East Regional Preview | Worcester, Mass.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.