the teams 1 – 4 (5-8 can suck it up and travel who knows they may get paired with a nearby school in the 1st round) that occurs now and the NCAA still gets to host some regionals at “neutral venues”. Maybe attendance is soo weak because a majority of the 8 – 16 seeds don’t have enough of a reason to travel to watch their teams play…. Maybe a possibility… if a school with a 3k seat arena becomes a 1-4 seed the NCAA could award conditional regionals to larger arenas nearby that may or may not be used to based on the schools arena size…probably not ideal but are some of those arenas in cincy and Worcester in that much demand anyway

    • Great idea, that way fans would have about 2 days for booking travel plans since the “conditional” sites wouldn’t be known until a couple days after final PWR. This would really make traveling teams fans “suck it up” for highest airline and hotel rates. Keep these good ideas coming.

      • The “conditional” sites would be bid on years in advance just as regionals are now and as soon as the bracket is announce if a team with a small arena is a 1-4 a regional site nearby would be selected and announced at the same time as it always is when the bracket comes out…I think you may have misunderstood what I meant

        • Don’t think I misunderstood, could be wrong though. You would need too many “conditional” sites, since you don’t know what region you would need them, to have them bid on them years in advance. A lot of larger venues have concerts, skating competitions, and/or conferences planned. Do you really think the NC$$ would settle for 8 teams in 2 Regionals?

          • Ok I’ll agree that the “conditional” site idea is probably not very likely. Was more or less thinking of a possible solution for the problem of a 1 – 4 being a team with a small arena that the NCAA more than likely wouldnt agree with for $ issues. But i think the NCAA would possibly go for the 8 team best of 3. It would equate to 14 – 21 games (current format = 14) plus the first round of best of 3 would guarantee great attendance, compared to the format now (isnt that what a majority of us complain about every week? haha) the second round would more than likely be pretty solid attendance if at least UND or any minnesota team made it in the west and if any boston team made it in the east. Looking at the frozen four the past few years the championship would maintain solid attendance as it has. No more watching games on ESPN with crappy atmospheres in the first 2 rounds hahah

          • Totally agree, but NC$$ will not change because best of 3 at a top seeded school would be very unfair to visitors. Also don’t forget, even though it looks crappy on ESPNU with tons of empty seats at the Regional Finals the NC$$ has already got paid for almost every one.

    • Actually, this is very close to the way it used to be. I think something along this format is the best way to do the NT. Speaking to DU’s point, you could use the “extra” week after the first set of games (games played on campus). This would provide some break in flight costs for fans. You could add an additional week off prior to the NCG, but this might draw the tourney out too long..?? Would have to look at it more closely. Nonetheless, I like this idea much more than the current set up.

      • Extra week would extend too long, like you stated. I don’t remember when it was an 8-team tourney, must have been a while back. Also, would not like to be one of the “home” teams in the first round that would be penalized for having an arena that is not big enough. Every NCHC school has large enough rinks (6,000 +) to qualify, but that is not the case with all schools. Additionally, now the NC$$ wants games on 200×85 surface, this also would cause problems with some schools. If you think Trevor’s idea is good, eliminate the “conditional” sites and let the chips fall where they may. I seriously doubt the NC$$ would go for that though.

        • Yea, no way will there be an 8-field NT. In the past, the first series of the NT took place at higher ranked team’s home ice. Then, the winners would advance to, what amounted to, East-West divisions….then the FF. Now, depending on rank, the regions were not always made up of teams from that part of the country. If DU advanced, they may or may not play in the West division (they did not call it East/West division btw) depending on their national ranking after the initial on-campus games.
          The NCAA has a difficult problem. There are too many variables, I think anyway, the NCAA is trying to remedy. Spreading CH to nontraditional locations with the idea of increasing the number of hockey-playing schools. Fan support considerations. Fairness to the tournament teams. There are too many factors they are trying to address imo. I think CH is what it is. There has been limited growth over the past 15-20 years (not including DII/DIII teams moving up to DI), using the NT as a tool to increase CH visibility simply does not work.
          I think the NCAA needs to, is almost forced to, take advantage of where the fan support is to some degree. Fairness is critical, but there is just no way you can expect fans to show up with some of the locations that have been used over the years. This is why I like the first games of the NT to be played on campus. This will, most of the time, ensure improved fan support. After these games, I really think you have to look at MSP and Boston for regional and NCG locations….permanently. These two cities will eliminate so many issues that have been discussed. You can alternate the NC between the two cities. Imo, this approach eliminates almost every problem or issue Some teams may not like it, I understand this. If DU and CC (and ASU now) begin to see an increase in fan support, you can make an argument for Denver to alternate with MSP. Until then, MSP is the location. Just my $02.00.

          • Sparky, I agree with a good portion of what you said, but one comment I’d make is that I don’t think you/we need to worry about having a permanent home for the Frozen Four. In general, there haven’t been any issues with FF attendance, in part, I believe, because many people go every year no matter what teams are there and make a vacation of it. I personally like going to a different city each year, but maybe that’s just me.

            The regionals are where there are attendance issues and no one can agree on how to fix it. I think it’s pretty easy to say that having regionals in Cincy, Toledo, Grand Rapids, etc. isn’t going to work, but other locations need to bid. I’d be interested to see how a West regional in Fargo and a Midwest in St. Paul would affect attendance (provided UND, MN, etc. make the tournament).

            Also, I like that you gave your $2 instead of your $0.02…I think there’s a long post joke in there somewhere.

          • I normally agree with you 100% of the time, but I disagree with your last couple of sentences. Denver supports post-season play more than most people are aware. If you at the attendance figures for the FF and Regionals, Denver fares very well. The FF attendance has the Pepsi Center 8th and 10th on the all-time list, both without DU playing. There is less than 1,000 people difference in 3rd thru 14th attendance wise. The top 2 are Ford Field, which no arena can match. As far as Regionals are concerned, Pepsi Center ranks 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in attendance in the Midwest/West Regionals ever. Again, DU was not playing in any of the games. I would love to see the Frozen Faceoff come to Denver, just to see how many attend. I do appreciate your $2.00, or $.02 worth. :-)

          • would love to see the frozen faceoff in Denver as well. Hope the NCHC considers rotating sites in the future

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here