Friday morning reading

FARGO — I certainly never thought I’d see the day where UND was playing hockey in Fargo in a venue that seats about a fifth of the demand of tickets, but that’s what will occur tonight in Scheels Arena.

Believe it or not, it’s NCAA tournament time. And in less than 48 hours from now, UND’s season will be over or else it will be booking a flight to Boston.

This team has cruised through the season without any points of real hardship. It never had to dig down deep and try to right the ship (unless you count the first game of the season).

The most consistent team that I’ve ever covered had very, very few ebbs and flows this season. It just cruised through, dropping on occasional game, but nothing ever to get concerned about.

Until now.

This team has finally hit a bump in the road for the first time since October 10. That night, UND lost to Bemidji State 5-1. The bad feelings lasted less than 24 hours as UND won the next night and proceeded to go on an eight-game unbeaten streak.

UND has hit its patch of adversity, going 0-2 last weekend at the Frozen Faceoff and losing three of its last five games.

How was this week of practice?

How do the players and coaches believe the team has responded to those defeats? Read that story here [plus photos of practice and video].

The only other time UND lost back-to-back games at the conference tournament before heading into the NCAAs under coach Dave Hakstol was 2009. That team ended up losing in the first round of the NCAAs to New Hampshire.

I actually thought that team came out of their funk and played fairly well in that game against UNH — and was a tenth of a second away from winning — but they still lost.

That’s the stat working against UND tonight.

The last five years that the old WCHA had a third-place game, the loser of that contest went on to lose in the first round of the NCAAs. And four of the five were higher seeds in the NCAAs.

It’s tough to win in the NCAAs when you don’t have momentum. But it’s not impossible. Two years ago, Yale got shutout in back-to-back games at the ECAC conference tournament, then ran off four in a row in the NCAAs.

UND will be playing an NCAA-experienced Quinnipiac team tonight that sure looks like it will have Sam Anas in the lineup.

UND will have Gage Aumsus in the lineup, which is different than last year. Ausmus had to watch the NCAA tournament a year ago and made a vow that it would never happen again.

If you need to know some facts about the teams in this West Regional, here are my capsules.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold says their new arena in 2007 vaulted the team’s recruiting, and they’ll bring several high-profile players to Scheels Arena tonight, including former DU and BC recruits.

For Thursday’s paper, I wrote a column about Michigan Tech and MSU-Mankato, two teams who were afterthoughts in the old WCHA and could become fixtures on the scene after realignment. A lot of Husky and Mav fans were upset about the creation of the NCHC when it happened, but that should probably end this weekend.

The Herald also put together an eight-page special section with some photos of the arena, a quick preview on each team in the West Regional and some ways to follow the game if you’re not going. If you want to check that out, pick up a copy on a newsstand somewhere.

Okay, okay, so I have to make my picks. It’s Year 2 of Schlossman vs. the Quarter. I came out victorious in Year 1 thanks to my pick of Union to win it all last year. We’ll give it another go this season.


MSU-Mankato vs. RIT
Me: Mankato.
Quarter: RIT.
Comment: One of two games I feel comfortable about picking in the first round. If this was Robert Morris or Mercyhurst, I think an upset would be more of a possibility. But it’s not.

Omaha vs. Harvard
Me: Harvard.
Quarter: Harvard.
Comment: I really want to pick Omaha here, but I can’t until they win a playoff game. Just as I can’t pick UND over BC until they win one, I can’t do it for Omaha. 2-13 in the last 15 playoff games is too much to ignore.

Regional title game
Me: Mankato over Harvard
Quarter: RIT over Harvard
Comment: This Mavs teams is deep, veteran and explosive.


Miami vs. Providence
Me: Providence
Quarter: Providence
Comment: If Miami had its full complement of players, I’d pick them to make the national championship game. But losing Blake Coleman and possibly Riley Barber is too much to ignore, especially against a Friars team that hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game since January.

Denver vs. Boston College
Me: Boston College
Quarter: Boston College
Comment: Real tough game to pick. I thought Denver looked significantly better this weekend than it did a month ago. But Boston College’s defensive corps is hard to ignore.

Regional title game
Me: Providence over Boston College
Quarter: Providence over Boston College
Comment: Jon Gillies playing at home. I’m saying Providence is this year’s No. 4 seed to reach the Frozen Four.


Boston University vs. Yale
Me: Boston University
Quarter: Yale
Comment: OK, the quarter hasn’t picked a higher seed yet (heads for high seed, tails for lower seed). But this is the second first-round game I feel comfortable in picking. BU is too explosive.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota
Me: Duluth
Quarter: Duluth
Comment: Today, we’ll find out more about Minnesota. Did it turn the corner in the second half? Or did it rack up wins because it was playing against Big Ten teams? The Bulldogs are 3-1 against the Gophers this season. Two great offensive teams should put on a good show.

