Manchester Regional Preview

Story posted March 23, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Kaplan

Manchester, N.H. is no stranger to hosting games of the Northeast Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Having hosted games in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015, SNHU Arena serves yet again as the site of the regional. This year it hosts four teams, with the two regional semifinal matchups taking place on Saturday. The action starts at noon when No. 2 seed UMass-Lowell and No. 3 seed Cornell play, followed by No. 4 seed Notre Dame taking on No. 1 seed Minnesota. The winners of both games will meet in the regional final on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for the chance to play in the Frozen Four in Chicago. Here’s a look at both semifinal matchups:

No. 2 Massachusetts-Lowell (26-10-3) vs. No. 3 Cornell (21-8-5): With only one loss since the start of February, the River Hawks ride into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in college hockey. Fresh off a Hockey East Tournament title, Head Coach Norm Bazin looks to take his team back to the regional final where their season ended a year ago in a 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac.

Joe Gambardella (51 points), fresh off winning the Walter Brown Award (given to the best-American born college hockey player in New England) has been dominant this season as one of the top scorers in the sport. CJ Smith (50 points) and Tyler Wall (2.10 GAA, .917 save %) are the other key players for the River Hawks. UMass-Lowell will also benefit from, essentially, home ice advantage, with the school only 40 minutes away from SNHU Arena. 

They’ll face a formidable foe that is hungry for success, however, as Cornell is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Big Red have been led this season by the tremendous play of Mitch Gillam in net, who sports a 2.17 GAA and .921 save percentage. On offense, Mitch Vanderlaan (28 points) and Patrick McCarron (25 points) have paced Cornell this season. The Big Red head into the tournament with something to prove, having lost to Harvard 4-1 in the ECAC Championship last week.

No. 1 Minnesota (23-11-3) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (21-11-5): Even though the Golden Gophers are the top seed in the region, Don Lucia’s team still has something to prove this season. They were a tough out in the Big Ten tournament, losing to Penn State 4-3 in double overtime. Minnesota was led by Tyler Sheehy (53 points) and Justin Kloos (42 points) on offense this year, who were dominant throughout the latter half of the year. Eric Schierhorn has been strong in net as well with a 2.65 GAA and .907 save percentage. If he can keep it up, watch out for a run by the Golden Gophers in the tournament.

On the other hand, Jeff Jackson’s team will try to rebound from a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East tournament. Anders Bjork (47 points) has led this team while being a consistent top-notch player in his conference, while Andrew Oglevie (39 points) has represented the supporting cast. In net, Cal Petersen has been very solid this year (2.14 GAA, .928 save %). 

This matchup is a preview of what could be a prominent Big Ten hockey rivalry, with the Fighting Irish joining the Big Ten next season. Both teams have a legitimate chance in this game, as Notre Dame represents an underrated No. 4 seed in this tournament. Both Lucia and

Jackson are the only coaches who have multiple national championships in the field this year.

Predictions:

UMass-Lowell over Cornell

Minnesota over Notre Dame

UMass-Lowell over Minnesota

 

Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zvk5072@psu.edu