Hockey Banter, Week XXV, Part I of III: Weekend Review

via Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

In part 1 of 3 in this week's Hockey Banter, we take a look at the conference tournament results and look back at the reaction from the selection show.

Joseph Gravellese: To pass the time as we await this weekend's NCAA hockey tournament, we have three doses of hockey talk for you this week on BC Interruption. Today, we take a final look back on the weekend that was in college hockey. Tomorrow, we preview the West and Midwest regionals. Then on Thursday we'll look toward the East and Northeast regionals.

We start by looking back at the weekend that was. We spent enough time talking about BC's horrifying loss to BU in the Dumpster Fire Recap Banter. So let's start this by giving props to UMass-Lowell, a worthy champion of Hockey East.

After that rough 4-7-1 start -- which I think you could chalk up to the growing pains of an emerging team facing BC, Denver, CC and UNH out of the gate -- they were solid and consistent throughout the year.

Though they only won the regular season title by a narrow margin, I thought they pretty firmly established themselves as the league's best team down the stretch, capping the season with an 8-1-1 record and being lights out since the turn of the calendar to 2013.

Grant Salzano: That's really exceptional when you consider they were playing some solid competition down the stretch, and that pretty much every other top team found themselves struggling.

JG: Much like BC last year, they go into the NCAA tournament with absolute lock-down defense that very rarely gives up more than two goals, and top notch goaltending from Connor Hellebucyk. Everyone's talking about how crazy and unpredictable this year's NCAA field is, and they're right, of course. But one of the things that you hear a lot is that the top seeds have been struggling and the low seeds have been hot, making it unpredictable.

In Lowell's case, they're a high seed who's been hot. Put them in BC, BU, UNH or Maine jerseys and they'd be the media favorite to win it all, I think.

GS: Somehow that's not really something I'd thought about -- but completely accurate. Everyone would be all over us if we'd finished the season like Lowell did.

JG: And granted, it's fair to draw the distinction, because BC's (and BU, etc.) players come from a better pedigree in terms of draft picks, international competitions, and what-have-you. So one can have more confidence that it's more than a streak and that it'll stand up against the rest of the country's best. Plus there's the confidence and experience factor of performing on a big stage. Lowell obviously hasn't had to do that much. Though they didn't look intimidated by it in the least last weekend.

GS: They really are built to be a tournament team, though. The whole "defense wins championships" thing. They're definitely going to be a sexy pick to win it all, for those who can't stomach picking Minnesota.

JG: One thing that really struck me about that game Saturday -- and, granted, I threw back a few before the game so take my thoughts for what they're worth -- was that I never honestly felt like BU was going to score.

Even when it was 0-0 for so long.

I was a little worried that we might be there all night, but it never felt like BU was threatening Lowell's net at all.

Certainly, if you're going by the theory that conference champions should be favored to win it all because they just won a bunch of playoff games and go in hot and battle tested, Lowell is the conference champ with the best track record this year. Notre Dame isn't too far back, but Lowell's been better.

Here's another little stat to think about: Lowell gave up a total of 3 goals in 4 games in the Hockey East tournament.

GS: Here's my problem though:

They were impressive, no doubt. But it seems that everyone is so close this year that the top teams have to lose.

JG: That's Joe Morgan logic, though.

It's like saying a team on a hot streak is "due" to lose.

GS: You're right -- very Joe-Morgany. I don't like it.

JG: We'll get into the comparative chances of Lowell as we head into the previews later this week, lest this turn into LowellInterruption.com, after a short stint as NiagaraInterruption.com during the live chat.

Notre Dame also looked good in winning the CCHA title. They really put together a solid sixty minutes against Michigan in what was a very fun game to watch. In winning that title they cooled off a very hot team who had a lot to play for.

GS: Honestly I was shocked Michigan lost. They seemed like they couldn't lose.

Impressive win by Notre Dame, no doubt. And what a strange jolt they put into the Pairwise!

JG: The Irish went into the weekend able to finish anywhere from out of the tournament entirely to 3rd in the Pairwise.

GS: Most of that had to do with Michigan and Notre Dame's 4-0 record against them would remain in TUC status.

JG: Their win also made our bump to the Providence bracket a little more likely as we were #6 instead of #5. Though the committee might have done that anyway.

