Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Frozen Four: Yes, This is Really Happening

Standing at the top of the seating area at Mars Lakeview Arena Monday, thoughts were flying through my head.

The first thing that jumped out? The UMD Bulldogs were conducting a practice in April. It's not something that happens very often in college hockey, as only four teams in the country are able to boast the right to conduct an organized workout at this point in the calendar year.

It's something that can remind you of what exactly this team has accomplished so far, and what opportunity lies ahead.

Surreal as it may be, we'll be heading to St. Paul Wednesday, and our coverage from the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four will commence at that point.

Expect to see stuff Wednesday involving all four teams, as they will conduct press conferences and all that fun media availability stuff after practices. I'll be on hand, and will be filing Wednesday evening and early Thursday on the games.

(The players also get to sit through an NCAA anti-gambling presentation Wednesday. I'm sure they're excited.)

(Oh, and those practices Wednesday start with Notre Dame at 11am, and they're all open to the public. If you're in the neighborhood, come on out and watch.)

As usual, you'll see line charts for UMD and Notre Dame in the pregame. I'm also planning to post pregame notes on each game. We'll see how well that goes, as I expect to be doing a lot of visiting and BSing when I'm not on the air.

In the meantime, here are a few other notes on the UMD-Notre Dame game:
  • Notre Dame sports four Minnesotans and three Sconnies on their roster, including former Edina star Anders Lee, perhaps the best NHL prospect on the Irish team. Woodbury native Ryan Guentzel is the son of current Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach Mike Guentzel. Brother Gabe plays defense at Colorado College, and will be a senior next year.
  • Of course, UMD has 17 of the 28 Minnesota-born players who will compete at this week's Frozen Four. Among the State of Hockey natives are star forward Jack Connolly and top defensive pair Justin Faulk and Mike Montgomery.
  • The U.S. Under-18 team is well-represented, too, thanks to two UMD players (Faulk and Trent Palm), five from Notre Dame (Patrick Gaul, Sam Calabrese, Bryan Rust, Sean Lorenz, and Stephen Johns), along with eight Michigan players (Chris Brown, Kevin Clare, Kevin Lynch, Jon Merrill, Luke Moffatt, Matt Rust, A.J. Treais, and David Wohlberg), and three (Mike Cichy, Derek Forbort, and Danny Kristo) from North Dakota.
  • Yes, Notre Dame's Bryan Rust and Michigan's Matt Rust are related. The brothers have played once against each other, back on March 19 in the CCHA Tournament. During their only regular-season meeting in November, Bryan was injured and unable to play.
  • Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson is one of only six goalies in school history to win 20 or more games in a season. Jordan Pearce, who led Notre Dame to the 2008 Frozen Four, owns the school record with 30.
  • Don't be surprised if Thursday's game is wide-open -- at least as much as you can expect at this stage of the season. Notre Dame averages 3.44 goals per game, and UMD 3.40. The Irish bring up the end of the top ten in the country, while UMD is 11th. In regional play, UMD beat the No. 1 offensive team (Yale) and the No. 7 team (Union), and allowed zero even-strength goals in doing it.
  • Don't take penalties against UMD. The Bulldogs are at 31.1 percent over their last ten games, including opponents like Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Union, and Yale. That's not like someone hanging seven power play goals in a weekend against Sacred Heart.
  • Mike Connolly (rumor has it he's pretty good) has scored 14 goals and 24 points in his last 15 games. Even if you take out his five-goal bonanza against the Gophers, he is at more than a point per game over that span. To add to that, Mike has 22 points and is a plus-13 in his 16 career playoff games.
  • Justin Fontaine is closing it out in style for UMD, as the senior has points in a career-high ten straight.
  • Only Miami's Andy Miele (115) and Maine's Gustav Nyquist (112) have more points over the last two years than Jack Connolly (107). Only one of the three is still playing college hockey, as Miele exhausted his eligibility and signed a free-agent deal with Phoenix, and Nyquist signed with the team that drafted him, the Red Wings.

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