The BF NCAA Preview Part 2 – Lowell/Miami + Maine/Minn-Duluth

#3 Seed UMass-Lowell – HEA (23-12-1) at #2 Seed Miami of Ohio – CCHA (24-12-2)

East Regional, Bridgeport, CT – Fri 6:30PM EST

This is an intriguing matchup up between an upstart #13 Lowell team and a more veteran like squad in #7 Miami of Ohio – featuring a litany of high level NHL draft picks. Miami is hoping its “Boston Curse” does not carry over and include all Massachusetts teams. Miami of course lost one of the most gut wrenching NCAA Finals ever to BU in 2009; BU scored twice in the final minute and potted the OT winner.

The Red Hawks have one of the most talented teams in the country but lacked consistency all year long. They had a dismal start to the season but seemed to rebound quite nicely winning its last 8 games of the season. Miami lost in the semifinals to eventual CCHA Champion, Western Michigan. Reilly Smith has been an offensive force for Miami all year long and has posted impressive numbers, 30-18-48. Miami has a unique, yet comforting goaltending situation – they have the luxury of rotating two top notch goalies, ala Tim Thomas and Tuuka Rask, in Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard…It’s the Wildcat goaltender rotation. I don’t believe the offensive stat line tells the story; the Red Hawks seem to lack big scoring totals beyond Smith..but don’t let this fool you, just have a gander at the NHL Draft pick list at the bottom.

Lowell will be seeking to get back on track after a QF loss in the HE playoffs at the hands of the Providence Friars. It was arguably the biggest home playoff series in Lowell history and the Riverhawks didn’t answer the bell. Despite the HE playoff loss, Lowell is coming off one of the best seasons in school history (23-12-1) and despite their young talent; the Riverhawks were able to maintain a high level of consistency down the stretch. Lowell will undoubtedly rely on HE rookie of the year Scott Wilson if F- Riley Wetmore is not at 100% (rumored to be in cast with a right hand injury) for some offensive punch. HE coach of the year Norm Bazin of New York Times fame, will need netminder Doug Carr (Hanover, MA) to be terrific- which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility – if Lowell has a chance of beating the talented Miami team..especially if they are not 100% healthy.

Miami’s Perspective:

From Bob Miller of College Hockey Prospective (CHP):

“Rico Blasi’s choice in goal will be an interesting call.  Connor Knapp played well late in the season and in the first part of the playoffs, but was pulled in the Western Michigan game and replaced by Cody Reighard, who played well in the CCHA consolation game against Bowling Green. Miami’s offense continues to be “the Reilly Smith show”.  Smith bagged his 30th goal of the season in the consolation game against Bowling Green after scoring the RedHawks only to goals against WMU.”

 

Miami Facts and Figures:

  • Making its seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the third-longest active streak in the country
  • The RedHawks are 7-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and have won at least a first round game four of the last five years
  • Miami and Lowell have never met in NCAA play

Red Hawks to Watch:

F- Reilly Smith (30-18-48), F- Alden Hirschfeld (10-13-23), G – Connor Knapp (1.59 GAA), G- Cody Reichard (2.47 GAA)

Miami of Ohio -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:

NHL Draft Picks: 9 – Will Weber (CLB), Chris Wideman (OTT), Trent Vogelhuber (CLB), Curtis McKenzie (DAL), Reilly Smith (DAL), Jimmy Mullin (TBL), Tyler Biggs* (TOR), Blake Coleman (NJD), Connor Knapp (BUF)

Lowell’s Perspective:

Hanover native, G- Doug Carr spoke with the Enterprise on Lowell’s “Let’s Go” attitude heading into the NCAA’s:

“We put whatever expectations people had for us aside” at the start of the season, said Doug Carr, UMass-Lowell’s sophomore goalie from Hanover. “That stuff doesn’t matter … it’s what’s inside the room, and I think we knew what we had in the room.” 

Lowell Facts and Figures:

  • UMass Lowell has made trips to the Division I NCAA Tournament in 1988, 1994 and 1996, posting a 2-3-1 record in six games.
  • In their last two appearances, the River Hawks have been matched up against Michigan State in the first round and have defeated the two-time NCAA Champions on both occasions.
  • Lowell claimed both coach of the year (Bazin) and rookie (Wilson) of the year hardware in the HEA this year.

 From USCHO’s Jim Connelly:

“Lowell is headed back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996 – a 16-year absence – and that chance is plenty to inspire this team. Head coach Norm Bazin called his team “dangerous” on Sunday, because of the fact it will get back to the ice after a week off.”

Notable Quotes from Coach Norm Bazin on the NCAA Coaches Conference Call:

“I am planning on Riley Wetmore playing”…”There was a lot of rest during the week off from games, mostly because of a bug running through the team”…”UML will have fan buses headed to Bridgeport, band and mascot included.”

River Hawks to Watch:

F- Scott Wilson (16-21-37), F- Riley Wetmore (12-25-37), G – Doug Carr (2.08 GAA)

UMass Lowell -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:

NHL Draft Picks: 1 – Scott Wilson (PIT)

‘Pot Pick – With a limp Riley Wetmore, the River Hawks do not have enough scoring depth to compete with a talent laden Miami team, Miami 4 Lowell 1.