Wisconsin went nuts and won the last incarnation of the WCHA Final Five as we know it, and good for them. A lot of people are slobbering all over them now and saying they're going to go all the way, which is probably fair, but let's play a little thought experiment here.

If the 6th place Hockey East team got hot and won the conference title, wouldn't we (and a lot of other people) say that it's a sign of a league with paper tigers at the top?

Because at this point, if you're saying the mid-pack WCHA teams are better than the mid-pack Hockey East teams, you're not really basing that on any real facts, you're basing it on the names of the jerseys.

GS: Or, a league with several good but not amazing teams.

JG: Much like Hockey East this year (jury's out on Lowell as amazing).

GS: I wonder how our perspective on the playoffs would be if we hadn't gotten completely pasted by Minnesota. That's affecting our opinion of the top of the west and trickling down to our opinion of the middle of the west.

JG: You're probably right. My bracket right now has Minnesota winning it all, but that game really might be putting it in my head more than anything.

Speaking of leagues where we can safely assume a lower team winning is a sign that the team at the top sucks, lol Canisius.

Canisius is right up there with Alabama-Huntsville in 2009 on the list of worst teams to make the tournament. If karma smacks me and we somehow lose to them on Sunday, feel free to find this and laugh. But I'll stick by that.

GS: It's funny you say that, I've been trying to think of a worse team to have made the tournament in my memory. Completely forgot about BAMA-Huntsville.

Which, if memory serves... didn't they take North Dakota (I think that's who it was) to overtime that year??

JG: Nope. I was actually wrong about the year, it was 2010. And they lost to Miami, 2-1.

GS: I remember them taking their game late against someone good. Watching on a grainy feed that makes CBSSports.com look like HDTV.

JG: And then there was the ECAC final, won by Union, who, all jokes about our bracket aside, are on a nice little run and have a lot of talent, led by American Hero Shayne Gostisbehere.

GS: Union scares the hell out of me. As one of, what, three teams to be coming into the tournament on a decent run.

But then I remember they are ECAC and I laugh.

JG: Oh absolutely. They are no joke.

They're not Minnesota but they're more than capable of smacking us in the mouth if we play like Bad BC.

Finally, a nod to the Gopher women, who finished their 41-0-0 run, though it was slightly tarnished by the fact that the national championship game was against BU, which barely counts.

But honestly...

I don't think it's possible to summarize just how good and how dominant they were.

It will never be topped, I think.

GS: I never would have thought it would happen, if only because the trend the last several years was increased parity in the sport year after year. Then this year happened, which threw a hell of a wrench into that.

Just emphasized how ridiculous it was to bump the trend.

JG: There WAS a ton of parity in women's hockey. But... it was behind Minnesota.

You could really make the argument for BC, BU, North Dakota, or Cornell as #2 and make a decent argument for any of them. And Northeastern can correctly say they had BC's number and were a dangerous team if they had gotten in.

GS: I still can't get over the loss to them. Why can't we ever lose in the Frozen Four in a NON-heartbreaking way? This is getting ridiculous.

JG: Well, maybe next year will be the year. I'm sure we'll have lots to say about that over the summer.

GS: Absolutely.

Looking toward the weekend's final and, arguably for BC, most exciting event, the selection show. Which, as I stated in the Chat, could have just as fairly been done by putting all 16 names in a hat. And I'm not saying that to knock the committee, I'm saying it because it's legitimate.

It's been gone over ad nauseam but let's just talk briefly about the philosophy behind the committee's big move of having BC and Union in Providence.

1) Do you agree with this shift toward emphasizing attendance/minimizing flights?
2) Do you think the committee would have made the same move if BC were 5th?
2b) What about if Quinnipiac won the ECAC and didn't finish the season looking like a joke of a #1 seed?

GS: I think the tournament is broken because of the regional format, so whatever they do is just putting a bandaid on a severed jugular.

Having said that -- if we're going to be stuck with this current structure, I think as much as possible should be done to make it enjoyable for the fans. And by 'enjoyable' I mean 'fans can actually go watch their team play.'

So in that way, I 'agree' with it. Also, yes, given the quotes that came out from the committee, I believe they would have sent BC east even if we were 5th. And regardless of what Quinnipiac might have done (they do have the wost 4 seed and worst 3 seed in their bracket, after all).

