In my haste to get to the post yesterday I forgot to put in a little shameless plug for myself. I also do a little blogging over at Complete Sports, and you guys should check it out. Although you should check it out to read Jon's work and just skim mine. If you liked the preview yesterday, read on to see my picks for every NCAA tournament game.
East Region-Albany, New York
(1) Michigan over (4) Niagara
Niagara won't be a pushover. The CHA champs boast the third best scoring team in the entire country. The Purple Eagles also boast a 10-4-2 record in non-league play. But the Wolverines are the #1 overall seed for a reason. Led by senior Hobey candidate Kevin Porter, the Wolverines have probably the deepest team in the country. Porter and fellow linemate Chad Kolarik are tied for second in the country with 28 goals each. If Michigan's nine, yes nine, freshmen can get over the bright lights of their first NCAA tournament game, they should take care of the Purps.
(2) St. Cloud State over (3) Clarkson
In a rematch from last year, St. Cloud this year is without their outstanding goalie, Bobby Goepfert, but they have added Garrett Roe, who along with Andreas Nodl and Ryan Lasch have teamed up to have the three leading scorers in the WCHA. The Huskies split a series in New York with Clarkson earlier this year, and it really is anyone's guess how this one will turn out. As mentioned yesterday, St. Cloud has no NCAA tournament wins in 6 tries, so the monkey will be squarely on their backs. Probably the toughest game to call, I'm taking St. Cloud in a shootout.
(1) Michigan over (2) St. Cloud
The Husky magic runs out as Michigan's 2nd 3rd and 4th lines overmatch St. Cloud's. Michigan is a little thin on defense at the moment, but I'm guessing they'll have enough in the tank to stop St. Cloud, especially if the recent play of goalie Billy Sauer continues.
(1) Miami over (4) Air Force
Miami is a team that I have been pumping up all year, and in this game they will show the country why. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff has a 1.67 GAA, and Miami gives up the second least goals in the country to go along with the nation's top penalty kill, which should let them play very aggressively against the Falcons. Air Force's really only chance is to defend the RedHawks by attacking them. If Eric Ehn, a Hobey Hat Trick finalist last year, comes back that could be a huge boost for Air Force, who needs all the help they can get.
(3) Minnesota over (2) Boston College
This will probably be the shocker of the tourney. BC is coming in hot, having won the Hockey East tournament, and they have unquestionably the nations most exciting player in Nate Gerbe. He is extremely skilled and extremely fast. Plus he can do stuff like this. But Minnesota has also been playing very well as of late. In a matchup of freshmen goalies, Minnesota clearly has the edge. Alex Kangas has a 1.92 GAA while BC freshman Jon Muse has been a bit shaky in between the pipes. And, as INCH columnist Jeff Howe has been saying all season, he isn't very good high glove side, and that is the type of thing a Minnesota team that struggles a bit to score could exploit. I look for Minnesota to punch one in early and then play tight defensive hockey to hold off the Eagles.
(1) Miami over (3) Minnesota
Tempted as I was to pick Minnesota, I just couldn't do it. Miami is too talented, perhaps the most talented team in the country. The Gophers are just a bit too young to give Miami too serious of a run, and Zatkoff should be able to match Kangas save for save and let his talented offense do the rest to carry Miami to Denver.
West-Colorado Springs, Colorado
(1) New Hampshire over (4) Notre Dame
New Hampshire is led by goalie Kevin Regan, who was the Hockey East player of the year for 2007-2008. Up front they feature a couple talented seniors in Matt Fornataro (46 pts) and Mike Radja (43 pts) and they also have the #2 overall pick of last years NHL draft in James vanRiemsdyk (31 pts). Notre Dame, on the other hand, simply struggles on offense. They are the second lowest scoring team in the field (and the lowest scoring team that deserved to be in there) and they lost leading scorer Erik Condra to injury. They play good defensively, but don't have a brick wall like David Brown in net this year.
(2) Colorado College over (3) Michigan St.
The defending national champs get a tough shake: having to face the WCHA regular season champs on their home ice. MSU goalie Jeff Lerg is renowned for his big game ability, but CC features the WCHA player of the year in goalie Richard Bachman. The Tigers have only lost 2 games at home all season, and this wont be their third.
(2) Colorado College over (1) New Hampshire
And the University of No Hardware moniker will live on another season. New Hampshire is perhaps the more talented team, but Colorado College isn't too far behind, featuring Chad Rau (42 pts) and Mike Testuwide, who has scored 20 points in the new year , along with one of my favorite players, Billy Sweatt. CC advances to the Frozen Four in their home state.
Midwest- Madison, Wisconsin
(1) North Dakota over (4) Princeton
The preseason number 1 team in the country meets the surprise ECAC champs. Individually, North Dakota has more talent than any team in the field, and they need Hobey finalist TJ Oshie to get 100% healthy to make a serious run at the title. Goalie Jean-Phillipe Lamoureux has been the Sioux's best player all season, and if he continues to play well the Sioux will be tough to beat. Princeton does have a decent goalie in Zane Kalemba and Lee Jubinville, who is Princeton's first ever Hobey finalist. But I don't think it will be enough.
(2) Denver over (3) Wisconsin
Unfortunately Wisconsin shouldn't have even been in the field. They do also have one extremely exciting player in Kyle Turris, but if Wisconsin loses their opening round game, the over under on hours until he signs with the NHL is 48. And I'll take the under. Goals don't come extremely easily for the Pioneers, but they have a legitimate #1 goalie in Peter Mannino, who won a title as a Freshman. Denver should blow Wisconsin out of their own building.
(2) Denver over (1) North Dakota
This game could go either way, but as much as it pains me to write it, I think Denver will move on to the Frozen Four. The two teams met this passed Friday in St. Paul at the WCHA Final Five, and Denver took that game. However, if Peter Mannino can't get it rolling in this game, North Dakota certainly has the offensive firepower to take advantage and could win the national title. The big losers in this game are the fans, who will have to settle for a DU-North Dakota regional final when these two are easily two of the top 4 teams in the field.
(2) Denver over (1) Miami
Miami has won zero national titles, and this will continue. In my opinion they were the best team in the field two years ago and they faltered in the regional finals. The one knock against them is that they don't beat elite teams. Playing in the smaller NHL rink should help the gritty Pioneers advance to the title game.
(1) Michigan over (2) Colorado College
This was another tough game for me to pick. Colorado College benefits from playing in their home state, and they will certainly have the home crowd on their side, but to me it all goes back to their rink. The Tigers only lost 2 games on their Olympic sized ice sheet, but lost two in a row on the NHL rink at the Xcel Energy Center. Michigan will have enough firepower to get past Bachman and the Tigers.
(2) Denver over (1) Michigan
A matchup of skill and system pits the Wolverines and the Pioneers. Michigan likes to play free flowing hockey, while Denver has liked to bottle things up after the recent defection of leading scorer Brock Trotter to the NHL. In matchups of good offense vs. good defense I tend to side with the defense, and this is no different as I think Peter Mannino will be enough to keep the Wolverines at bay to win the Pioneers' 3rd national title of the decade and their 8th overall, which will surpass North Dakota for second most all time. Fun Fact: Everytime the Frozen Four has been in the same building as the Democratic National Convention Denver has walked away national champions. This year's Democratic National Convention locale? Denver.