NCAA Hockey Tournament: East Region Preview
The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament is back and it returns to Webster Bank Arena, for the first time since 2018. Wisconsin, UMass, Lake Superior State and Bemidji State head to Bridgeport vying for a Frozen Four spot in Pittsburgh.
The semifinal matchups will take place on Friday, March 26, with the Regional Championship happening the next day, March 27, at 4 p.m
Now, let’s take a look at the matchups and give a breakdown.
No. 1 Wisconsin (20-9-1) vs. No. 4 Bemidji State (15-9-3)
This matchup has teams that ended a tournament drought, with this trip to Bridgeport. Wisconsin’s last tournament bid came in 2014, while Bemidji State’s was in 2010.
The Badgers are coming into the tournament after losing in the Big Ten Tournament Championship to Minnesota, 6-4. Wisconsin comes in with some questions, mainly who will start in the net?
The goaltending tandem of freshman Cameron Rowe and Robbie Beydoun has been inconsistent all year. Wisconsin is allowing 2.47 goals against per game, but not all hope is lost.
The Badgers boast an offense that scores 3.83 goals per contest and it starts with Cole Caufield. The Montreal Canadiens prospect leads the country in points with 49, and goals with 28. Also, linemates Linus Weissbach and Dylan Holloway have 40 and 34 points each.
The Beavers of Bemidji State are coming off a 4-1 loss to Lake Superior State in the WCHA Tournament. Even with the loss, the Beavers are a hot team and have won eight of their last 11 games.
The Bemidji offense is led by Alex Ierullo, whose 23 points are tops on the team. He knows how to find teammates, also as he has 16 assists. His great passing has allowed Ethan Somoza to release his incredible shot. Somoza has 13 goals this season.
Finally, in between the pipes for Bemidji State is Zach Driscoll. The senior netminder is allowing 2.3 goals per game with a .924 save percentage and has played at a high-level.
Both teams are very talented and are coming off a loss, but the Badgers have so much firepower it’s hard to see Bemidji pulling off the upset. Don’t be surprised if this one goes to overtime.
No. 2 Massachusetts (16-5-4) vs. No. 3 Lake Superior State (19-6-3)
This matchup features two first-time conference champions against one another, UMass out of Hockey East and Lake Superior State out of the WCHA.
The Minutemen come back to the tournament as the runner-up after they lost the 2019 Frozen Four to Minnesota-Duluth, 3-0. They come into Bridgeport on a 10-game unbeaten streak, their last loss being on January 18 at Boston University, 4-3.
It starts at the back with goalie Filip Lindberg, who is one of the best in the country. He has a nation-best goals-against average, 1.46 a save percentage of .940 and has a record of 7-1-4.
Offensively, UMass is just as good as their netminder, with six players who have 20-plus points on the year. Bobby Trivigno paces the Minutemen with 30 points, 10 goals and 20 assists.
Lake Superior State returns to the tournament for the first time in 25 years after the Lakers topped Northern Michigan, 5-1 in the WCHA Championship. Since Feb. 6, the Lakers have only lost three games, going 13-3-0 in that stretch.
Like UMass, the Lakers have one of the best in between the pipes with Richter Award Finalist Mareks Mitens. The Latvian netminder has been great allowing only 1.86 goals per contest, with a .933 save percentage.
Ashton Calder and Pete Veillette pace Lake State offensively, combining for 54 points. Both players have 13 assists, but Calder has a slight advantage in goals with 15 to Veillette’s 13.
This should be another great game as both teams are strong all-around the ice and both teams are hot. The Minutemen have experience in the tournament and it gives them a slight, but it could still go either way.
It should be a fun weekend in Bridgeport for all the teams because everyone has the talent and ability to head to Pittsburgh. Expect every game to be tightly contested and come down to the wire with the team that makes the least errors heading to the Steel City for the Frozen Four.
Regional Winner Prediction: Massachusetts
Matthew Scalzo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Freshman / Broadcast Journalism