#1 Boston College – HEA (31-10-1) vs. #2 University of Minnesota – WCHA (28-13-1)
Frozen Four, Tampa, FL – Thursday 8PM EST, ESPN2
As I posted in the BF last week, ostensibly, the national championship game will be played on Saturday, but the Minnesota/Boston College semifinal matchup has a championship game feel to it. #2 Minnesota seems to be pushing all the right buttons down the stretch and will look to do the unthinkable – knock off both Boston based programs in the same NCAA Tournament. Although most of the historical relevance and resulting animosity seems to exist between BU and Minnesota…the 1976 brawl, the Jack Parker/Herb Brooks feud, McClanahan/O’Callahan tustle… BC has seemingly taken the reigns as the supreme Boston based program of the moment (and past decade for that matter) and will proudly act as the Massachusetts proxy in this perpetual battle for bragging rights between the East and West Coast hockey cultures.
Thursday’s tilt will mark the 27th matchup between these two college hockey blue bloods, with Minnesota holding a slight 14-11-2 advantage. I don’t lend much credence to the largely overstated overall record statistic, mainly because in a transient college sport, most of these past contests involved a completely different group of players’ altogether.
BC is riding high, as they are accustomed to this time of year under legendary coach Jerry York, having won 17 straight heading into Tampa. What makes the Eagles so difficult is that they don’t rely on one facet of their game to beat you – their superfluous talent extends from all four forward lines to their solid defensive group, including the rejuvenated G Parker Milner (27-5-1). Quite simply, BC just wears you down come 3rd period time. All American, Brian Dumoulin leads all defenseman in scoring with 26 points while junior F Chris Kreider paces the potent offense with a team leading 43 points (22 goals).
Minnesota was very fortunate to have played the West Regional as virtual home games (Xcel Energy Center) which gave the Gophers a decided advantage against BU and North Dakota – crowd support, less travel, comfort zone. Minnesota is a tremendous home team (17-6-0) but has been markedly average when it comes to taking its show on the road (9-6-1) and in neutral site contests (2-1)….it will be interesting to see what (road)team shows up in Tampa.
If Minnesota is to knock off the high flying and top ranked Eagles on Thursday, they will have to rely on their top offensive guns to really pressure the veteran BC defensive corps and Parker Milner. The Gophers are one of the only teams in the country who can somewhat match the BC depth and offensive firepower – the Gophers have four skaters with 40 plus points. To fully understand the elite talent level of this Gopher group, one stat explicitly stands out amongst the rest – THERE ARE 17 NHL Draft picks currently on the roster!!!! WOW!!!
I am most interested to see 6FT5” Gopher forward, Nick Bjugstad (5thin the nation in
scoring) battle it out in front of Milner with the bulky BC defensive corps. Bjugstad is a Florida Panthers draft pick and one of the main weapons up front for Minnesota.
Between the pipes, Minnesota will need a monster effort from reliable (and I stress RELIABLE) netminder Kent Patterson whose streak of 63 straight games for the Gophers makes him a steady, veteran force who won’t be rattled easily on the big stage. Nate Schmidt is the Gophers top defenseman (41 pts) in front of Patterson..both will have to be strong to stop BC’s seemingly endless offensive weapons.
As dead even as this heavyweight matchup is on paper, the game will most likely come to down a special team’s battle.
Power Play – Minnesota has about a talented PP unit (23.2%) as anybody, featuring Eric Haula, Kyle Rau amd Nick Bjugstad. BC has the 11th ranked PP in the nation and has scored 39 goals with the man advantage. Like Minnesota, the Eagles boast an uber talented group lead by Senior Barry Almeida’s 11 PPG’s.
Shorthanded – Both BC and Minnesota don’t go into a shell when their respective PK units take the ice and their styles seem to emulate one another. The Eagles kill penalties at an unheard of 88% clip and have potted a stunning 11 shorties this year – including 3 each by Chris Kreider and Steven Whitney. It almost sounds as if we are speaking of the same team when we broach the scoring prowess of the Gopher PK. Like, BC, Minnesota uses their electrifying speed and aggressive box to create shorthanded opportunities – sophomore F Nate Condon has 4 of his own shorties this year to lead the team.
The BF’s Tale of the Tape – “for all that is frivolous and utterly irrelevant”:
Academic Standards – Advantage BC
US News recent 2012 rankings have BC at #31 and Minnesota at #68 behind most of its BIG10 brethren; including the academically challenged Ohio State! To further cement BC’s position, only 31% of applicants that apply to BC are accepted into the venerable institution while the acceptance rate at Minnesota balloons upward to 47.8%.
