Hockey World Blog

2016 NCAA Tournament – Midwest Regional Preview

Midwest Regional

Site: U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
Friday’s schedule: No. 1 North Dakota (30-6-4) vs. No. 4 Northeastern (22-13-5), Friday, March 25, 2 p.m. Eastern time, ESPNU/WatchESPN; No. 2 Michigan (24-7-5) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (19-10-7), Friday, March 25, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, ESPNU/WatchESPN
Saturday’s schedule: Semifinal winners, 6 p.m. Eastern time, ESPN2/WatchESPN
North Dakota

Record: 30-6-4 (19-4-1-1 NCHC, first)
How they qualified: At-Large
Last appearance: 2015
Championships: 1958, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000
Player to watch for: Brock Boeser (38 GP, 25-26–51)

Overview: Entering the tournament as the Fighting Hawks for the first time, last year’s national semifinalists have a lot of firepower on both sides of the puck. Boeser, a Vancouver draft pick, isn’t the only player you should watch this weekend. Chicago draft pick Nick Schmaltz is further down the scoring list with 10 but his 32 assists leads the team and is sixth in the nation. They have the third best defense in the country, anchored by Richter award finalist Cam Johnson in goal. If there’s anything that can keep them from playing in Tampa it’s their power play, as their 18.83 success percentage was 22nd during the season.

Northeastern

Record: 22-13-5 (10-8-4 HEA, sixth)
How they qualified: Hockey East Champions
Last appearance: 2009
Championships: None
Player to watch for:  Zach Aston-Reese (40 GP, 14-29–43)

Overview: The unlikeliest of teams to win the conference to earn their way to the tournament, the Huskies are one of the hottest clubs in the nation. No one outside their dressing room would have thought they would be here after starting the season 1-11-2, but they turned things around during the holiday break and are sporting a 13-1-2 record in 2016. Their only defeat was in the Beanpot to Boston University. For the Huskies to win they have to stay out of the penalty box, as their 79.4 kill percentage is lowest among teams in the field.

Michigan

Record: 24-7-5 (12-5-3-2 Big Ten, second)
How they qualified: Big Ten Champions
Last appearance: 2012
Championships: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1996, 1998
Player to watch for: Kyle Connor (36 GP, 35-34–69)

Overview: After missing the tournament for three straight seasons, Red Brenson and the Wolverines are back in the tournament. They lead the nation in many offensive categories including goals per game (4.89) and power play percentage (31.76). Their famous CCM line of Kyle Connor, JT Compher and Tyler Motte — are three of the top four highest scoring players in Division I. Connor  – a freshman – leads the NCAA with 35 goals and 69 points, Compher leads the assists board with 46 assists to go along with his 60 points, and Motte has a stat line of 31-23–54 in 36 games. All three are NHL draft picks as well as Zach Werenski who anchors the defense. For them to advance to Tampa they need to continue scoring as their defense is 38th in the country at 3.00 goals allowed per game.

Notre Dame

Record: 19-10-7 (15-5-2 Hockey East, third)
How they qualified: At-Large
Last appearance: 2014
Championships: None
Player to watch for: Anders Bjork (34 GP, 11-22–33)

Overview: Notre Dame avoided being knocked out by St. Cloud State for the third straight time but they get to face a former CCHA (and future Big Ten) rival in Michigan. They last met in the 2013 CCHA title game, the last ever for that conference which resulted in a 3-1 win for the Fighting Irish. One of the last teams to make the tournament, they don’t do any one thing great as they rank 15th in team offense, 14th in team defense, 10th on the power play and 20th on the penalty kill. What could work in their favor in this region is if they hold the CCM line in check and take advantage of their power play opportunities. If they manage to upset the Wolverines, they’ll get a shot at revenge against the Huskies should they advance.

Prediction: Michigan over Northeastern

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