A quick look at the Northeast Regional, where Boston University is the top seed

Boston University is the top seed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H. (photo: Melissa Wade).

The selection committee threw the Northeast Regional a curve ball.

Historically a prime-time set of games with local flavor in Manchester, N.H., the NCAA tournament regional became a day-night doubleheader, with a rivalry showdown between former WCHA foes Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth as the showcase.

Northeast Regional (Manchester, N.H.)

• Boston University vs. Yale, 2 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPNU

• Minnesota-Duluth vs. Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPNU

• Regional championship game, 5:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, ESPN2

The Golden Gophers and Bulldogs have a chance to renew their rivalry, while Yale and Boston University — the 2013 champion and this year’s Hockey East champion — will play the undercard in Friday’s first round.

There’s a lot of hardware between the four teams in the Northeast. Each team has a national title to their name in the last six years, with Minnesota being the lone exception.

As the lone Big Ten representative, Minnesota has even more pressure than usual to deliver. And after coming so close last year, the Gophers have the star power to do it. Kyle Rau, Travis Boyd, Adam Wilcox — the litany of names would fill out all-star teams in any league. And after a Big Ten title, the Gophers enter with a fair degree of momentum.

The fashion with which the Gophers ran through the end of the Big Ten regular season and surged past Michigan in the title game makes the potential for a mouthwatering BU-Minnesota regional final (a rematch from 2012 in St. Paul).

Gophers fans are still smarting from last year’s championship game loss to Union, overpowered by the Dutchmen when destiny seemed to be lining up behind them.

Still, rivalry games produce great hockey and unlikely results. Minnesota-Duluth is in the tournament for the first time since 2012, when it lost to Boston College in Worcester, when they were attempting to reach the Frozen Four in back-to-back years.

The Bulldogs have made their mark on the season with low-scoring games, winning a slew of nonconference and league games in the first half of the year only scoring two or three goals per game.

Lately, even that’s dried up. Five times in the last nine games, the Bulldogs have scored fewer than two goals and were shut out twice in their last three games.

Possession numbers and goaltending haven’t been bad, but giving up three goals seems to be the threshold for losing lately, and for Minnesota-Duluth to reach to the regional final, goal scoring needs to improve, especially to contend with the depth the Gophers have at their disposal.

Speaking of goal scoring, there won’t be a lack of it from the team in scarlet and white in the early game.

On the surface, the Terriers’ season has been defined by the talents Jack Eichel has lent them, but there are plenty of other great story lines.

Evan Rodrigues’ rise from relative anonymity to be the second-most prolific scorer in Hockey East has been remarkable.

Team defense, one of the Terriers’ greatest weaknesses last year, has emerged to be their second-greatest strength. Anchored by a healthy Matt Grzelcyk, the Terriers are far more reliable in front of Matt O’Connor this season, enabling O’Connor to put in a solid season of work in net.

That’s where Yale might have an answer. Alex Lyon has posted a phenomenal seven shutouts this season and sports the best GAA in the nation.

Not to diminish the work of his forwards, but the Bulldogs have only one goal scorer in double digits, Mike Doherty. Yale likely won’t be able to overcome BU with firepower, and will need a stellar performance from Lyon to advance.

Let’s not forget that Yale also had a rough path to get to the Frozen Four two years ago. Instead, the Bulldogs dispatched North Dakota en route to Pittsburgh. The circumstances (and the draw) are a bit different this time around, and there will be undoubtedly more traveling fans in Manchester. But it’s a similarly challenging path for the Bulldogs to make it back to the Frozen Four.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Yale has some recent NCAA tournament history with both western teams in the Northeast region. A Bulldog / Bulldog regional final would be a rematch of the 2011 East Regional final that UMD won on the way to its title. Also, a Yale / Minnesota final would be a rematch of Yale’s first game on the way to its 2013 title. Would have been nice to have swapped Harvard and Minnesota in the bracket, to set up a possible MN state / MN regional final, but the gophers and the bulldogs should be a nice late match and give folks time to fly into Manchester from out west. Go Southwest :)

  2. Yale is just the sort of team that can give a young, talented team trouble. Hopefully, BU plays a smart game the way they did against UMass Lowell.

