Men’s Hockey Shooting for Return to Frozen Four
Terriers face Denver in NCAA Tournament first round Saturday
The BU men’s ice hockey Terriers face off against the Denver Pioneers in the opening round of the NCAA West Regional Tournament tomorrow, the first time in nine years they have scored back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The 2015 national runner-up, the BU team (21-12-5) hopes to return to the Frozen Four and the National Championship game for the second-straight year.
This year marks the Terriers’ 34th trip to the NCAA Tournament. They earned a number three seed in the 2016 tournament’s West Regional and will face number two Denver (23-9-6) Saturday, March 26, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The winner of that game will then play in the West Regional final Sunday against either number-one St. Cloud State University or number-four Ferris State University, with the victor advancing to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., on April 7.
Unlike last year, when BU claimed the Hockey East conference tournament crown, the Terrier men were swept two games to zero by UMass Lowell in the 2016 quarterfinal round. Despite the loss, they were awarded an at-large bid to the national single-elimination tournament by the NCAA selection committee on March 20. The tournament field, consisting of 16 teams playing in 4 geographic regions, is made up of 5 conference tournament winners and 11 at-large teams chosen by the committee.
“We’ve played 20 games against teams in this tournament, which is the most out of any team in the tournament,” says BU head coach David Quinn (CAS’89). “Our team is ready and tournament-tested because we feel like we’ve played in the national tournament the past two months, so I don’t think the moment is going to overwhelm us.”
Tomorrow’s game is the second time this season the Terriers have gone up against the Pioneers. On October 31 BU took a 5-4 overtime squeaker at Agganis Arena. Despite that victory, the team knows it faces a formidable competitor. Denver comes into Saturday’s matchup having won 11 of its last 13 games.
“They’re a well-coached team, so I know they’re a lot better team in March than in October—but I hope we are too,” Quinn says.
Both teams feature a well-rounded roster of experienced skaters, with no one player singled out for undivided attention from opposing defenders. A striking contrast between the teams, however, is the number of goals scored by period. Denver has been a quick-striking team all year, outscoring opponents 37-22 in the first period, while BU has outscored opponents 51-36 in the third period. In addition, both teams are 1-1-1 in games on neutral ice this season.
“In order to have success in the national tournament, you’d better be ready to play 60 minutes, and we’d better be ready from the drop of the puck,” says Quinn. “We want to get off to a fast start.”
After their early exit from this year’s Hockey East tournament, the Terriers have had time both to rest and to work on all facets of their game in practices.
“It’s tough—you want to win as many championships as you can, so losing Hockey East really stung for a few days,” says captain Matt Grzelcyk (COM’16). “One of the positives was we got a lot of rest going into this weekend, so we should feel rejuvenated.”
The West Regional game comes on the heels of a series of accolades for the Terriers. Both Grzelcyk and assistant captain Danny O’Regan (COM’16) earned Hockey East First Team All-Star honors, and forward Ahti Oksanen (COM’16) garnered an honorable mention. Notching 22 points on 10 goals and 12 assists this season and leading BU defensemen with a plus-15 rating, Grzelcyk was chosen a First Team All-Star for the second straight year, this despite injuries that caused him to miss 12 games. O’Regan, who was a Hockey East Second Team honoree junior year, leads the Terriers in points (43) and assists (27) and has scored more than 150 points in his career—just the 18th athlete in the program’s history to reach that milestone.
In addition, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (CAS’19) and Charlie McAvoy (CGS’17) landed spots on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
BU won’t be the only team representing the Hockey East conference in this year’s NCAA Tournament: a staggering six Hockey East teams received bids to the tournament: BU, Boston College, Notre Dame, UMass Lowell, and Northeastern, this year’s Hockey East tournament winner, who defeated UMass Lowell to take its first conference title since 1988.
“I think we all feel that we play in the best league in the country, so it’s nice to see us get that recognition over some of the western teams,” Grzelcyk says.
The BU men’s ice hockey team takes on the University of Denver Saturday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m. ET, in the NCAA Tournament West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center, 199 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, Minn. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and will be preceded by the other West Regional matchup, St. Cloud State University vs Ferris State University, at 5 p.m. ET, which will be broadcast live on ESPNews. The winner of each game will proceed to the West Regional final on Sunday, March 27, at 5 p.m., which will air live on ESPNU.
Josh Gutchess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments