Albany Regional, March 27-28
Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y.
Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m. Eastern time, ESPNews/WatchESPN
No. 2 St. Cloud State (17-10-0) vs. No. 3 Boston University (10-4-1)
Sunday, March 28, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, ESPN2/WatchESPN
Albany Regional Championship
St. Cloud State/Boston University winner vs. No. 1 Boston College (17-5-1)
NOTE: Notre Dame was selected to be the fourth seed in this regional and was to open play against Boston College Saturday but was removed from the tournament on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols.
Season record: 17-5-1 (17-5-1 HEA, first)
Playoffs to this point: lost to UMass Lowell in Hockey East semifinal
Top players: forwards Matt Boldy (10-20-30), Marc McLaughlin (10-14-24), Nikita Nesterenko (8-11-19), Jack McBain (6-13-19)
Top goalie: Spencer Knight (16-3-1, 1.99 GAA, .937 SV%)
Why they will advance to Pittsburgh: Well, they are a favorite. Everyone knows how dominant Knight is in net — except against UMass Lowell, apparently — and Matt Boldy is playing like one of the best underclassmen in the league.
Why they will not advance to Pittsburgh: The Eagles are not immune to spurts of poor performance.
They blew a third-period, three-goal lead to UMass Lowell before falling in overtime, but also dropped a game to BU freshman goalie Vinny Dupelesiss in his first ever game, and they had an overtime loss to a far inferior New Hampshire squad.
The Eagles are supposed to be here, so nothing is a terrible surprise.
The loss to UMass Lowell was. The River Hawks went on a run where they topped two tournament teams in BU and BC before an ultimate 1-0 to another tournament squad, UMass, in the Hockey East championship.
The River Hawks are out though and the Eagles are in, and that semifinal loss is behind them.
“As a coach, you need to have amnesia. Watching the film (against Lowell) we played better than I thought we played,” BC coach Jerry York said. “It was a well-played game. I don’t think people understand how strong Lowell is. Certainly, we would have liked to have won it, but there’s one real shiny trophy and that’s the one right in front of us.”
That was a 6-5 loss in overtime in a game the Eagles led 4-1 in the third period. Certainly not something that can be expected again.
What can be expected from the top regular season team in Hockey East, however, is consistency. Boldy’s 30 points and McLaughlin’s consistent two-way play leads a forward group that’s simply deeper than most teams.
Of course Knight in net is an advantage no one else in the country has. What happens in front of him though — he hadn’t given up four goals all season until Lowell — is the difference maker.
The Eagles lost back-to-back games only once, and they were almost a month apart. They were also sandwiched between three overtime games. The Eagles have learned how to compete in any kind of game in front of them — even the wacky ones.
For the most part, they tore through a good conference all year and are a reasonable favorite. Once they get to regionals, though, if a BU squad that’s beat them and taken them to overtime is in front of them, it gets real interesting.
— Marisa Ingemi
Season record: 10-4-1 (10-4-1 HEA, second)
Playoffs to this point: lost to UMass Lowell in Hockey East quarterfinal
Top players: forward Jay O’Brien (8-8-16); defenseman David Farrance (5-11-16); forwards Luke Tuch (6-4-10), Logan Cockerill (5-4-9)
Top goalie: Drew Commesso (6-2-1, 2.68 GAA, .924 SV%)
Why they will advance to Pittsburgh: The talent is deeper than perhaps anyone expected. David Farrance is having a player of the year kind of season, Jay O’Brien has been as solid as hoped and Luke Tuch has looked great when he’s been in the lineup. They have a tendency to rattle off a bunch of wins in a row, too.
Why they will not advance to Pittsburgh: When the Terriers lose, it’s been pretty bad and at bad times.
First, their loss to Merrimack on February 26 which affected their conference seeding, then the 2-1 loss to the River Hawks in the quarterfinal was one of the worst games they played all season. There’s no room for performances like that on the road to the Frozen Four.