    The Minnesota/Minnesota Duluth matchup looks like a lot of fun. Just thinking about the recruiting wars and players that know each other from high school games makes for a great level of intensity.

    I will be rooting for my Terriers to advance back to Boston and a nice ride on the T to the Garden. Good luck to all the teams.

  3. To me this is the Regional of Death. Yale is the underdog and BU is the slight favorite. Whoever wins the battle of Minnesota will give BU all they can handle. Should Yale pull out the upset against BU I think they’re a long shot against either Minnesota team.

    • 2013 Yale had “no chance”, what with Minnesota and North Dakota in a western bracket.

      Yale has as much chance as any one else to win four games. I just hope BU is the teaming winning the four.

      • I’m not sure how – in a game of skill – you can claim a team has just as much chance as another. That claim is preposterous.

        • I was replying to atlsioux who thinks either Minnesota team rolls over Yale, if Yale upsets BU. All four teams have a good shot of coming out of Manchester. I am biased towards BU so there is no way I can rationally rate their chances.

          In other words, I remember two years ago no one gave Yale a chance, and yet, they won it all as a fourth band team

        • Do you watch hockey? Any team with a good goaltender can win against a better team. Happens a lot. Otherwise, how did Bemidji State and RIT reach their Frozen Fours?

          Please tell me how many people saw Yale’s run coming two years ago. How they were the team of destiny. There is no clear favorite in this year’s tournament. It is easy to make a case for at least six teams to win it all. I would say that number is higher.

          • uh…do YOU watch hockey? because if you did, you’d know teams like UND, BC, Minnesota, et al make the FF (and win) much more frequently and have a much higher winning percentage than lower seeds like Mercyhurst or RIT. and it’s not because they’re lucky. they have the same opportunity each year that the lower seeds do, and yet…they win and advance at a much higher rate. why? because they’re better teams. (duh.) so no, not all teams have an equal chance. each team may have an equal OPPORTUNITY – win 4 games – each year, but any half_wit would realize that’s not the same thing.

            do you even understand the argument you made?

            just because something COULD happen doesn’t mean it has the same chance to happen as ALL events that COULD happen. this is not a randomized game of chance, so the probability is NOT equal for all events to happen (i.e. each team winning the FF). this is a pretty simple logical concept.

            in fact, your example – using Yale and RIT – A) shows just how infrequently that actually happens and B) disproves your own point.

            first of all, let’s ignore that the 2013 Yale team was a 20+ win, at-large bid team that had plenty of NCAA experience – having been in the NCAAs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (as a #1 seed). lumping them in with the RITs of the world (an absurd position) who only make it because of auto-bid tournaments hardly makes sense. we’ll ignore all of that.

            BUT…let’s not stop there. let’s not stop being generous by simply granting your argument the benefit of the doubt and lumping Yale in with the likes of Mercyhurst, RMU, Canisius, AF, HC, Alabama-Huntsville, RIT, Wayne State, etc… let’s even extend your argument to ALL #4 seeds that have made the FF since this format was adopted. and if we do that… it’s STILL an absurd statement to make.

            take ALL of #4 seeds since this format was adopted:

            (Year/Team/Wins/Losses)
            2008 Notre Dame (3-1)
            2009 Miami (3-1)
            2009 BSU (2-1)
            2010 RIT (2-1)
            2013 SCSU (2-1)
            2013 Yale (4-0)
            2014 North Dakota (2-1)

            In this time, ALL #4 seeds have won…18 games (1 Championship).
            Out of…180 games.

            For a winning percentage of…10%

            and THAT is your proof that any team has “as much chance as any one else” to win? a 10% winning percentage (for #4 seeds)? teams that – given 10 games to play – on average, will end up 1-10?

            did you fail math?

            So please…go on….tell me how RIT has an equal shot to make the FF and win the tourney as UND.

            Can it happen? Sure. Are RIT’s chances as good as UND’s? Of course not.

            F00L.

