Joseph Gravellese: The biggest surprise in the NCAA hockey regionals last weekend is that surprises were generally kept to a minimum.
The three thoroughbreds -- Minnesota, BC, and Union -- did their part and punched their tickets to Philadelphia. The only regional where the 1 seed was ever in doubt was the one where they went crashing out (Wisconsin).
It's certainly somewhat surprising to see North Dakota go from last team in to suddenly in the Frozen Four. But since they're North Dakota, it's not *that* surprising.
And so now the field is set for a fantastic Frozen Four. What jumped out at you about last weekend's tournament action outside of the Northeast regional?
Grant Salzano: Well, you kind of stole what I was going to say, which was that there were no real surprises. In every regional preview we made a point to say "it seems pretty obvious that X will happen, so chances are it won't." But I think that's a testament to how much the top three had separated themselves from the rest of the field this year.
Union and Minnesota both pretty much freight trained their way through their regions. BC had a battle with Lowell, but as we'd discussed, they might have been the 4th best team in the tournament.
JG: The biggest surprise to me was Providence pasting Quinnipiac. I did not see that coming after PC's second half struggles. Quinnipiac just absolutely lost control in that game and went on a parade to the penalty box.
GS: Yeah, that was surprising. I was the one saying the Gillies could steal a game against QU but that's not really what happened. Providence just beat them.
I was surprised to see QU lose their cool like that through the game. You would think with so many adults on the team that they would act their age.
JG: Of course, regardless of who won that game, I don't think either would have given Union much of a fight; Union dispatched PC pretty easily.
The big "what if" question is from the West and that Notre Dame-St. Cloud State game. You wonder what Notre Dame might have done against Minnesota. They really controlled that SCSU game in regulation, outshooting the Huskies 33-12... but Summerhays gave up 3 goals on 12 shots in regulation, which, you know, is oh so sad.
Then the Huskies played like a team possessed in OT, and Hobey Dowd scorched Summerhays with an absolute beauty to knock out Notre Dame.
That killed my bracket, but I was pretty OK with it. But I do think ND could have given the Gophers a game.
GS: I think you're right, it probably would have been competitive, but the Gophers pretty comprehensively dominated that final against St. Cloud.
Weird that an up and down team like the Huskies could only muster TWELVE shots in regulation against the Irish. What's with that?
JG: I don't know how much St. Cloud had in the tank on Sunday after that game against ND. And what's odd is that SCSU had more shots in OT (13) than they had in regulation (12). Oh, hockey.
Ryan Faragher, St. Cloud's goalie, was the reason why they had a chance to win that game, not just because of his strength in regulation, but also because of a great breakaway save in OT. I'm not so sure they were "up and down" as much as they were pretty fortunate to get past ND and then MN was really upping the difficulty level.
GS: Notre Dame was such a weird animal this year. They were our daddies, but couldn't get out of their own way against the rest of Hockey East. Which, I guess, makes it more surprising that they didn't win the out-of-conference game against St. Cloud... but as we've pointed out, they were the better team in that game.
JG: Yeah, for sure, they were tough to predict this year. At the end of the day, I'm glad they're not in Philadelphia, for multiple reasons. Notre Dame got to laugh at BC for a few weeks, but BC certainly got the last laugh this year in that emerging hockey rivalry.
With the East and West covered let's talk midwest. As I mentioned, NoDak went from backing in, to a trip to Philly. I wasn't shocked by it, though.
My reasoning for picking NoDak to win that regional in my bracket was basically two guys -- Rocco Grimaldi and Zane Gothberg. And that's pretty much how they won the Wisconsin game. Grimaldi had a cheapo hat trick with two empty netters, but he made a lot happen, including scoring a gorgeous backhand goal over Rumpel to give NoDak a lead in the second period.
And Gothberg was just solid, turning aside Wisconsin's many opportunities. Gothberg was a big story again against Ferris. Though I once again just wasn't too shocked by that result -- the Ferris/Colgate game was probably the most uninspiring of the tournament, with Ferris beating the Raiders 1-0 and looking quite "meh" in so doing.
GS: Yeah, I'm thinking my Ferris-will-make-the-finals pick was ill-advised, in retrospect. They did look pretty pedestrian.
Having said that -- maybe it was just me, but Ferris vs. NoDak looked pretty even. I mean, it DID go to overtime.
JG: It was pretty even. But that's sort of my point. Ferris was supposedly #5 overall and NoDak was the last team in, but they were pretty even. And having elite guys like Grimaldi -- and let me just say, I still don't know how Grimaldi didn't end up at BC -- is a pretty solid tiebreaker.
In addition to Ferris winning their games in a weak conference, the stats, particularly in the shots/shots allowed column, indicated that they were, like you said, pedestrian.
I guess the next question about North Dakota now is, can they do damage in the Frozen Four? There will be more time to talk about that going forward, but I'm certainly curious as to your thoughts from what you saw last weekend.
GS: Well, I sure think they can. You've got the rivalry factor, obviously, especially since Minnesota haven't even played each other once this year. And even though Minnesota looked like they could beat anyone last week, the momentum will probably cool a bit with a two week layoff.
More than anything I'm expecting to see a hockey game break out among a slew of chippiness in that game. So yeah, I could totally see North Dakota do some damage.
JG: I certainly can't wait to see it all unfold.
We'll have SO MUCH MORE Frozen Four coverage over the next week -- including tomorrow, when I take a trip back to 2013 and talk about what went wrong against Union in Providence.
Until next time, ciao.