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. Next up: The Northeast Regional in Manchester, New Hampshire.
No. 4 New Hampshire vs. No. 1 Miami*
No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Merrimack
Location: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H.
No. 1 Miami RedHawks (23-9-6, 16-7-5-2 CCHA)
Head coach: Enrico Blasi
Leading scorers: Sr. Andy Miele (24-47-71), Sr. Carter Camper (19-37-56), So. Reilly Smith (28-26-54)
Leading goaltender: Jr. Cody Reichard (15-4-2, 2.05 GAA, .911 SV%)
No. 2 Merrimack Warriors (25-9-4, 16-8-3 Hockey East)
Head coach: Mark Dennehy
Leading scorers: So. Stephane Da Costa (14-30-44), Sr. Chris Barton (14-25-36), Sr. Joe Cucci (14-22-36)
Leading goaltender: Jr. Joe Cannata (25-9-4, 2.44 GAA, .911 SV%)
No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-13-5, 18-7-3-2 CCHA)
Head coach: Jeff Jackson
Leading scorers: Fr. T.J. Tynan (22-30-52), Fr. Anders Lee (22-19-41), Sr. Ryan Guentzel (6-31-37)
Leading goaltender: So. Mike Johnson (18-9-4, 2.62 GAA, .903 SV%)
No. 4 New Hampshire Wildcats (21-10-6, 17-6-4 Hockey East)
Head coach: Dick Umile
Leading scorers: Sr. Paul Thompson (28-24-52), Sr. Mike Sislo (13-33-46), Sr. Phil DeSimone (10-30-40)
Leading goaltender: Jr. Matt Di Girolamo (21-10-6, 2.49 GAA, .921 SV%)
This year's Northeast Regional pits two CCHA teams against two Hockey East teams. The region's top seed -- the Miami RedHawks -- are no strangers to playing Hockey East teams in the NCAAs. Here are the results from the RedHawks' last five trips to the NCAAs:
2006: Lost in NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal, 0-5 (Boston College)
2007: Lost in NCAA Northeast Regional Final, 0-4 (Boston College)
2008: Lost in NCAA Northeast Regional Final, 3-4 (OT) (Boston College)
2009: Lost in NCAA National Championship, 3-4 (OT) (Boston University)
2010: Lost in NCAA National Semifinal, 1-7 (Boston College)
I'm sure Miami breathed a huge sigh of relief when they found out their NCAA Tournament draw did not include either BC or BU.
The RedHawks are led by Hobey hopeful Andy Miele, who leads the nation in scoring with 71 points (24-47-71). Miami is red hot, unbeaten in its last 13 games (10-0-1-2). They rolled in the CCHA Tournament, knocking off Alaska, Notre Dame and Western Michigan by a combined score of 19-6.
Superfans are certainly familiar with both New Hampshire and Merrimack this year. The Warriors will be making only their second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, while UNH will be making its lucky 21st appearance in the NCAAs (and 10th straight). While UNH has made 10 straight appearances, the Wildcats are 0-7 in its last seven in getting to the Frozen Four, a pretty distinguished mark of postseason futility. If there was ever a year that UNH could get over the hump and into the Frozen Four, this has to be the year, with the opportunity of staying close to home.
This region's other CCHA team, Notre Dame, finished the year 23-13-5 and 18-7-3-2 in the CCHA (good for second behind Michigan). The Irish have the nation's tenth best team offense, scoring 3.46 a game. ND knocked off BC earlier this year, way back on October 23. And that's about all the words I want to use up previewing the Irish.
Projections: It won't be easy beating UNH in Manchester, but Miami is playing some of the best hockey in the country right now. I like Miami over New Hampshire, and Merrimack over Notre Dame. In the Regional final, Miami rolls to its third straight Frozen Four appearance.
Frozen Four Pick: Miami RedHawks