          • Although I doubt Joe did indeed fail math he does make a very valid point.
            The reference to having “as much chance to win” is correct given several factors. Using the “logic” of past performance Yale outscored BU 148 to 34 in their first twenty meetings (See USCHO article.) This has about as much impact on present performance as UND winning 7 titles does today. Those guys are long gone (unless
            they are in the adult-ed program in Fargo.) This isn’t knocking those great programs. Its just pointing out the fact that this is still a game.

            As for the whole “game of skill” factor. I refer you to some interesting research outlined in The success equation
            by Michael Mauboussin. Looking at “the contribution of luck in some professional sports leagues” he shows how Hockey, of the five major professional sports, has the highest “contribution of luck”
            over a 5 year period at 53% (compared to Basketball at 12% and football at 38% for example.) I’m sure we can agree this is only magnified do to the minuscule sample size (that means small number of games for us non -maths types.) In a 1 goal game you just need 1 bounce. Just ask Adam Wilcox ;)

          • Excellent points, but I still disagree that all teams have an equal probability of winning.

            One problem w/applying Mauboussin’s work is he only looked at pro level, not the NCAA. So applying that to NCAA is interesting, but speculative.

            In his book, Mauboussin also goes on to say, “The more chances they have to score, the more influence skill has.”

            So while past results are not an indication of future performance, certainly teams like BC, BU, UND, Minny et al – thanks to their skill level – are better able to influence the outcome of games to a greater degree thanks to this skill.

            After all, if luck were truly 53% (at the NCAA level), the outcomes would certainly have presented themselves by now in terms of lower winning percentages. If not in the NCAAs, then during the regular season. Or, at at a minimum, over the course of a team’s entire existence. And yet…programs like BC (.641), BU (.623) and Minny (.631) have winning percentages that are significantly statistically higher than should be expected by the application of luck.

            And yet…I hope we get the bounces this year! ;)

          • JMS – I take this opportunity dial it back. My bad. I think we got confused by the intent of the post that started this thread, a poster claiming that if Yale upset BU, the winner of Gopher/Bulldog match up goes to Frozen Four. Furthermore, I agree with everything you said about a program like Yale, because I think the same thing.

            My original point, apparently ill-worded, was to dispute that Yale (or any other at-large berth team from a power conference) has more than a puncher’s chance when there is no clear favorite. If it was not clear, I apologize for my lack of clarity or any hurt feelings. Some years you have a Maine or BC style dominance (other conferences have those too) where they are the clear favorite to win it all.

            It is my belief that third-band andfourth-band seeds, especially in the past 15 years, have proven to be far more difficult to eliminate. Certainly HE, NCHC, BTHC, WCHA, ECAC and CCHA (before disbanding) teams can win with a hot goal-tender or playing a style that exploits a weakness of a first-band. This happens less with AHA (and old CHA teams) but can still happen.

            Teams like Yale this year, or Cornell, St Lawrence, in the past, bedevil “better” teams with strong defense, big forwards and smart goaltenders. Northern Michigan beat a “better” BU team back in the 80s with speed and talent.

            Past history (prior to 2001) would show teams like BC, Union, UMD, Yale had little chance to win titles, or that teams that suffered long dry spells, moves to D-I or bad puck luck might finally break through to the Frozen Four, like Miami, Ferris State, Minnesota State and Lowell. The makeup of Frozen Four teams has become a lot more random compared to owners of NCAA titles in the past 15 years.

            Miami and Minnesota State are the equals of North Dakota and BU this year. I find nothing to separate them (other than my bias), even with the presence of Jack Eichel.

          • Fair points. And no worries. I certainly didn’t mean to offend myself. I tend to lay on the sarcasm rather thick, forgetting sometimes it doesn’t come off well in the written word. Also, please note – most of my posts are to be taken with a rather large grain of salt, as I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate.

            So now that we’ve cleared the air…

            Best of luck to your boys in the tourney. Here’s hoping we both beat the Bulldogs and meet in the 2nd round!!

          • Interesting stat shown during the BU-Yale game.

            Since 2003, the team’s winning their regionals and getting to the Frozen Four:
            First band, about forty eight percent.
            Second, third and fourth bands, all statistically the same, within one, maybe two percent, of each other. There was almost no difference between the bands

          • That is interesting. Seems to suggest there are a few elite programs a year, and then everyone else as pretty equal.

