Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Frozen Four Preview

Hey everyone. I just wanted to thank The Sports Flow for letting me come on and give you guys a Frozen Four preview. Before I get started let me toss in a quick plug for the other site I write for, http://www.thebaseballnation.com/ If you guys are big baseball fans like me you can come on and read articles by authors for every major league team. I write articles for the Twins, so if you're a Twins fan e-mail me at stephenfetch@thebaseballnation.com with any compliments, complaints, or things you want me to write about for my next article. Or,depending on who you're a fan of, you can even write articles. Contact bobbyglover@thebaseballnation.com for more. And please join our forum to talk some baseball. Ok with that being said, let's get to the hockey.

Semifinal One: Maine Black Bears (23-14-2, 14-12-1 Hockey East)
vs. Michigan State Spartans (24-13-3, 15-10-3 CCHA)

Overview: A rematch of an NCAA tournament game last year, in which Maine defeated the Spartans 5-4 in the East Regional Final. This year, Maine defeated St. Cloud State and Massachusetts in the East Regional, while Michigan St. defeated Boston University and Notre Dame to win the Midwest Regional

Forwards: Bryan Lerg, a junior left wing who originally committed to Michigan, leads the nation with 8 game winning goals. The Spartan forwards are an experienced bunch, starting just one senior but also just one freshman. However, their big concern is their depth. After Lerg's 23 the Spartans don't have another 20 goal scorer on their team.
Maine also isn't blessed with much depth, but they have two excellent forwards. Michel Léveillé (pronounced Me-shell Lev-e-yay) is their senior captain and unquestioned leader. Léveillé was an early Hobey Baker finalist in the early going, as he finished 19-25--44. Teddy Purcell is one of the best freshmen in the country, and won Inside College Hockey's freshman of the year award. When watching Purcell play the first think you notice are his soft hands. He is a great stick-handler and when passing he can put the puck wherever he wants to. Purcell (16-27--43) is one of the key's to the game, and is poised for future greatness, as Inside College Hockey writer Jeff Howe has predicted that as long as Purcell stays in school he will win at least one Hobey.

Advantage: Maine's top two lines will make a huge difference in this matchup.

Defense: Spartan defenseman Tyler Howells is a quick skater, and he is 7th on the team in scoring with 25 points. The Spartans will likely dress 7 defensemen for this Frozen Four, with their extra one being Mike Ratchuk. All in all, the Spartans D just isn't very good.

Maine Senior Mike Lundin has 20 points in 39 games, and although he isn't the most accomplished defensman, he can get it done both in his own zone and at neutral ice. Lundin leads the Black Bears in career games played, and he is a very cerebral player, using all the angles to his advantage.

Advantage: Maine has both the top end talent and overall depth to win this matchup.

Goaltending: Michigan St. goalie Jeff Lerg started every game for the Spartans this season, and went 27-13-3. With a 2.46 GAA and a .911 save percentage, Lerg can stop enough shots to let his offense win a game, and maybe for his cousin Bryan to pop in another game winning goal. Maine netminder Ben Bishop was hurt for much of the end of the 2006-2007 season. But when the 6'7" Sophomore has been healthy he has been good, with a 2.08 GAA and a .925 sve percentage. Bishop's size means he has to use his angles a lot less than Lerg, and gives him a natural advantage-but only if he works hard enough to use it.

Advantage: Now that Bishop is back, Maine has the clear advantage in this one, although they can still be succeptable to some blow-ups in net.

Who Will Win: As you could probably tell by the preview, Maine just brings too much to the table and will defeat the Spartans to advance to the title game.

Semifinal Two: North Dakota Fighting Sioux (24-13-5, 13-10-5 WCHA)
vs. Boston College Eagles (28-11-1, 18-8-1 Hockey East)

Overview: Another rematch, this game pits two semifinalists from last year, when BC defeated North Dakota to advance to the title game. This year, BC defeated St. Lawrence and New Hampshire to win the Northeast Regional, while North Dakota defeated Michigan and archrival Minnesota to win the West Regional. Boston College is the only automatic qualifier in the Frozen Four field, as the Hockey East Tournament champions.

