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2010 NCAA tournament preview

Wednesday, 03.24.2010 / 10:27 AM / On Campus

By Bob Snow - NHL.com Correspondent

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2010 NCAA tournament preview
NHL.com's Bob Snow handicaps the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Denver and Miami had their spots locked up two months ago. Alaska Fairbanks and Vermont were on the bubble until Sunday morning, when they secured their berth.

Sunday was when the tournament selection committee announced the 16-team bracket for the 2010 NCAA Tournament, with games starting this weekend.

The winners of the four regionals advance to Ford Field in Detroit on April 8 and 10 for the semifinals and championship game, respectively.

Among the 16, Rochester Institute of Technology and Alaska received bids for the first time in program history.

The No. 1 seeds this weekend are Miami, Denver, Wisconsin and Boston College. Miami is the overall No. 1 seed.

Here's the breakdown of the four regional matchups by seed, how each team got into the tournament and an NHL.com comment about each regional. All times are Eastern.

EAST REGIONAL

March 26-27, Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y.

March 26, 3 p.m. -- No. 1 Denver Pioneers (27-9-4) vs. No. 4 RIT Tigers (26-11-1)

Denver (WCHA) received an at-large bid; RIT won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament.

March 26, 6:30 p.m. -- No. 2 Cornell Big Red (21-8-4) vs. No. 3 New Hampshire Wildcats (17-13-7)

Cornell won the ECACHL Tournament; New Hampshire (Hockey East) received an at-large bid.

March 27 at 6:30 p.m. -- East Regional Championship, ESPN

NHL.com says -- Top ranked for most of the regular season, Denver stumbled twice last weekend in the WCHA Final Five Tournament against Wisconsin and tourney winner North Dakota. The Pioneers, led by WCHA Player of the Year goalie Marc Cheverie, will rebound against Atlantic Hockey champ RIT, which is led by senior defenseman and captain Dan Ringwald.

Cornell, led by Dryden Award winner Ben Scrivens in goal, will look to put its customary defensive vice on the Wildcats, who they beat a few weeks ago. The Wildcats did not score a goal in their last two games in the Hockey East Tournament, losing back-to-back 1-0 affairs at home against Vermont.

Look for Denver to squeak by Cornell in the regional final in a low-scoring game.

WEST REGIONAL

March 26-27, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

March 26, 4:30 p.m. --  No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (25-10-4) vs. No. 4 Vermont Catamounts (17-14-7)

Wisconsin (WCHA) and Vermont (Hockey East) received at-large bids.

March 26, 8 p.m. -- No. 2 St. Cloud State Huskies (23-13-5) vs. No. 3 Northern Michigan Wildcats (20-12-8)

St. Cloud State (WCHA) and Northern Michigan (CCHA) received at-large bids.

March 27, 8 p.m. -- West Regional Championship, ESPN

NHL.com says --  Hobey Baker Award hopeful Brendan Smith leads Wisconsin on defense and offense -- he leads the country in points by a defenseman. Vermont went to the Frozen Four last spring, but was the last team selected for this year's tournament. The Catamounts will need the game of the season from goalie Rob Madore against the Badgers, and a few more red lights. Vermont has scored just two goals across three games the past two weekends.

St. Cloud never has played in the Frozen Four, which should serve as enough motivation to get past Northern Michigan, which took a 1-1 tie into the third period in the CCHA championship game Saturday against Michigan. The Huskies also beat Wisconsin last Friday in the WCHA Final Five semifinal.

That should serve as the ultimate motivation for St. Cloud to make program history on "home ice" in St. Paul Saturday in the anticipated regional final to advance to Detroit.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

March 27-28, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Ind.

March 27, 4 p.m. -- No. 1 Miami RedHawks (27-7-7) vs. No. 4 Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (12-17-3)

Miami (CCHA) received an at-large bid; Alabama-Huntsville won the College Hockey American Tournament.

March 27, 7:30 p.m. --  No. 2 Bemidji State Beavers (23-9-4) vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (25-17-1)

Bemidji State (CHA) received an at-large bid; Michigan won the CCHA Tournament.

March 28, 8 p.m. --  Midwest Regional Championship, ESPNU

NHL.com says -- There's no better David vs. Goliath scenario in this year's tournament than Alabama-Huntsville -- which won just 12 games all season -- against a Miami team that swapped No. 1 with Denver most of the season and came within a minute of winning the national championship game last April.

Miami lost back-to-back games against Alabama's CHA rival Robert Morris during the regular season. Chargers coach Danton Cole, goaltender Cameron Talbot and company get their shot at the biggest upset in NCAA history.

