The biggest and most compelling reason, however, starts with sophomore Colin Wilson. The bull of a power forward is arguably the most NHL-ready player in the college ranks, and is capable of putting the nation’s No. 1 offense on his back and carrying them all the way.
Nashville’s first-round pick in 2008, taken No. 7, has benefited from the likes of defenseman Matt Gilroy, a 24-year-old senior who will be the most sought-after NHL free agent once the tournament ends. Gilroy, a former forward who walked onto the team four years ago, quarterbacks the nation's top power play but also anchors the third-overall defense with all the skills that make him one of the best all-around defensemen without an NHL connection.
Helping further shoulder the load is freshman goalie Kieran Millan, who stepped into a tenuous situation and immediately calmed the storm. Normally, a freshman goalie would be a big question mark, but you can bet that Millan is well aware that rival Boston College rode first-year goalie John Muse to a title last season.
Keys for BU:
While the team is capable of rolling four scoring lines every game, senior forwards Chris Higgins, Jason Lawrence and Brandon Yip are big-time contributors. Higgins and Lawrence are excellent compliments on a line with Wilson – Higgins has exceptional hands and playmaking abilities, and Lawrence can finish as well as anyone in the college ranks, as his team-high 21 goals will attest. Yip is the type of player that everyone can get behind – he’s got the power forward makeup that fans and coaches love. All three are in the top-50 nationally scoring-wise (joined by Wilson and sophomore forward Nick Bonino), are also defensively responsible, and play big factors in setting the tone for the rest of the team.
How the Terriers win:
BU scores early and often -- there is only a difference of a few goals from period to period. The Terriers must set the tone early on and rattle the Catamounts, and then allow their high-octane power play (22 percent, second in the country) to cement things for them.
Familiar foe awaits
To get as far as it has, BU had to face a tough Hockey East league that sent four teams to the postseason, and getting to the Final will be no different. It faces a familiar league foe in Vermont, the country’s 11th-ranked team and winners of the East Regional, who went 2-1 against the Terriers during the regular season.
The Catamounts have made their name in recent years by being a strong defensive team – and it was no different this year. But the 16th-overall defense was complemented by the 17th-overall offense, anchored by junior forward Viktor Stalberg. The big Swede more than doubled his career numbers across the board, tallying 24 goals and 45 points on the season. Playing the yin to Hobey Baker candidate Stalberg’s yang is Peter Lenes, another in a long line of diminutive point-getters in Burlington. The 5-6 senior forward put up career bests in goals, assists and points over the season.
Keys for Vermont:
Goalie Rob Madore will be key to Vermont’s success in D.C. The freshman seized the starting job from junior Mike Spillane, and despite some rocky starts down the stretch, coach Kevin Sneddon has backed him all the way. Sneddon must hope that the hiccups are behind his netminder, and reinforce his team's defensive accountability, if the Catamounts are to raise a championship banner in the Gutterson Fieldhouse next season.
How the Catamounts win:
To beat the Terriers, Vermont must play as perfect a game as possible; an early-season 7-2 drubbing at the hands of BU in Vermont set that reminder. It must also capitalize if it can catch BU in a lazy period, though you can be sure coach/legend Jack Parker will make sure his team knows better, as a shot at a national championship rides on a full 60 minutes of hockey. No doubt, every shift will be action-packed between these two.
|TALE OF THE TAPE|
|April 9, 2009 - 8:30 PM ET|
|Boston University Terriers||TEAM||Vermont Catamounts|
|31-6-4 (#1)||Record/Rank||20-11-5 (#11)|
|22% (#2) / 87.5% (#10)||Power Play/Penalty Kill
||16.9% / 81.3%|
|Colby Cohen (COL), Eric Gryba (OTT), Kevin Shattenkirk (COL), Brian Strait (PIT), David Warsofsky (ATL), Nick Bonino (ANA), John McCarthy (SJS), Vinny Saponari (ATL), Corey Trivino (NYI), Colin Wilson (NSH), Brandon Yip (COL), Grant Rollheiser (TOR)
|NHL Draft picks||Kyle Medvec (MIN),
Viktor Stalberg (TOR)
|20 (First since 1997, Natl Champs in '71, '71, '78, '95)||Frozen Four Appearances
||1 (First since 1996)|
|In the Northeast Regional, the Terriers clobbered Ohio State, 8-3, then squeaked by New Hampshire 15 seconds from overtime, 2-1.||How they got there||In the East Regional, the Catamounts took down host Yale, 5-1, and then ousted Air Force in the second overtime, 3-2.|