#3 Seed Maine – HEA (23-13-3) at #2 Minnesota Duluth- WCHA (24-9-6)

Northeast Regional, Worcester, MA – Sat 7:30PM EST, Location – DCU Center

#5 Minnesota Duluth and #11 Maine play the nightcap at the DCU Center on Saturday night. This matchup includes two of the streakier teams in all of college hockey, Maine  only lost 4 of its last 20 games and UMD was largely unbeatable at various points of the season. The Bulldogs ran off 17 straight games and were many an experts pick to repeat as national champions – although this year they elected for Mohawks instead of the bleach blond look they donned last year.

Had it not been for a heartbreaking loss to Denver in the WCHA finals, Duluth would have staked their claim as a #1 seed. The fine line between great and good in college hockey is indeed, very fine. Maine, meanwhile, earned a hard fought first round series victory over new rival Merrimack and then subsequently knocked off Jack parker and the BU Terriers at the Garden. They eventually fell victim to BC by a 4-1 score in the HEA finals, but it was not so much the actual loss in the HE finals that hindered Maine’s NCAA title hopes, but the loss of leading scorer and HEA MVP, Spencer Abbott in the semi-finals (concussion-like symptoms). Although Maine seems to have developed some secondary scoring by the likes of Matt Mangene and Mark Anthoine, it will not be enough firepower to make up for the loss of Abbott. Maine will have to rely heavily on goalie, Dan Sullivan (2.54 GAA 22 Wins) if it has even a fighting chance against UMD.

UMD’s Perspective:

From SB Nation Minnesota – UMD is hoping for some more East Coast magic:

“While many teams would prefer to play close to home, the defending national champions Minnesota Duluth hope the travel involved in this weekend’s Northeast Region invokes something similar to last year.The Bulldogs head to the East Coast for the second consecutive year – last year’s championship run began in Bridgeport, Connecticut – and face Maine Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Worcester, Massachusetts. If they win they will face the winner of Boston College-Air Force Sunday for a 2012 Frozen Four berth in Tampa.” 

Minnesota Duluth Facts and Figures:

  • The Bulldogs are coming off a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Denver in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five semifinals Friday in St. Paul.
  • The two teams last met in the 2005 Florida College Classic with Minnesota-Duluth winning 4-1.
  • This marks the Bulldogs 3rd NCAA bid in 4 years

From the Duluth Union Tribune – How Duluth is coping with the tough OT loss to Denver:

“We’ll take the same mentality we had last year of going on the road and believing we’ll play our best,” UMD junior center Jake Hendrickson said Sunday. “We know all of the regional tournaments are going to be tough and we’re ready for that. Even though we lost to Denver, most of that game we played well and we’ll bring that into the (NCAA) tournament.” (Reference following link from Duluth News tribune)

Bulldogs to Watch:

F- Jack Connolly (19-39-58), F- Travis Oleksuk (21-30-51), F – J.T. Brown (23-23-46)

UMD -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:

NHL Draft Picks: 6 – Scott Kishel (MTL), Drew Olson (CLB), Dan DeLisle (CHI), Joe Basaraba (FLA), Max Tady (STL), Caleb Herbert (WSH)

Maine’s Perspective:

From the Maine Hockey Journal talks about the home ice advantage in Worcester:

“The team feels like Worcester is going to be a lot like the TD Garden,” said Maine freshman Jake Rutt about how his team feels about their selection. “With an overwhelming amount of support from our fans, it will almost be like a home game.” 

Maine Facts and Figures:

  • Maine and Minnesota-Duluth have played eight times with the Bulldogs holding a 5-3-0 lead in the all-time series.
  • Maine is making its 18th NCAA appearance and first since the 2007 season.
  • Maine is making its first trip to the NCAA Regionals since the 2007 season. In that year, Maine won the East Regional and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four which was held in St. Louis, Mo.

 USCHO’s Jim Connelly wrote about the implications of the Abbott injury:

“For Maine, missing Spencer Abbott, injured on Friday against BU, seemed to really have an impact in Saturday’s final. There has been little said about Abbott’s prognosis but you have to believe that if the nation’s best player is missing next weekend, advancing in the NCAA tournament could be tough.”

Notable Quotes from Coach Tim Whitehead on the NCAA Coaches Conference Call:

“The team will prepare as though Spencer Abbott won’t play and that it will be a bonus if he does.”….”There will be no excuses (with Abbott not playing) and we can go toe to toe with anyone without him.”

Black Bears to Watch:

F- Spencer Abbott…maybe (20-41-61), F- Brian Flynn (18-29-47), F – Joey Diamond (25-22-47), D – Will O’Neill (3-28-31)

Maine -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:

NHL Draft Picks: 4 – Will O’Neill (WPG), Ryan Hegarty (ANA), Martin Ouellete (CLB), Nick Pryor (ANA)

Pot Pick – With Abbott, Maine would have had an excellent chance..his loss is insurmountable against the defending champs, UMD 5 Maine 3.

 

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