What more can be said about Michigan's March play? On the brink of seeing their NCAA-best 19-year tournament streak ending, coach Red Berenson put sophomore Shawn Hunwick in goal. Hunwick went 7-0 and helped the Wolverines win the CCHA Tournament, capped by Louie Caporusso's third-period game-winner in a 2-1 win in the championship game. Senior captain and defenseman Chris Summers has provided the leadership glue that Berenson stresses as paramount in post-season play.

While Michigan beat Miami in the CCHA semifinal Friday, 5-2, the RedHawks are on a mission for redemption in this likely final matchup -- until Bemidji is factored in. The Beavers are the sleeper team among the 16 to win it all, having been one of the final four 12 months back.

NORTHEAST REGIONAL

March 27-28, DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.

March 27, 1:30 p.m. -- No. 1 Boston College Eagles (25-10-3) vs. No. 4 Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks (18-11-9)

Boston College won the Hockey East Tournament; Alaska (CCHA) received an at-large bid.

March 27, 5 p.m. --  No. 2 North Dakota Fighting Sioux (25-12-5) vs. No. 3 Yale Bulldogs (20-19-3)

North Dakota won the WCHA Tournament; Yale (ECACHL) received an at-large bid.

March 28, 5:30 p.m. --  Northeast Regional Championship, ESPNU

NHL.com says -- While Alaska -- in its first-ever postseason game and led by Dion Knelsen's 42 points -- and Yale will look for upsets, the two top seeds in this regional are the most talented and tourney-tested duo of the past 10 years across all four regionals. Both BC and North Dakota are peaking at the right time. North Dakota played three consecutive nights last weekend in the WCHA, going 3-0 and winning the prestigious Final Five Tournament. BC took down Vermont, 3-0, and Maine, 7-6 in OT, in two opposite-type games to win the Hockey East Tournament.

"Our best hockey is in front of us," said Jerry York about his Eagles, who play four freshman defensemen. York references them as "the best surprise" on this season's talented team, which is led by senior captains and forwards Matt Price, Ben Smith, and Hockey East Tournament MVP Matt Lombardi, along with defenseman Carl Sneep and standout goaltender John Muse.

The regional final should feature BC and the Fighting Sioux meeting for the seventh time in the postseason since 2000. Look for the highest scoring of the four regionals -- and the most intense play. No team in any post-season tournament plays with more snarl than UND.  

NHL.com's projected regional winners -- Boston College, Denver, St. Cloud, Miami. 

Hobey Baker Award finalists -- The Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation announced the top 10 candidates for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award last week. The annual award honors college hockey's top player.

In alphabetical order, they are: Bobby Butler, New Hampshire; Marc Cheverie, Denver; Blake Geoffrion, Wisconsin; Gustav Nyquist, Maine; Mark Olver, Northern Michigan; Chase Polacek, Rensselear; Rhett Rakhshani, Denver; Cody Reichard, Miami; Ben Scrivens, Cornell; and Brendan Smith, Wisconsin.

The three Hobey Hat Trick finalists will be announced March 31, and the Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced Friday, April 9, from Ford Field at the Frozen Four.  The announcement will be aired live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET. 

NHL.com projects Cheverie, Nyquist, and Smith to be the three finalists.

Hockey Humanitarian Award finalists -- The award, given annually to the college hockey player that most personifies community spirit through leadership, effort and time, also will be named April 9 at Ford Field.

This group includes, in alphabetical order: Colgate senior Ethan Cox, Amherst senior Kirsten Dier, Alaska senior Dion Knelsen, Adrian junior Sam Kuzyk, Williams senior Zachary Miller, Connecticut College junior Brigid O'Gorman, and Denver senior Brandon Vossberg.

On Campus Clips -- League players of the year include junior forward Matt Read of Bemidji State (CHA); Rensselaer junior forward Chase Polacek (ECACHL); New Hampshire senior forward Bobby Butler (Hockey East); Canisius junior forward Cory Conacher (Atlantic Hockey); Miami sophomore goaltender Cody Reichard (CCHA); Denver junior goaltender Marc Cheverie (WCHA).

League Coaches of the Year include Tom Serratore of Bemidji in the CHA; Union's Nate Leaman in the ECACHL; co-recipients Dick Umile from New Hampshire and Merrimack's Mark Dennehy in Hockey East; C.J. Marottolo from Sacred Heart in Atlantic Hockey; Miami's Rico Blasi in the CCHA; and WCHA's George Gwozdecky at Denver.

League tournament MVP's were Alabama-Huntsville goaltender Cameron Talbot (CHA); Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens (ECACHL); Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick (CCHA); BC forward Matt Lombardi (Hockey East); RIT forward Cameron Burt (Atlantic Hockey); and North Dakota forward Evan Trupp (WCHA Final Five).


Quote of the Day

You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.

— Flames goalie Jonas Hiller after his team's 5-0 win over Carolina
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