Inside College Hockey talked to coaches whose teams have played the teams involved in each of Thursday’s semifinal games. In exchange for anonymity, they gave us their candid breakdowns of the matchups.
Bemidji State vs. Miami
Miami is a very disciplined team, with excellent skill up front and they have a tremendous penalty kill — one of the best in the country.
On the penalty kill, they don’t do anything fancy, they’re just very disciplined. They’re not overly aggressive. A big part of that is goaltending, but they also get into shooting lanes very well.
I was impressed by how good they were down low with the puck. Part of that is the fact that they have three very good, very balanced lines, and Miele and Camper really control things. It makes for a great offensive mix.
Against Bemidji State they’re going to face an interesting challenge on a small rink. I don’t know how many times they’ve seen a team that pressures the puck like Bemidji does.
The Beavers have always been a very hard-working team, but the way that top line has played in the playoffs — holy s—! Tyler Scofield has taken his game to another level. That top line is as good as anybody’s in the tournament.
It was very impressive to see how little time to operate they gave Notre Dame. And Cornell likes to play the game along the boards, but Bemidji didn’t have any trouble with the physical play. You can’t hit what you can’t catch.
Brad Hunt is a guy nobody talks about, but he’s proven to be a tremendous blueliner with a great shot, so there’s another guy you need to account for.
Their power play is over 20 percent, and they have good size and a good mix with the puck.
Bemidji plays a speed game and a puck possession game, so Miami will have to be very patient. Looking at that matchup and the way both teams are playing right now, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bemidji State win the whole thing.
Boston University vs. Vermont
The contrast is somewhat minimal, but there is a contrast. Vermont has the balanced attack led by a few forwards, but it’s balanced in its approach. They counterattack well. They’ve been efficient enough on the power play to score some big goals, and they have the big performer in [Viktor] Stalberg and a good supporting cast of forwards with [Dean] Strong and [Corey] Carlson.
They’ve all really chipped in in a big way. They seem to be a very patient team, so they rely on team defense which sometimes seems impregnable. They really do a great job of boxing out, not letting you get to the net, certainly not letting teams get second and third scoring chances. They’re patient. They counter off of that.
They get enough on their power play. And they’ve got a few guys who are big-play type of guys. That’s how they deliver. They’ve been real good at it in the last two years. And they’ve got solid goaltending. [Rob] Madore has given them really good freshman goaltending, more than freshman goaltending.
BU, the biggest change in their program, has been the goaltending in that they’re responding to it. They play so much better in front of [Kieran] Millan than they did in front of [Brett] Bennett or anybody else who has been in there. That has been the change in the way they go about their business. They can be a little bit more aggressive to open it up – even open it up to a fault when they fall behind.
They still have the firepower and the confidence to go get a bunch of goals. They’re much more of a quick-strike type of team where they’ll fall behind or not much will be happening for awhile, and then all of a sudden, bang, they put two or three goals together in a hurry. They sort of put teams away. They can not do much over the course of the night and literally get outplayed because they have the firepower to score goals and win games. You don’t win 30-odd games in the season without having some pretty good dimension both offensively and defensively.
BU has a host of forwards that have contributed in a big way, none more than [Colin] Wilson. But obviously [Jason] Lawrence has been a very productive player, and [Nick] Bonino has been a very productive player. So they can counter anything that Vermont can throw on them in terms of big-play players up front. And they also have an offensive dimension on the point with [Matt] Gilroy and [Kevin] Shattenkirk, Colby Cohen. They’ve got six great defensemen back there, and those three are point producers.
The No. 1 team most of the year has been BU. The team that won the [regular-season] league championship was BU. The team that won the tournament championship was BU. So they have to be the odds-on favorite. Having said that, Vermont has got all of the ability and all of the requisite makeup to be able to pull off the upset.
To beat BU … they have great defensemen, but I think you can play off of them. It just allows them to maneuver and operate more than you can possibly afford. My guess, watching Lowell play them in the [Hockey East] championship game, Lowell pressured them and pressured them in a big way. I thought that yielded the best opportunity to beat them.
To beat Vermont, you’ve got to be able to score some goals early. The best thing to do against that team is to get ahead.