Tuition – Advantage Minnesota
BC is exorbitantly priced at a mind blowing $42, 204 per year, for those not blessed with independent wealth or a six figure job right out of school, good luck with your student loans. Minnesota is reasonably priced at $13,022 in state and $18, 022 per year for out of state students.
Better Barn – Advantage Minnesota
Conte Forum (BC) is a suitable, multi-purpose facility that has somewhat of a stark quality to it. In contrast, the 9,700 seat Mariucci Arena was built in 1993 and its electric atmosphere is one of the great takes in all of college hockey. The sightlines, amenities and atmosphere all favor the home of the Golden Gophers – making this an easy choice.
Most Famous Celebrity Alumnus – Advantage Draw
Minnesota’s most famous celebrity alumnus was without a doubt, Bob Dylan….problem is, Dylan failed to graduate (what a shocker!). That pits proud Gopher’s Jessica Lange and Loni Anderson versus Eagle graduates, Chris O’Donnell and Amy Poehler….we’ll call this one a draw for obvious reasons.
- The Daily Gopher’s Take – “Just happy to be there feeling”
- From WCHA Columnist – Tyler Buckentine (USCHO)
- Gophersports.com – Official University of Minnesota page
From Dan Myers (CHN) on the potent Gopher PP:
“Minnesota also boasts a power play capable of carrying the team to victory. The first power play unit, consisting of Erik Haula, Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad, could be the most talented in the country. Haula has quietly amassed 48 points and works magic when paired with Rau and Bjugstad. The three have combined for 25 power play goals this season.”
Minnesota Gophers Facts and Figures:
- Minnesota is appearing in their 33rd NCAA Tournament and 20th Frozen Four.
- Don Lucia will be looking for his first NCAA Title since 2003 and a win ties him with Herb Brooks in terms of NCAA Titles with Minnesota
- 52-33 all time record in NCAA play
Gophers to Watch:
F- Erik Haula (20-28-48), F- Kyle Rau (18-25-43), F- Nick Bjugstad (25-17-42), G – Kent Patterson (2.24 GAA)
University of Minnesota -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:
NHL Draft Picks: 17 – Seth Helgeson (NJD), Kyle Rau (FLA), Taylor Matson (VAN), Ben Marshall (DET), Justin Holl (CHI), Nico Saccheti (DAL), Nate Condon (COL), Seth Ambroz (CLB), Nick Larson (WSH), Erik Haula (MIN), Mark Alt (CAR), Jake Hansen (CLB), Travis Boyd (WSH), Zach Budish (NSH), Christian Isackson (BUF), Nick Bjugstad* (FLA), Kent Patterson (COL)
- BC Interruption compares Minnesota’s offense to that of Maine
- John Powers of the Boston Globe has a great story on Jerry York
BC Facts and Figures:
- Since 1997-1998 BC has advanced to the Frozen Four 10 times
- Jerry York has led the Eagles to 13 NCAA appearances in 15 years at the helm
- 2012 marks the 31st NCAA Tournament bid for Boston College
From NECN on whether BC Hockey gets the respect it deserves in Boston:
“On the issue of respect – this is the final home practice of the season at Conte Forum on-campus – and there are only two cameras here other than ours.
“I don’t know, I don’t think anyone on this team cares either way, I think we just go about our business and let the media and everyone give credit where they want,” said Junior defenseman Patrick Wey.
“We’re just worried about ourselves over here. We’re all big fans of the teams around here and we keep track. But we’re just trying to get another trophy for the case, trying to live up to the Titletown,” said senior forward Paul Carey, of Weymouth, Mass., who is an assistant captain.”
BC Eagles to Watch:
F- Chris Kreider (22-21-43), F- Johnny Gaudreau (20-21-41), D – Brian Dumoulin (6-20-26), G- Parker Milner (1.70 GAA)
BC Eagles -NHL Draft Picks from the United States of Hockey web site:
NHL Draft Picks: 9 – Brian Dumoulin (CAR), Tommy Cross (BOS), Patrick Wey (WSH), Isaac MacLeod (SJS), Kevin Hayes* (CHI), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Chris Kreider* (NYR), Paul Carey (COL), Bill Arnold (CGY)
* – First-rounder