JG: Agreed. I don't expect the WCHA fans to stop their bellyaching any time soon, but I just have to say this, since I have a forum to do so:

The two CCHA teams were put together.

2/3 ECAC teams were put together.

2/3 Hockey East teams were put together.

It's not the WCHA's birthright to have their teams spread out and given their results in recent tournaments they should probably be happy that the joke draws Minnesota and North Dakota got mean it's at least likely they'll get one team to Pittsburgh.

/end rant.

actually, not /end rant.

The conclusion here is that the committee is bunching teams up geographically wherever they can. The fact that it helps some teams and hurts others is a matter of luck and not any sort of "screw job" by the committee. We were the victims of this stupid system in 2011.

now /end rant.

GS: Yeah that pretty much sums it up. The whining has been incessant out of the west.

I'm really not sure what more they could have wanted, really. One of Minnesota or North Dakota is pretty much a lock to get to Pittsburgh.

Although who knows, maybe Yale has another surprise regional upset in them again against Minnesota.

Doubt it.

JG: Yeah that's not gonna happen. Though, lol forever if it does.

GS: I'm pretty sure we would troll harder than we've ever trolled before.

JG: Which is really saying something.

GS: Most of our great trolling moments come against Minnesota. Yale beating Minnesota would be setting it up for us on a freaking tee.

JG: In other, excellent news, Jerry York is back! And aside from being happy for him for health reasons, this could play a big factor this week, honestly. Let's put it this way, we'll take any boost we can get.

GS: Hear, hear.

Fortunately the boosts are lining up for us left and right. York is back, the favorable draw, staying close to home, and York's announcement that Linell is moving back to forward from the blue line.

JG: Agreed. The changes York announced to the lineup were a long time coming.

Unfortunately, Straight deserves a demotion at this point. Linell needed to get off the blue line.

The two things I'm curious about right now:

1) Why no Jeke on D instead of rolling 5?
2) Is York tempted to reunite the Gaudreau-Mullane-Whitney line? He didn't say he wasn't doing that.

He very noticeably did not say at all who would be on the first line. All he said was that Linell would slot in with Arnold. So you never know.

GS: I'm not sure what's up with not playing Jeke. I don't have any kind of speculation there other than to say what everyone else was, which is that it appears he was playing quite well.

I don't think York will put the Big 3 together, and I really don't think he should. Arnold is probably our best all-around player right now and hanging him out to dry wouldn't really do ourselves any favors.

JG: Yeah. I'm okay with shortening the bench at this time of the year, but it just seems odd because Jeke didn't really play his way out of the lineup so far as I could tell. Obviously we're not privy to practice or anything behind the scenes.

GS: Yeah I haven't heard anything negative about Jeke behind the scenes, so it'd be unfair of us to assume there is. But it's true that's where the thoughts run to.

I think we're in a good spot though. Alber's had some time to get back up to full speed, we're as healthy as we're going to get, the guys who've been banged up (Matheson, Whitney) have had some time to rest us... who knows, maybe not playing in the Hockey East final was a good thing.

That's a stretch, I know.

JG: Aside from the fact that if we won that game we might not have gotten the Providence bracket, lulz. But yeah.

This deserves a more extensive discussion, and we'll probably do a whole week's banter in the summer on the future of BU, but: they got their coach, Dave Quinn -- a name that's been thrown around for a while. He's a good pick, though not a surprise.

They didn't rock the boat by going after a Bazin or (hey, it wasn't the worst speculation) Cav/Brown. To me, that's sort of the story line.

Quinn was a BU assistant and is now an assistant in the NHL with Colorado. He's short on head coaching experience, though it should be said, Bazin had a similar profile with most of his experience coming as an assistant.

He's "internal," but wasn't around during the complete bleep-show of the past few years. So the jury's out on whether he'll change the culture at all.

I don't think he'll have any trouble keeping up BU's recruiting, talentwise; he was supposedly an ace recruiter for Parker while he was there. The question for BU though is whether they start getting the right talent.

GS: I admittedly don't know too much about the guy. But no matter who they hired -- unless it was going to be someone like Bazin or (lol) Blasi, it wasn't going to really make much of a difference to me. It's Boston University.

They're going to get talent and they're going to be competitive.

I think that's about all for today. Stop by tomorrow for part 2 of 3 of this week's Hockey Banter.

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