With conference tournaments wrapping up this past week, the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament is around the corner. With a shortened season and limited out of conference play, it will be one of the most interesting NCAA tournaments in recent memory. After evaluating the Midwest & West Regional a few days ago, let's examine the Northeast & East Regional.
No. 4 University of Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Bemidji State University
In the first matchup in the East Regional, we see two solid teams going at it in the University of Wisconsin versus Bemidji State University.
Wisconsin, the more decorated of the two, is one of the best teams in the country. They have a 20-9-1 record and are 7-2-1 in their last ten. The Badgers success is due in large part to their star-powered offence.
Cole Caufield (30gp, 28 goals & 21 assists) and Dylan Holloway (22gp, 11 goals & 23 assists) are both Hobey Baker Award Finalists who some believe could make the jump to the NHL next season. However, don't let this take away from the rest of their offense as they get a lot of depth scoring from their second and third line as well.
Where Wisconsin has struggled this season is the defensive zone; they allow an average of 2.67 goals against per game. Goaltenders, Cam Rowe and Robbie Beydoun have both been inconsistent at times this season which was spotlighted by their respective struggles at the Big Ten Tournament.
Bemidji State is a much more rounded, yet less talented team. They have a decent offensive and defensive game scoring 2.81 goals per game and allow 2.33 goals against per game. Despite lacking true star power (they are the only team in the tournament without a single NHL Draft pick), they score timely goals and have a solid 2-2-2 record against fellow tournament team, No. 6 Minnesota State University.
In net, they have one of the more underrated goaltenders in the NCAA in Zach Driscoll who has a 14-9-3 record along with a 2.27 GAA & a .924 SV% in 26 games played.
This game will be closer than most people would probably think. However, Wisconsin’s offensive game will be too much for Bemidji State to match. If this one does come to the wire, look for Zach Driscoll to be a big reason why Bemidji stays in it.
Winner – University of Wisconsin
No. 5 University of Massachusetts-Amherst vs. No. 13 Lake Superior State University
In the second matchup in the East Regional, Lake Superior State has a hard matchup against a very talented UMass-Amherst squad.
Since turning the program around in 2018, UMass-Amherst has been one of the most consistent teams in the NCAA. This season is no exception as UMass went 16-5-4 in route to winning the Hockey East Championship. On top of this, they’re an impressive 8-0-2 in their last ten games.
UMass has one of the best goals for to goals against ratio as they’re scoring 3.44 goals per game and have allowed only 1.80 goals against per game. They have a balanced offense and have gotten great goaltending from Filip Lindberg who has a 1.46 GAA, .940 SV% and 3 shutouts.
Their opponent, Lake Superior State University has also had an impressive season going 19-6-3 in route to a WCHA championship victory in impressive fashion, outscoring their opponents 20-4 in just four games. While not the most talented group, Lake Superior is very well coached and has a strong goaltender in Mareks Mitens (24 gp, 1.86 GAA .933 SV% and 4 shutouts).
However, Lake Superior has limited experience against top teams as they’ve only played two ranked teams, going 0-2 against No. 6 Minnesota State and 2-2-1 against No. 15 Bemidji State.
This matchup will be a tough test for UMass as they haven't really played a team like Lake State this season. However, UMass’s talent and high-end skill will be a challenge for Lake Superior to matchup with. UMass is simply too strong in both ends to lose in the first-round.
Winner – UMass Amherst
No. 7 St. Cloud State University vs. No. 11 Boston University
This matchup could be the most exciting game of the tournament. You have St. Cloud State, a program who has seen success in recent years but have struggled come tournament time going up against a traditionally strong program in Boston University who’s looking to win their first national championship in the last 12 years.
St. Cloud State has been a really steady team this season and seem to have the rare ability to play up to anyone’s level, going 5-2 against No. 9 UMD and 1-1-1 against #1 UND. While they lack real star power, they have impressive depth; SCSU has nine players with double digit points.
The only weakness that stands out for St. Cloud is goaltending. While LA Kings prospect, Dávid Hrenák has shown flashes of brilliance in his college career, he has struggled to stay consistent especially in high-pressure games: in the 2019 tournament, Hrenák let in 2 goals on 13 shots to lose 2-1 in their first round matchup against No. 16 American International College.
Like their opponents, Boston University is also an incredibly balanced team. After a delayed start and a mid-season pause, the Boston U Terriers only managed to play 15 games.
Despite limited action, they have impressed going 10-4-1 including a 2-0 record against No. 4 UMass-Amherst along with a 1-1 record against #3 Boston College. While they are not jumping off the page offensively or defensively, BU is incredibly well coached and is a very tough team to play against.
They also have one of the top defensemen in the NCAA in David Farrance. The Hobey Baker Award Finalist has 5 goals and 11 assists in 10 games, good for the highest points per game of any defensemen. He is a gamebreaker on the ice with incredible vision and hockey IQ and could make the jump the NHL this coming year.
This game will come down to who can better matchup against their opponent’s game plan as both teams are very balanced. While Boston University’s lack of experience could be their downfall, in a do-or-die game, expect BU to come out fast and jump on their opponent. Look for David Farrance and Goaltender, Drew Commesso to be difference makers in this one.
Winner – Boston University
No. 3 Boston College vs. University of Notre Dame
Due to a positive Covid-19 test on Notre Dame, the fighting Irish are no longer in the tournament and this game is a no contest victory for Boston College. While BC was the heavy favorite, it's still disappointing to see Notre Dame have to drop out of the tournament. In lieu of a matchup analysis, let’s look into Boston College as they’ve automatically advanced to the second round of the tournament.
Boston College has been one of the most consistent teams this year. With a record of 17-5-1 and a goals per game of 3.91 (second best in the nation), they are not a team anybody will be taking lightly.
They also have one of the best goaltenders in Spencer Knight who was the Hockey East Player of the year with a 2.06 GAA, .935 SV% and three shutouts along with an impressive 16-3-1 record.
Another BC standout to keep your eye on is Matt Boldy. Boldy is a big offensive winger who has been impressive in the offensive zone for the Eagles, putting up 10 goals and 20 assists in just 21 games.
However, where Boldy truly stands out is the neutral and defensive zone. Boldy has great hockey IQ and a crisp passing ability that makes it hard to get the puck away from BC when he is on the ice. He is another player that you may see make the jump to the NHL in a year or two.
Winner - Boston College