Regional title game
Me: BU over Duluth
Quarter: Duluth over Yale
Comment: I wouldn’t be surprised if BU, Duluth or Minnesota come out of this region, but I’ll give the Terriers the edge as they’ve been the most consistent of the three this season.


UND vs. Quinnipiac
Quarter: UND
Comment: I went back-and-forth on this one a few times. There’s the stat that says teams that lose third-place games lose in the first round. But UND also is playing in its home state, and as Hakstol said, this team doesn’t get too high when good things happen and doesn’t get too low when bad things happen.

Michigan Tech vs. St. Cloud State
Me: The Huskies. Okay, SCSU.
Quarter: SCSU.
Comment: You could see that this nucleus of players was going to be good for Tech a few years ago as the WCHA came to an end. I like that team quite a bit. But SCSU is hot right now and is getting Kossila and Prochno back.

Regional title game
Me: SCSU over UND
Quarter: SCSU over UND
Comment: UND looked extremely impressive in sweeping SCSU in The Ralph a month ago. Since then, I’ve had some questions creep in, and that was highlighted last weekend. I wouldn’t be shocked to see UND win the regional, nor would I be shocked to see them lose to Quinnipiac. So, I’m going to compromise and say they win one and lose to a team that’s had their number the last couple years.

Me: Providence over Mankato; BU over SCSU
Quarter: Providence over RIT; SCSU over Duluth

Me: BU over Providence
Quarter: SCSU over Providence
Comment: It’s not just Jack Eichel. BU has a lot of firepower, a solid D-corps and a goalie that can dominate a game (UND knows that well). And it’s a hometown Frozen Four.

The Force connection

FARGO — One interesting note about this weekend’s regional in Scheels Arena is the number of Fargo Force alums playing.

Chris Murphy of the Fargo Forum wrote about that in this story here.

The 2010-11 team has eight players in this regional alone. It was kind of fun to look back on that roster and see all the familiar names. You will see many others that aren’t in this regional, but here ya go:

2010-11 Fargo Force

Jimmy Mullin (Miami) 23-37–60
Chad Demers (AFA) 18-32–50
Tanner Kero (Tech) 14-23–37
Brian Cooper (UNO) 11-22–33
Colton Hargrove (WMU) 13-14–27
Tyler Maugeri (Prince) 12-13–25
Colten St. Clair (UND) 11-14–25
Garrett Haar (WMU) 7-16–23
Dan Weissenhofer (AFA) 7-11–18
Nick Oliver (SCSU) 7-10–17
Ian Young (CC) 3-11–14
Tanner Lane (UNO) 4-9–13
Jimmy Murray (SCSU) 4-8–12
Joe Rehkamp (SCSU) 3-9–12
Austin Farley (UMD) 7-4–11
Willie Corrin (UMD) 1-9–10
Oleg Yevenko (UMass) 4-4–8
Nate Arentz (BSU) 4-4–8
Nick Stoskopf (D-3) 4-1–5
Christian Folin (Lowell) 2-2–4
Brandon Carlson (UAF) 2-2–4
Garrett Allen (DU) 3-0–3
Corbin McGuire (UW) 1-0–1
Keaton Thompson (UND) 0-0–0

Ryan Massa (UNO) 2.37, .908
Zane McIntyre (UND) 2.23, .908

It’s also interesting that three of the four teams’ best players is from this team in McIntyre (Hobey finalist), Kero (Hobey finalist) and Brodzinski.

In case your wondering, that Force team lost in the Clark Cup Finals that year to a Dubuque team that featured Johnny Gaudreau, Zemgus Girgensons and Riley Barber, among others.

Murphy, St. Clair appear in

FARGO — UND coach Dave Hakstol says that lines will be very similar to what they were at the end of Saturday in the NCAA Frozen Faceoff.

The only exception is that Colten St. Clair is back in. Hakstol said St. Clair could have played last week, but they wanted him 100 percent for the regional.

I’m expecting the lines to be:

Chyzyk-St. Clair-Poolman



UND held its weekly shootout drill after practice. Dane Jackson won it.

Other goal scorers included the entire red line — O’Donnell, Gaarder and Poganski — Chyzyk, Murphy, Mattson and Ausmus.

UND just finished its press conference. There will be more coming up on the Herald site throughout the night.

Also, if you want to hear some UND hockey chatter, I’ll be in studio with Dom Izzo on 970 WDAY AM, if you get that, at 6:35 p.m. tonight.


