NCAA Hockey Tournament - West Region

Story posted March 26, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

The NCAA tournament is finally here and this year is shaping up to be one of the best. For the first time we can remember, the tournament will not feature Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Boston College or Boston University. In this article, we will breakdown the matchups in the west region.

No. 1 St Cloud vs. No. 16 American International College

The demon that is the NCAA tournament is finally back to haunt St. Cloud once again. The tournament has not been friendly for the Huskies in recent years. Just last season, they were upset by Air Force in the first round after having serious aspirations at a championship. In 2016, St. Cloud was once again a No. 1 seed entering the tournament but got upset by Ferris State in round one.

In all the years of coming up short, St. Cloud has now put together what some are calling their best team ever. They finished the season 30-5-3, with a goal differential of +72. Statistically they have the second highest scoring offense only behind first place Penn State. Defensively they rank No. 14 in the country, a position that has improved since previous years. It is safe to say that this is the best team in the country and anything short of a championship appearance would be a disappointing.

American International College is quite frankly lucky to be here. Due to automatic bids, AIC must be awarded a tournament berth for winning their conference. There is without a doubt they are the worst team in this tournament.

With that being said, there is still a reason to hope. Schools from the Atlantic Hockey Conference have found some success in the postseason. As mentioned above, Air Force and Ferris State, have been able to upset first round opponent in three of the last four seasons. If AIC wants to repeat history they must turn to their goaltender Zackarias Skog to play better. His save percentage is currently at a .896. In order to defeat a team as powerful as St. Cloud, Skog will have to have a performance of a lifetime.

Prediction: St Cloud advances

No. 8 Denver vs. No. 9 Ohio State

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup in the NCAA tournament is No. 8 Denver vs. No. 9 Ohio State.

Despite a dominate regular season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, there is some serious concern entering the NCAA tournament. To end the regular season, the Buckeyes went winless in six out of their last seven games. In the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeye team that was so prolific in the regular season was nonexistent when it mattered most.

They lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions by a score of 5-1 and looked flat the entire game. Ohio State, with no momentum, now has to face a solid Denver team. Ohio State has only played once in the last 28 days.

Denver on the other hand has been relatively consistent for most of the season. Despite a loss to Miami, their results have gone in the direction that you would have expected them to go. They finish fourth in the NCHC conference, the toughest conference in college hockey. Denver has relied on junior forward Liam Finlay. His breakout performance this year makes him the team leader in points per game with .92. While Denver doesn’t score a whole lot, they do not surrender a whole lot either. Denver goaltender Devin Cooley has been outstanding. He has only given up 1.85 goals per game and has a .934 save percentage. If he continues to be consistent in the back end, then Denver will advance.

Prediction: Denver downs the Buckeyes.

Prediction: St. Cloud vs Denver - This has to be the year for St. Cloud. They are simply way to talented and should compete for a national championship. St. Cloud will advance to the Frozen Four. 

 

 

Kyle Cannillo is a broadcast journalism major at Penn State University. To contact him please email kcannillo1@gmail.com.