Thursday, April 05, 2012

Frozen Four Preview

Two historic programs, two newcomers. Two northeastern teams, two from the Midwest, playing for hockey supremacy in Florida. It's the Frozen Four and it's on tonight.

The first semifinal starts at 4:30pm (ESPNU) and pits the Union College (NY) Dutchmen against the Ferris State Bulldogs. Many people don't even know where these schools are, let alone how good they are at hockey. FYI, Union is just outside of Albany, NY and Ferris State is in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Union has the goaltending. Ferris State's netminder isn't bad either. I didn't expect Union to get this far. They play in a league that isn't very deep. They were also inexperienced. I still have trouble picking them to win this game, but goalie Troy Grosenick is quite capable of stealing it.

Ferris State won two close games to get to Tampa, but they were against Denver and Cornell. Cornell gave the Bulldogs some trouble, and Union finished ahead of Cornell in the ECAC.

Union went through Michigan State and UMass-Lowell to get this far. They rolled through the ECAC tournament. They haven't allowed more than 3 goals since February.

Union wins a goalie duel 3-2.

At 8:00pm on ESPN2, BC takes on Minnesota in the other smeifinal.

Boston College vs. Minnesota represents an historic theme in college hockey. East vs. West. The Hub of Hockey vs. The State of Hockey. BC and Minnesota have 9 national titles between them (5 since 2001), 43 Frozen Four appearances, 27 conference tournament titles, and 26 regular season conference titles. These programs know how to win.

Minnesota will be BC's biggest challenge of the season. The Eagles have won 17 in a row. They're accustomed to elimination hockey. They won the Beanpot, won at Fenway Park, even beat North Dakota in North Dakota back in October. They're goaltending situation has been resolved thanks to the tremendous play of Parker Milner. They roll 4 lines and 3 of them can score at any moment.

Minnesota, however, is big. They're strong. They can skate and keep pace with BC while also punishing them. UMass gave BC trouble this season because of their ability to skate. And if UMass had better finishers, then the Minutemen could have beaten the Eagles with regularity. Minnesota have those better finishers.

Based on pure logic, I might pick Minnesota. But I'm sentimental. And I also don't bet against a team that's won 17 straight games.

BC wins 5-4 in double OT. Then goes on to win their 5th national title, 3rd in 5 years, and 4th under Jerry York.

The Championship Game will be Saturday night at 7:00pm on ESPN2.