Just when the Terriers picked up some momentum, they were stopped once again.
Not momentum winning games, per se, but getting consistent playing time. The Terriers struggled to stay on the ice all year, eventually getting in 15 games, and had the latest start of any team in Hockey East, not getting underway until January.
Then they started winning.
“It was difficult,” BU coach Albie O’Connell said. “Our school did a good job of putting us in the best situation to play and staying healthy. From from our president to our administration, they didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.”
The Terriers won five in a row following a 7-3 blowout loss on opening night against Providence. It didn’t take long for them to rebound, and to do so in style.
They didn’t lose again until February 5, an overtime loss at Boston College, then they won another four in a row.
That came before another pause in the middle of the season, too.
“We did have some moments where we were paused, but we did have some moments where we needed to be paused (to keep) everyone healthy,” O’Connell said. “There were some unfortunate times when other teams were paused when we had the opportunity to play. It was a lot of ups and downs, and the mental grind of it was hard.”
The Terriers have been a resilient group and they have some real nice wins on their resume. They just can’t afford clunkers like the one against the River Hawks now that it really counts.
— Marisa Ingemi
ST. CLOUD STATE
Season record: 17-10-0 (2nd in NCHC)
Playoffs to the point: Lost in NCHC championship game to North Dakota, 5-3
Top players: Freshman forward Veeti Miettinen (10-13-23), sophomore forward Jami Krannila (10-10-20), junior defenseman Nick Perbix (6-14-20), sophomore forward Zach Okabe (6-14-20)
Top goalie: Dávid Hrenák (14-9, 2.60 GAA, .906 SV%)
Why they will make it to Pittsburgh: The Huskies have a balanced, yet dynamic, scoring attack, and their special teams are strong, with a 22.47% success rate on the power play and 84.85% success rate on the penalty kill.
Why they won’t make it to Pittsburgh: Hockey players are a superstitious lot. Historically, St. Cloud hasn’t done well in the NCAA tournament, with a 5-15 overall record, and last won an NCAA tournament game in 2015 against Michigan Tech. They have lost their last four NCAA tournament games and last three first-round games. Also, the last time they played Boston University in the NCAA tournament, they lost 5-3 in 2000.
St. Cloud State has played in five NCHC championship games, more than any other team in the conference. When it comes to closing the deal however, they’ve only managed it once. Last weekend’s 5-3 loss to North Dakota stings all the more because St. Cloud led 2-1 going into the third before giving up three goals in just over a two-minute span.
Even after the loss, Huskies coach Brett Larson felt there were important things for his team to take into the NCAA tournament.
“The best thing for your young guys is playing under the bright lights in huge games; there’s nothing that prepares you better for the NCAA tournament than playing in an atmosphere and a game like this,” Larson said. “That felt like a Frozen Four game. You’re playing against one of the best teams in the country, you’re toe to toe with them all night.
“Certainly, you’d like five minutes of the game back that didn’t go your way, but the only way to learn and grow is going through things like that, and I think is really going to help this group continue to grow and continue to get better and be ready for next week.”
Perhaps the need to stay out of the box was drilled home by that experience, as two of those goals came when St. Cloud was a man down.
Offensively, the Huskies are paced by NCHC rookie of the year Veeti Miettinen, who has 23 points so far this season. He’s a dangerous player who will be counted on to get points at key times. Senior Easton Brodzinski leads the Huskies with 11 goals this season; while his point production is down, he helps lead the team in other ways.
In net, the Huskies will look to Dávid Hrenák, who played 23 of the team’s 27 games this season and earned a 2.60 GAA and .906 SV%. He’ll need to be at his best this weekend to go through Boston University and then either Boston College or Notre Dame.
In an interview on The Rink Live, Larson seemed pleased with traveling to Albany and thinks it might help his team.
“I kind of like getting away (from the Midwest) and playing some different teams and kind of eliminating the distractions from home,” Larson said.
— Candace Horgan