April 3, 2006
NCAA Frozen Four

 

BOSTON COLLEGE
vs.
NORTH DAKOTA

Thurs., April 6 • 3 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Team Capsules |
Semifinal 2 Preview

 

 
Overall
Conference
Home
Away
Neutral
BC
25-12-3
17-8-2
13-3-1
7-7-1
5-2-1
NoDak
29-15-1
16-12-0
15-9-0
11-5-1
3-1-0
 
 
Goals/Gm.
GA/Gm.
PP Pct.
PK Pct.
PIM/Gm.
BC
3.48 (8th)
2.20 (T-5th)
.153 (45th)
.858 (10th)
18.3 (33rd)
NoDak
4.00 (2nd)
2.61 (19th)
.189 (18th)
.853 (15th)
17.5 (28th)

Boston College: Northeast Regional third seed
Boston College 5, Miami 0
Boston College 5, Boston University 0

North Dakota: Midwest Regional second seed
North Dakota 5, Michigan 1
North Dakota 5, Holy Cross 2

These teams have dangerous groups of forwards who can generate offense off the rush, using speed and skill, or thanks to puck possession, using hard work and nifty sticks in the corners. Both teams lean on a quarterback on the wing. Boston College’s Chris Collins plays on Brian Boyle’s left side and is the catalyst for the Eagles’ offense. Beyond that first line, BC relies more on hard work than skill, with the likes of Stephen Gionta and Joe Rooney battling for everything they can get. Benn Ferriero, who has been outstanding in the second half of the season, is a notable exception on the second line. North Dakota’s leader is right wing Drew Stafford, but he gets significantly more support than Collins in terms of speed and skill. Rookie T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Duncan, in particular, have elevated the Fighting Sioux talent level up front since these teams met in last year’s East Regional Final.

It’s rare that a team featuring three freshman defensemen would reach the Frozen Four, but that can be said of both club’s in Thursday’s first semifinal. To their credit, the rookies on both sides have fit in perfectly – BC’s Brett Motherwell and North Dakota’s Brian Lee have chipped in offensively, while players like Anthony Aiello, Zach Jones and Joe Finley have been steady, physical influences. As with any defense, however, the older players are the leaders. For BC, that is captain Peter Harrold, who has become one of the best two-way defensemen in the game as a senior. He leads a group that is more physical, on the whole, than a typical BC defense. On the North Dakota side, hulking junior Matt Smaby, at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, leads a group that on average stands 6-foot-2, 201 pounds and holds a physical advantage over a small Eagle forward corps.

Jordan Parise, for whatever reason, has never gotten the credit he deserves in the North Dakota net. But there’s only one measure of success in the NCAA Tournament – victories – and his 6-2 career record stands above the rest of the field. Apart from his big-game performances, he’s shown an ability to cover a lot of ground positionally and scramble for a big save when he has to. Cory Schneider, at the other end, is heralded as one of the best young goaltenders in the U.S., and has lived up to that billing in his first two years at BC. After splitting time a year ago he carried the load as a sophomore and posted the fourth-best save total in the nation. His school-record eight shutouts include a pair in the Northeast Regional, an impressive turnaround after he struggled in the tournament in 2005 – including a 6-3 loss to North Dakota.

The special teams game should feature strength against strength, as the Fighting Sioux power play (ranked seventh in the country) goes head to head with BC’s penalty kill (ranked 10th). North Dakota has the sharpshooters up front that make for a dangerous PP (led by Oshie, with 11 PPGs, and sophomore Travis Zajac, 8), but BC counters with quick, hard working forwards who are quintessential penalty killers. The Eagles have dominated while killing penalties in the postseason, allowing only one PPG in the last four games and scoring twice shorthanded. On the other side – the one that we’re more likely to see, given that North Dakota averages 23.0 penalty minutes per game – neither team excels. The Eagles are a woeful 15.3 percent with the man advantage, while only four NCAA Tournament teams ranked lower than North Dakota on the penalty kill (25th at 83.3 percent).

Dave Hakstol, in just his second season, has quickly become a fixture at the Frozen Four, albeit not with the history that his counterpart boasts. Neither Hakstol nor Jerry York is the fiery type – both tend to be stoic behind the bench, Hakstol with his arms crossed and York clutching his ever-present notebook. But they will both have their teams emotionally charged, and more important, playing their systems to a T.

WHY BOSTON COLLEGE WINS: While North Dakota came out of the NCAA West Regional with a pair of seemingly effortless wins, no team was as dominant last weekend as Boston College, and the Eagles did it against stiffer competition, and away from home ice. BC has bounced back from its February slump and is playing its best hockey, getting contributions from a variety of players up front and flawless efforts from Schneider in goal.

WHY NORTH DAKOTA WINS: The Fighting Sioux are primed to claim their second Milwaukee national title in nine years behind a stable of forwards whose talent, as a group, is second-to-none in the NCAA. When they surrender the puck – perhaps that should say “if” – an imposing defense and the tournament-tested Parise provide support.