Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCAA First Round: Michigan/Bemidji State Preview

There's already been a lot of great stuff written about this matchup:
MGoBlog has a long preview of this game as well as a hypothetical second round game with Miami or UAH. He also includes lots of stats about what BSU might look like if they were in a major conference.
John Bacon has a solid article about our new man in net.
Hoover Street Rag has their typically awesome previews. Click the link to the left for the main site. Or here is Michigan and Bemidji State.
Maize N Brew has a few words about the team as well as some information about the city of Fort Wayne.
The Wolverine Blog has a bunch of info about BSU straight from The Beaver Pond.

Last year, they were the cute and cuddly team fighting for their program. Possibly spurred by their unlikely run to the Frozen Four, the Beavers were extended an invitation to join the WCHA after the demise of their conference once this season ends.

This year, they're Michigan's opponent in the first round of the Midwest Regional. The Beavers come in with a 23-9-4 record on the season, and won the CHA regular season championship with a 14-3-1 record. They had 29 points in 18 games. They were the only team in the conference above .500. Their conference suuuucks.

That being said, with only 18 conference games, that opens the door for a lot of games against non-conference teams. They swept Air Force, beat and tied NMU, split with Minnesota, beat Miami but lost to Ohio State, got swept by MSU-Mankato, played WMU to a 0-0 tie before beating them 3-0 the next night (Yup, WMU sucks), swept Duluth and split with Omaha. So that's actually a pretty solid mix of games and as Brian asserts, they'd likely be right around 4th place in a conference like the CCHA.

Leading scorer Matt Read has matched his sophomore-year total of 40 points. He was shut out in the CHA semis and consolation game, but had 5 goals and 8 points in the six games before that. He had 2-3--5 in five games against NCAA Tournament teams that aren't UAH.

Ian Lowe leads the team in goals with 20. Eight of those have come on the power play. That's 20 goals after 2 as a freshman and 2 as a sophomore. Safe to say the light has come on. He's got 6 goals in his last eight games. He had 2-0--2 in five games against non-UAH tourney teams. He did have a stellar weekend against Duluth, however.

Jordan George is fifth in the country in points per game amongst freshmen, with 13-21--34 in 35 games.

The Beavers have five 10+ goal scorers and four that cracked the 30-point mark. Sophomore Brad Hunt has 7-26--33 from back on the blueline, good for fifth in the country in points per game for defensemen. He had 32 points as a freshman and had 7 markers with the man advantage last season. He needs to not go all Brendan Smith on us. That said, he hasn't scored a goal in thirteen games, though he does have one assist in seven of his last eight. He had four assists against Northern early on in the season. And you don't see it very often for d-men, so it's worth mentioning: He had a 3-1--4 line in a game against UAH.

Nobody else on the blueline has more than a goal or more than ten points.

Dan Bakala, a sophomore, has gotten the nod in the net more often than not this season, after not playing a single minute a year ago. He's played 30 games and has a 19-7-3 record with a 2.27/.919 (11th in goals against and 12th in save percentage). He has been fairly shaky as of late, having just won one of his last five starts. He got chased in the CHA consolation game after giving up three goals in 2:06 against Bobby Mo. The game before that he gave up 5 on 25 shots against Niagara. There are a lot more 3s, 4s, and 5s in the "Goals Allowed" column than you'd probably like for a guy who played so many games against Robert Morris, Niagara, and UAH. He did give up just 2 against Miami, and had a 24 save performance (1 GA) against UNO.

The Beavers are sixth in the country in goals per game, with 3.53. They also have the #5 defense, allowing the same 2.28 goals per game as the Wolverines. They're also one of the least-penalized teams in the country at just 12.2 minutes per game.

The power play is just 19.0%, 26th in the country, though they've got several players with high PPG totals. They're at 84.8 on the PK (#12 in the country) and have scored five shorties.

It's tempting to look ahead to a possible matchup with the Miami RedHawks, but the Beavers are a good hockey team and they've got the Frozen Four appearance to prove it. They're not sneaking up on anyone this year. As long as the Wolverines keep playing the way they have been playing, I have to like our chances.

There have been some surprises in the NCAA Tournament thusfar. Denver was knocked out in the first round for the third straight season. This time it was the RIT Tigers pulling the upset. Additionally, perennial chokers St. Cloud finally won their first tournament game (in double OT against NMU) and the University of No Hardware knocked out trendy pick Cornell. Wisconsin advanced on the strength of three power play goals. I can't wait for Brendan Smith to play for the Red Wings.

Tomorrow is the best day of the year if you're a college hockey fan. Six games, all one-and-done. Two Frozen Four berths on the line. Doesn't get much better than that. Michigan/Bemidji, Miami/UAH, BC/Alaska, Yale/North Dakota, RIT/New Hampshire (hard to believe one of those teams will be Frozen Four bound), and Wisconsin/St. Cloud. It's gonna be a great day!

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