Boston College: Are the Eagles ripe for an upset, perhaps looking ahead to defending their national championship in St. Paul?
Michigan: With David Wohlberg out and Brandon Burlon likely sidelined for the weekend, can the Wolverines’ depth stand the test of more than one game?
Nebraska-Omaha: Can Dean Blais, who returned the North Dakota program to prominence by leading the Sioux to an NCAA title in 1997, do the same for the Mavericks.
Colorado College: Will the Tigers and star freshman Jaden Schwartz, a Blues draft pick, become the fan favorites in St. Louis?
St. Louis is a terrific hockey town—those who attended the 2007 Frozen Four know firsthand that the city embraced the event. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise if some of the burg’s hardcore puckheads venture to Scottrade Center this weekend to see something old, something new, and both things Blues.
Something old is Red Berenson, the Michigan coach and former Blues great who spent eight seasons in St. Louis and was the team’s bench boss for three seasons, winning the Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year in 1981. Something new is Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz, whom the Blues selected with the 14th overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft. Schwartz, who missed about a third of the season with an ankle injury he sustained while playing for Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship, has 42 points in 28 games.
ON A ROLL
Boston College enters the NCAA Tournament with a 15-1-1 mark in its last 17 games, which is a pretty significant run, but senior forward Brian Gibbons, the Eagles’ second-leading scorer with 50 points, has been on a season-long tear. The Braintree, Mass., native—one of three players on the BC roster who’ve been part of two national championship teams—has scored at least one point in 33 of his team’s 38 games and he hasn’t been held pointless in consecutive games so far this season. Even more impressive are his scoring streaks—Gibbons hasn’t had a point streak of fewer than four games this season and his high is nine straight games with a point from Nov. 19-Jan. 7.
SOMETHING TO PROVE
As the defending national champion, Boston College is the favorite in this regional, but let’s not underestimate Michigan. The Wolverines plucked themselves off the mat following a three-game losing streak to win nine of their last 10 games en route to the CCHA regular-season title and a third-place showing in the league tournament. Michigan was pretty banged up down the stretch; the Wolverines lost forward David Wohlberg and his 15 goals for the remainder of the season and now defenseman Brandon Burlon is not expected to be available this weekend. Still, forward Louie Caporusso has returned from injury—he and fellow senior Carl Hagelin are a formidable 1-2 punch up front.
ONE TO WATCH
Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais has been one of the best postseason tacticians in recent history—he made seven trips to the NCAA Tournament during his tenure at North Dakota, winning two championships and finishing as runner-up to Boston College in 2001. The team he brings to St. Louis doesn’t have the high-octane offense that was the trademark of his Fighting Sioux clubs, but the Mavs have balanced scoring and a steady goaltender in John Faulkner. If throngs of rabid UNO hockey fans descend on St. Louis as expected, the Scottrade Center could be transformed into the Bullpen East.
No one ever talks about John Muse, Ever. Oh, his statistics are terrific—a 2.13 goals against average and a .926 save percentage this season. But the Boston College goalie is college hockey’s Joe Montana—when the postseason rolls around, all he does is win. Muse enters the West Regional with a 21-1 career playoff record and an 8-0 mark in NCAA Tournament play. Embrace Muse’s excellence while you can, because once he’s gone, the chances of another goalie putting up similarly spectacular postseason numbers are slim.
SUNDAY’S PROJECTED HEADLINE
All Saints Day: BC Wins in St. Louis, Now Off to St. Paul