Anas practices, no comment from QU

FARGO — Checking in quick from Scheels Arena, where UND just took the ice for practice.

Quinnipiac just completed practice and leading scorer Sam Anas was on the ice for the Bobcats, wearing a red no-contact jersey. He took shifts along with Alex Barron as the left wing on the second line.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold opened the press conference by saying that he will not answer questions about injuries or who is in the lineup. So, we have no definitive answer about whether Anas will play Friday.

Judging by watching practice, I’m expecting him to be in the lineup, though.

Will check back in after UND’s practice.


Tickets to be released at 9 a.m.

A total of about 150 two-day packages will be released at 9 a.m. Thursday in person at Scheels Arena only.

The late-released tickets are returns from other teams participating in the event. Each school was allotted 400 tickets.

You better get there early if you want a shot. Fans are already lining up and camping out.

Anas likely out, no re-entry

Quinnipiac’s leading scorer and second-team all-ECAC selection Sam Anas did not practice Tuesday and is unlikely to play this weekend, according to coach Rand Pecknold.

The coach did say that Anas will bring his gear to Fargo and that he’s not ruling him out yet, but admitted that he’s “dreaming” that he will play at this point and they are preparing like he’s not going to.

We’ll see if he skates Thursday during Quinnipiac’s allotted practice time.

So, both teams might be missing key players this weekend, and that’s kind of a theme for this year’s NCAA tournament. If you look around the country, there are a lot of injury questions surrounding big-time players.

Those teams’ abilities to move on without key players will be important if they want to get to Boston. Read that story here.

Also, I’ve had a few questions about re-entry if people want to leave Scheels Arena between games. I’ve been told that there will be NO RE-ENTRY. So DON’T leave the arena.

NCAA tournament bracket

(1) MSU-Mankato vs. (4) RIT, 3 p.m. (ESPN), Saturday
(2) Omaha vs. (3) Harvard, 6:30 p.m., (ESPN3), Saturday
Regional final: 6:30 p.m. (ESPN), Sunday

(1) Boston University vs. (4) Yale, 1 p.m. (ESPNU) Friday
(2) Minnesota Duluth vs. (3) Minnesota 4:30 p.m., (ESPNU) Friday
Regional final: 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2), Saturday

(1) Miami vs. (4) Providence, 5:30 p.m. (ESPNU) Saturday
(2) Denver vs. (3) Boston College, 2 p.m. (ESPN2), Saturday
Regional final: 4 p.m. (ESPNU), Sunday

(1) North Dakota vs. (4) Quinnipiac, 7 p.m. (ESPNU), Friday
(2) Michigan Tech vs. (3) St. Cloud State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3), Friday
Regional final: 8 p.m. (ESPNU), Saturday

Many possibilities still exist

MINNEAPOLIS — The 16 teams in the field are set. But the Committee could do a whole bunch of things with the matchups, which should make this year’s NCAA Selection Show (11 a.m., ESPNU) extra interesting.

I think that UND will end up with Providence in the first round, as do most others. The other two teams in the Fargo regional are very up for grabs.

If you go by straight seeding, it puts Minnesota and Michigan Tech there. And that’s a possibility. But it would also mean that St. Cloud State plays another NCHC team.

No. 2 seeds

Michigan Tech

No. 3 seeds

Boston College
St. Cloud State

As you can see, there’s only one option for St. Cloud State as an opponent with the No. 2 seeds. Does the Committee decide to avoid that conference matchup in the first round? Or does it say, “Forget it, there are six NCHC teams in the field, we can do what we want.”

I think the switch will be made.

The other question is whether the Committee tries to find a way to keep Providence in Providence. The host of that regional is Brown, so the Friars will not automatically be sent there. But they could do that.

Another option is juggling the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds and going:

Minnesota vs. Duluth in Fargo, Tech vs. St. Cloud State, Boston College vs. Denver, and leaving Harvard and Omaha together.

The committee also has a lot of options with No. 1 seeds. We know UND will be in Fargo but the others are all really up for grabs. Do they try to get Miami to South Bend to increase attendance? That is a possibility.

Here are a few bracket projections, in case you are interested:

Chris Dilks and Jeff Cox, SB Nation

Adam Wodon, College Hockey News

Jayson Moy, USCHO

Final seedings

No. 1 seeds
1. MSU-Mankato
2. North Dakota
3. Boston University
4. Miami

No. 2 seeds
5. Denver
6. Duluth
7. Michigan Tech
8. Omaha

No. 3 seeds
9. Harvard
10. Minnesota
11. Boston College
12. St. Cloud State

No. 4 seeds
13. Yale
14. Quinnipiac
15. Providence
16. RIT