Even though there's a decently big basketball game tomorrow night, my boss (Joe) thought it would be fitting to do a Frozen Four preview tonight.
(4) Notre Dame vs. (1) Michigan
This game features the first four seed to ever make the Frozen Four in the current 16 team format against the number 1 overall team in the tournament. The main story for the Irish is their lack of offense. They lost leading scorer Erik Condra to a lower body injury, so now Sophomore forward Ryan Thang (17-13--30) is the active leading scorer for the Irish. If Notre Dame is going to have a chance, their MVP, junior goalie Jordan Pearce is going to have to have a herculean effort. Pearce had 52 saves in the West regional, and one could expect him to have to make close to that amount on Thursday against the vaunted Wolverine offense.
That offense is led by Kevin Porter, the leading scorer in the country. Porter, who is also first in goals with 31, joins teammate Chad Kolarik on the front line. Porter and Kolarik will also be teammates at the next level, as both are owned by the Phoenix Coyotes. They both also bring it on special teams: Porter is tied for second nationally with 15 power play goals, and Kolarik is tied for third nationally with 4 shorthanded goals.
Prediction: Michigan just has too much offensively and if goalie Billy Sauer avoids having a complete meltdown I see Michigan moving on to the national title game.
(1) North Dakota vs (2) Boston College
These two have gotten to know each other very well, with this being the 3rd year in a row they will play in the national semifinals. This marks the first of these 3 meetings that the Sioux will be wearing the white jerseys.
Up front BC features the 2nd leading scorer in the country Nate Gerbe, a Hobey hat trick finalist, while North Dakota is led by Hobey finalist TJ Oshie (18-27--45). The Hockey East tournament champs have put up 150 goals this season, and in Gerbe they feature the most exciting player in the country. There have been some questions about his character (more on that in the Hobey preview) but there is no doubt that North Dakota will have to account for him whenever he is on the ice.
Defensively is where North Dakota has the huge edge. The Sioux are led by Senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who leads the nation in GAA at 1.64. To contrast, BC goalie John Muse is 19th at 2.26. Lamoureux also leads the nation in save percentage at 93.6%. Shockingly, Lamoureux was not a Hobey Hat Trick finalist, nor was he the conference's first team goalie. North Dakota also features a deep defensive core, led by preseason All-American Taylor Chorney. BC's blueline was hit hard when Brett Motherwell left the team early in the season to pursue a professional career, and they will be susceptible to North Dakota's offense, which has been nothing if not opportunistic this season.
Prediction: North Dakota's overall depth plus Lamoureux's skill in goal will move North Dakota into the championship game.
I'll have a Hobey preview later this week, and since at least one of these predictions is bound to be horribly wrong, I'll have a national championship game preview on Friday.