2011 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament: West Regional Preview

Ben Smith #12 of the Boston College Eagles is congratulated by teammates on the bench after he scored a goal in the first period against the Miami Redhawks on April 8, 2010 during the semifinals of the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

A region-by-region look at this year's 2011 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, starting in the East and working our way west. Last, but certainly not least: The West Regional in St. Louis.

The Bracket

No. 4 Colorado College vs. No. 1 Boston College*
No. 3 Nebraska-Omaha vs. No. 2 Michigan

Location: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo.

Participants:

No. 1 Boston College Eagles (30-7-1, 20-6-1 Hockey East)
Head coach: Jerry York
Leading scorers: Jr. Cam Atkinson (30-21-51), Sr. Brian Gibbons (18-32-50), So. Brian Dumoulin (3-30-33)
Leading goaltender: Sr. John Muse (27-5-1, 2.13 GAA, .926 SV%)

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (26-10-4, 20-7-1-0 CCHA)
Head coach: Red Berenson 
Leading scorers: Sr. Carl Hagelin (18-30-48), Sr. Louie Caporusso (10-18-28), Sr. Matt Rust (5-20-25)
Leading goaltender: Sr. Shawn Hunwick (19-8-4, 2.31 GAA, .921 SV%)

No. 3 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (21-15-2, 17-9-2 WCHA)
Head coach: Dean Blais
Leading scorers: Sr. Matt Ambroz (17-17-34), Sr. Joey Martin (11-23-34), Sr. Rich Purslow (12-20-32)
Leading goaltender: Jr. John Faulkner (20-14-2, 2.55 GAA, .908 SV%)

No. 4 Colorado College Tigers (22-18-3, 13-13-2 WCHA)
Head coach: Scott Owens
Leading scorers: Sr. Stephen Schultz (16-27-43), Fr. Jaden Schwartz (15-27-42), Sr. Tyler Johnson (20-17-37)
Leading goaltender: So. Joe Howe (17-14-2, 2.93 GAA, .901 SV%)

 

Analysis

The top seed in the West needs no introduction. Moving right along.

The Michigan Wolverines are the West's no. 2 seed and are coming off a CCHA regular season title. Before getting upset by Western Michigan in the CCHA Tournament semifinals, Michigan had rattled off eight straight wins to capture the regular season title.

This will be a record 21st consecutive year in the NCAA Tournament for U-M. While Michigan has been to 21 straight Tourneys, the Wolverines have struggled in the NCAAs, with their last Championship occurring 13 years ago in 1998 (a NCAA Championship Game that need not be mentioned here). Michigan does hold a 4-2 edge over Boston College in NCAA Tournament play, though the Eagles have gotten the better of the Wolverines in the last two NCAA meetings (a 4-2 win in 2001 and a 3-2 OT win in 2004).

Michigan's first-round matchup is against former CCHA program Nebraska-Omaha, a team they've already seen twice this season. Michigan played Nebraska-Omaha in a weekend series back in late October, with UNO winning the first game 4-2 and the Wolverines winning the second night 6-1.

I'm sure UNO wants nothing more than to end their former conference mates season, and they will come into this matchup with the confidence of having beaten U-M once already this season. Omaha is also the closest team to the Scottrade Center (~430 miles), so maybe the Maverick faithful come out to support UNO this weekend?

BC's first round opponent is the 4-seeded Colorado College Tigers of the WCHA. Even though CC was one of the last teams in this year's Tournament, don't discount the Tigers' chances in this one. CC split the regular season series with Denver, including a 9-2 pasting of the Pioneers. Those two games were around the same time BC traveled to Denver to take on the Pioneers, so those weekend results serve as a pretty decent point of comparison.

That said, it's tough to go against Coach York and a goalie that owns a perfect 8-0 record in the NCAAs (knock wood).

 

Projections: Boston College over Colorado College, Michigan over Nebraska-Omaha. BC over U-M in the Regional Final.

Frozen Four Pick: Boston College Eagles

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