Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Other Sweet 16- the NCAA Hockey Tournament

We had problems finding suitable images for college hockey teams, so we just went with Peter Puck, the cartoon character who was featured on NBC broadcasts of NHL games when I was a kid in 1970s. Amazingly enough, the games were broadcast in Roanoke, Va., in those days, but they were preempted in many Southern markets. Ironically, today there are several NHL teams south of the Mason-Dixon line, including the Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.

But, our focus today is on NCAA college hockey, a sport I have just started to try and follow in recent years. One thing that is confusing about college hockey is the conference alignment, the major conferences include the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), which includes several Big 10 teams, including Michigan and Michigan State, two teams which also made the NCAA field of 16, and the Hockey East Conference, which includes the number-one team in the country, Boston College.

In total, five CCHA schools made the field, including Ferris State (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan, which actually upset Michigan for the conference tournament title. There are four schools from the Hockey East Conference; the other three that are in the field are Boston University, Maine and Mass-Lowell.

On Saturday, in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN-U, the Boston College Eagles will face another team with a bird nickname as they face the Air Force Falcons, a team that is ranked 16th in the country.

That game will take place in Boston College's home state as the two teams are in the Worcester, Mass.-region. The other game in that region pits the defending national championship Minnesota-Duluth against Maine.

The winner of the Worcester-regional will then face the winner of the St. Paul, Minn.-region for the Frozen Four, which takes place in (of all places) Tampa, Fla., starting on April 5th.

In the St. Paul-region, Minnesota will face Boston University, and Western Michigan will face North Dakota.

Though I am not an expert on college hockey, by any stretch, I am going to 'predict' that the Frozen Four will be between Boston College and Minnesota, and the other game will be between Miami (Ohio) and Denver University.

We will have more coverage of the other regionals on our sister blog "Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Times."

Boston College won its third straight Hockey East Conference title in the conference tournament in Boston when they beat Maine 4-1; the two games could meet in the quarter-finals if the Black Bears upset Minn-Duluth. For BC, the team got two goals from freshman Johnny Gaudreau (Carneys Point, NJ) and goal-tender Parker Milner, a junior (Pittsburgh, Pa.) made 41 saves.

The Falcons won its fifth Atlantic Hockey Association Conference title in six years thanks to senior Paul Weisgarber (Fargo, N. Dak.) and sophomore goal-tender Jason Torf (Hermosa Beach, Calif.).

Boston College has won two hockey titles in recent years (2008 and 2010).

It should be an amazing journey to the Frozen Four, irregardless of which team wins.

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