            And…good luck against UMD today.

  4. Duluth has been on a slide, culminating with their series loss to St. Cloud.
    That being said, they had a week off to rest and recover, and I expect nothing best from the Bulldogs.

    • I have absolutely no idea how to feel about this matchup. Total roll of the dice which teams show up, IMO. Recent history favors the Dogs I think

      • I think it’s going to be a barnburner either way. However, despite the Bulldogs 3-1 record against the Gophers this year, I’m cautiously optimistic the Gophers will win based on three things:

        First, Adam Wilcox seems to have gotten back to being a top-flight netminder. If he plays like he did this past weekend, Minnesota will be a very tough out.

        Second, the Bulldogs have been on a bit of a slide recently, going just 2-4-2 in their past 8.

        Third, the last meeting between these two teams was at the North Star College Cup. The Bulldogs won 2-1, but I think only the most homerific Bulldog fan would argue that the Gophers didn’t outplay UMD for most of that game. The Gophers are playing much better now as a team and are riding solid momentum heading into the regional.

        That being said, the Bulldogs have had the Gophers number this season and I could easily see their team speed and rested legs giving the Gophers defense fits all night on Friday.

    • Meanwhile, Lowell gets to the championship game of Hockey East and does not get in at all, despite being a fourth seed in a 12-team league.

      This is the system we have in place. Personally, I think the results of the non-HE portion of the schedule hurt HE with its bids. BU had no shot of being number two overall, even after they won their tournament convincingly and North Dakota lost two games at the NCHC final four. This is because NCHC did much better out of conference than HE did. BC is a third-band team instead of being a possible second band, and Providence is literally the bubble team, the last one to get an at-large berth.

      In fact, I think BU would have been a second band team if they lost either game at the Garden. Everyone knows the rules before the season starts. Non-conference road wins over quality opponents weighs most heavily on RPI.

      • Lowell is out because they had a bad stretch in the middle of the season where they lost a bunch of games they should have or could have won.

        Sweep Penn State at home instead of splitting, split with Providence instead of getting swept, beat Michigan, beat Harvard at home, beat UConn on the road, beat Merrimack on the road in a game they absolutely dominated (outshot Merrimack 52-17 and watching the game it’s surprising the count was that close) but ended up losing 2-1… any one of those results flip (or almost any other single loss aside from the loss to UMass, they would have had to change the season series from 1-1-1 to 3-0) and Lowell is in over either Providence or Yale.

        • I completely agree. I was using Lowell as an example of a team that had a firm place in the tournament and then lost key games to be the first/second team out of the tournament. Even after they get to the championship game of the conference playoffs.

  5. Despite BU’s top line, Minnesota probably has the most top to bottom talent of any team in the region. They were the preseason #1 and have several upper classmen who played in the national championship last year. The key for the Gophers is goalie Adam Wilcox. If he plays in New Hampshire like he played in Detroit last week, I like Minnesota to get to their second consecutive Frozen Four. If not, it’ll probably be BU.

  6. Minnesota’s defense needs to be on their game. They cost us the championship last year. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again…

    • Last year even Lucia called them out for leaving Wilcox to dry. Hopefully the experience will help. But we do know what its like to go up against a top offense like BU since Michigan is #2 and BU #1 in overall offense… the only difference is that BU has a lot better defense then Michigan. But thats only if both teams win the first round, kinda getting ahead of myself here. Hoping for some good hockey and winning one more game in the tourney then last year!

      • 20 SOG in the first period alone. It was embarrassing. If your offense score four goals and you lose then your entire defensive core should be cut.

        • Yeah it was bad, I looked at the score and the gophers were up 2-0 and then down 4-2…. I think beating UND two nights before took it out of them emotionally and they were not prepared and under estimated union. Hopefully this year will be different… tough to win it all though, but that would be sweet with last year being so close.

  7. I’m not sure what you’re talking about saying that Yale has been shut out twice in their last three games. They’ve been shut out twice all season. They shut out their opponent twice in their last four games. Maybe that’s what you saw?

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