Forwards: This is a classic matchup of depth vs. top-end talent. North Dakota's top line of Johnathan Toews, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan is the best line in the country. However, other than those three, only Chris Porter, who had the game winner against Minnesota, and Brad Miller have over 20 points.
Boston College, on the other hand, has six forwards that can really put the puck in the net. Their high scoring forward is Benn Ferriero who has 23 goals and 23 assists. It seems like a different forward steps up for them in each game. Lately it has been Ben Smith, who centers the top line. In 6 postseason games since he moved up to the top line, Smith has 3 goals and 5 assists.
Advantage: While North Dakota has the edge in talent, it's Boston College that can run more quality lines on the ice.

Defense: Yet another matchup of top-end talent vs. depth, only in reverse. Two weeks ago, Boston College's star forward Brian Boyle (18-33--51) moved back to the blue line, where he will probably play in the NHL. However, Boyle still takes faceoffs and still likes to go to the net, as he did for his goal against St. Lawrence in the NCAA Tournament. BC's other top defenseman is Sophomore Brett Motherwell, who scored a goal against North Dakota in the Frozen Four last year.
North Dakota's top 6 defensemen may be the best 6 in the country top to bottom. They don't have the type of star power like Brian Boyle, but they do have Brian Lee, who was a top 10 pick in the NHL draft and Taylor Chorney, who captained this years U.S. National Junior Team. Robbie Bina leads the defensemen in scoring, and perhaps you remember back to his 80+ foot goal against the Gophers in Minneapolis.

Advantage: North Dakota's depth will help them frusterate Boston College's top lines.

Goaltending: Perhaps the biggest mismatch of the two semifinals, Boston College's Cory Schneider (21-11-1) has a 2.1 GAA and a .927 save percentage, and is a first round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks. Phillipe Lamoreux on the other hand, won't be working in the NHL unless it's as a janitor. He has been playing well as of late, but he can't afford the five goal hiccup he had against Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Schneider was perhaps a little peeved that rival goalie John Curry of Boston University was named Hockey East Player of the Year, so all Schneider has done is win Regional Most Outstanding Player.
Advantage: Big, big advantage for Boston College, who has a goalie that can pitch a shutout every game.

Who Will Win: In a game better fit for Saturday night, viewers will get a high-flying, exciting game. But in the end I think the goaltending advantage means Boston College will move on to make it an all Hockey East championship game

Thanks for reading, I'll be back Tomorrow with a look at who will win the Hobey Baker award for the best player in the country. Until then, please leave any comments, questions, or general disagreements.


grittysquirrels said...

Wow sweet post. It really is too bad that BC vs. UND can't be the championship because those are, in my mind, by far and away the best two teams still in the tournament. The winner of that game most likely rolls Maine/Mich St. in the championship.

I agree with your picks, but I'm still going to be cheering like crazy for the Sioux to beat BC on Thursday!

stephen a said...

Ill definitely be cheering for UND too. And it took a lot of effort to put that BC is gonna win haha.


Wow, thanks!! That was a really good overview!! I predict that the winner between BC/UND wins the title... Just too much talent on those teams! Oh and Bina's goal was 180+ feet, just lettin ya know lol


stephen a said...

oops forgot the 1, sorry bout the typo, im a rookie haha

Anonymous said...

To Bad it doesn't matter who win UND or B.C because Maine will win it all in 07

Anonymous said...

Maine and North Dakota

stephen a said...

Well at least I was half right, although that wasnt the game I wanted to be right about

grittysquirrels said...

Yea that was a pretty tough last 5 or 6 mins to watch. Some of those penalties had me just screaming...how can you make such a brain lapse down the stretch...especially letting rooney be the first guy back to dump in that open netter.....disgusting.

Now we're gunna lost Oshie, Toews, and Duncan to the draft but oh well.