March 23, 2005
NCAA Tournament

East Regional Preview | Worcester, Mass.

 NCAA
EAST REGIONAL PREVIEW


Peter MacArthur and the Terriers are seeking their first Frozen Four since 1997.

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Regional Preview Coverage
East: Capsules
Northeast: Capsules | Preview
Midwest: Capsules | Preview
West: Capsules | Preview

NCAA EAST REGIONAL
DCU Center
Friday, March 25

4:30 p.m. ET: No. 1 Boston College vs. No. 4 Mercyhurst

8 p.m. EST: No. 2 North Dakota vs. No. 3 Boston University

Saturday, March 26

8 p.m. ET: Regional Final

By Nate Ewell

HOT TOPIC

Jack Parker is fond of saying that the Boston College and Boston University programs would be happy to grab their gear at a moment’s notice and play a game on Spy Pond in Arlington.

They’ll be on a much bigger stage – if only figuratively – this weekend, as the two programs trek 45 miles west to Worcester. And although they won’t meet unless both teams win on Friday, much of the buzz around the DCU Center, understandably, will focus on BC and BU.

The Eagles enter as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, with a very good chance to bring a third national championship home to Chestnut Hill. Before its recent spate of injuries, BC seemed to be the closest thing to a sure thing to reach the Frozen Four as there has been in this wide-open college hockey season.

BU’s season has been much more up-and-down, with the predictable “up” coinciding with the Beanpot. The Terriers return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence hoping to recapture that momentum in the wake of a listless performance in last Friday’s Hockey East semifinals.

BACK STORY

While we encourage you to visit our East Regional Capsules and even print out those line charts for reference, there will probably be some changes by the time you arrive at the rink on Friday. Injuries have wreaked havoc on the top two seeds in the East, with Boston College and North Dakota dealing with lineups in flux.

The Eagles will welcome Patrick Eaves and Stephen Gionta back into the lineup Friday, although defenseman Peter Harrold will be out another week or so. They somehow won the Hockey East championship without all three.

North Dakota, meanwhile, will be without defenseman Robbie Bina, who underwent surgery to repair a fractured vertebra he suffered in the WCHA semifinals, and Brady Murray, the talented forward who reinjured his shoulder in that same game.

While You're There
First things first: keep in mind that Amherst is about a 40-minute drive away. Here are directions. We expect I-90 to have the look of a bunch of folks following a band on tour, only without the Phish stickers on the back of so many cars.

If you prefer a little less madness in your weekend fun, and decide to stay in Worcester, check out a bar called Irish Times. Located just two blocks from the Centrum – err, DCU Center – it features four levels to cater to a variety of crowds. Your best chance to catch an out-of-town game is on the plasma screens in the first-floor pub. Upstairs you’ll find pool tables and, on Friday night, an Ozzy Osbourne tribute band.

ON A ROLL

For all the acclaim Zach Parise earned, and rightfully so, his older brother Jordan has a chance to be the only one in the family to lead the Fighting Sioux to a Frozen Four.

For the Sioux to make it, they’ll need continued strong efforts from Parise, who enters the weekend as one of the hottest goaltenders in college hockey. He’s unbeaten in nine straight games, including five wins in a row, and has a 1.64 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in that span. What’s more, he’s the only goaltender likely to see action in Worcester who has NCAA Tournament experience, and he was spectacular in last year’s West Regional. He allowed one goal in two starts in Colorado Springs, in a 1-0 loss to Denver.

MR. CLUTCH

It usually takes a player years to develop a reputation as a clutch performer. For Mercyhurst goaltender Mike Ella, it’s been a little more than four weeks.

Ella got his sixth start of the season on Feb. 19 against Connecticut, and he hasn’t sat down – or lost – since. He and the Lakers are 8-0-0 since then, with half of those wins coming by one goal and the last two in overtime. Any upset bid in the NCAA Tournament begins in the goal, and Mercyhurst will need another clutch performance by Ella to have a shot at beating Boston College.

SOMETHING TO PROVE

When Zach Parise and Brandon Bochenski left North Dakota last off-season, nobody was named as their replacements. But Dave Hakstol not only got Dean Blais’ title, he got the high expectations that come with it, regardless of what on-ice losses the team had suffered.

Certainly, the vast majority of North Dakota fans were patient and aware of the challenges Hakstol faced. But there was a considerable amount of unease in Grand Forks when the Fighting Sioux entered the final weekend of February with a sub-.500 conference record. Since then they’ve gone 6-1-2, and if Hakstol had something to prove, we can probably consider the case closed. Then again, an NCAA win – and maybe even a trip to Columbus, where Blais now works – would give the first-year head coach a permanent seal of approval.

ONE TO WATCH

There's something about the plays Ryan Shannon makes for Boston College , especially in big games, that captures the attention of fans, coaches and fellow players alike. Last year in the Beanpot he made a backchecking play that prevented a Harvard breakaway and might have been the key moment of that tournament victory for the Eagles. This past Friday night, in the same building, he flipped a pass high in the air that settled in front of Chris Collins for a breakaway, like a quarterback lobbing a perfect ball in front of his receiver.

Shannon has the ability to bring you out of your seat, to be sure, while taking care of more mundane tasks as well – at both ends of the rink, as these examples suggest. He somehow has always seemed overshadowed by Ben and Patrick Eaves, but this year Shannon and defenseman Andrew Alberts became just the fifth and sixth Eagles to earn first-team All-Hockey East honors twice.

SATURDAY STORYLINE

While the seats would be filled for a BC-BU Regional Final, anybody who skips a meeting between the top two seeds would be foolish. A Boston College-North Dakota game would mean a rematch of the 2000 and 2001 NCAA title games, and if that’s not enough to get the locals excited, BC fans might want to consider the future. We’d never count out a Cory Schneider team after what we saw last weekend, but with the departure of Shannon, Andrew Alberts and possibly Patrick Eaves after this season, the Eagles could be looking at their best chance to get back to the title game for a few years.

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