NCAA Hockey: Match-Up Analysis and Predictions

As a final piece in his preview of the NCAA Hockey Regional at the PPL Center today, lead hockey analyst der Eishockeyzuschauer breaks down the match-ups in today’s games, and we give some predictions on the results.  For more information on the individual teams and how they got here, please go back and read about Ohio State, Princeton, Denver University and Penn State.  Now, on with the show….

Penn State’s Russian center Nikita Pavlychev (# 13) defends against Denver University’s Finnish center Henrik Borgstrom (# 5) during the 2017 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament Midwest Regional Final that was contested at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnai, Ohio, twelve months ago … (photo courtesy John Minchillo/Associated Press)

24 March 2018

 

der Eishockeyzuschauer

ALLENTOWN, PA

 

“Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends

We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind the glass
Pucksters with balls made of brass
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along…
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Alright, here we go. Having spent enough money on the $177.00 M PPL Center here in Allentown, it is about time that some serious sporting history was made here in what some like to call the “City With No Limits”, isn’t it then?! The Midwest Regional of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament – better buckle up tight because all four participating teams have accomplished players, quality coaching staffs and a serious desire to win a coveted and prestigious national championship.
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Before moving on to the predictions part of the program here, a few words on how fortunate Allentown really was when it came down to the actual draw, itself, for this year’s NCAA Tournament. From the overall perspective of a neutral ice hockey fan interested in seeing an entertaining four-team regional tournament, I should think it is probably better to have the fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the country as compared to having the # 1 and # 7 teams — especially if one of the two teams in question, the # 4 or # 5, just so happens to be the reigning national champion embarking on the arduous journey to defend its widely sought title. And then there is the Penn State factor : there is absolutely no question that having the ‘homestanding’ Nittany Lions, who feature no fewer than three players including the starting goaltender hailing from the Philadelphia area in their regular line-up, skating in the Midwest Regional being staged at the corner of Seventh and Hamilton Streets, will bring the kind of atmosphere and excitement to the occasion that only PSU’s qualification could have brought in any case … (certainly no disrespect to any other school intended, merely a statement of the obvious geographical facts of life).
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# 4 OHIO STATE (24-9-5) vs # 18 PRINCETON (19-12-4) 
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The streaking Tigers will be looking to knock off a Top Ten team for the third time in span of just two short weeks and do have ingredients on hand that would be needed to concoct such an upsetting recipe. Princeton do have the number one ranked power play in all the land and only two schools in the entire country average more than the 3.69 goals per game that head coach Ron Fogarty’s team scores. Almost needless to say, the Ivy Leaguers will need their big guns such as Max Veronneau, the second-leading scorer in the nation with 55 points, and Ryan Kuffner, the second most lethal poacher in the nation with 29 goals, to rise to the occasion on Saturday evening … And, of course, genuine underdogs always need to get good goaltending, too, so Princeton, who have previously lost all three of the games that the school have ever played at the annual NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament, will be counting upon yet another strong performance from Ryan Ferland, the 20-year-old freshman who was just named the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 ECAC conference tournament.
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The well coached and firmly focused Buckeyes are seeking not only bounce back from the disappointing overtime loss to the # 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Big Ten Conference Final, but also win a game at the annual NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament for the first time in twenty long years. Ohio State have the number one ranked penalty kill in all the land as well as the fifth-best defensive record (i.e., average goals allowed per game) in the entire country and, thus, are rather well prepared to cope with Princeton’s high octane offense; furthermore, OSU are extremely well disciplined and average just 8.63 penalty minutes per game, a figure that is fourth-best in the nation, so the Tigers might not even have a whole lot of opportunities with the power play in the first place. In all likelihood, it could very well be that Princeton’s defense, which ranks 35th out of 60 Division I college hockey teams in terms of average goals allowed per game, will not be able to contain a Buckeyes offense which ranks 11th with 3.18 goals scored per game on average.
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Ohio State will definitely have to make due this weekend without Matthew Weis, the 22-year-old senior who is the third-leading scorer on the team with 37 points in as many games, though. The return last week of sophomore center Ronnie Hein, who has registered nine goals and 21 points in 40 NCAA career games over the course of two injury-plagued seasons, does soften the blow somewhat. Mason Jobst, the shifty junior who leads the Buckeyes with 19 goals this term, will probably move up to the first line as he did last week against Notre Dame and Dakota Joshua, the 6’3″ 200 lbs sophomore whom the Toronto Maple Leafs chose in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, will continue to center the second unit.
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Final Conclusion — I think that red hot Princeton, who have won seven games on the trot, would have continue to play at the top of their game but that this is probably unrealistic because Ohio State have too much overall talent and are overtly hungry. I think that OSU head coach Steve Rohlik’s standard tactic of utilizing four lines religiously will have the desired effect of wearing down a Tigers team that simply does not have the matching depth up front. I think that Buckeyes star foward Tanner Laczynski knows he will be skating in the very same building that houses the American Hockey League team he is likely to be playing for initially when he finally turns professional and that the gold medal for the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship wants to make a great first impression … I think Ohio State oust Princeton and skate again on Sunday
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KRAM:  Having done all of my research by reading the d.E. pieces posted here, I predict Princeton will hang tough but eventually bow to the more powerful “The” team–and it could go to overtime.  I look forward to watching Tanner in this game, despite my distaste for his college choice.  Prediction:  Ohio State 4, Princeton 3–and I’ll be cheering for the underdog.
….
“…Come inside the show’s about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart…”
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#5 DENVER UNIV (22-9-8) vs #11 PENN STATE (18-14-5)
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The defending NCAA champion Pioneers are traveling in excess of seventeen hundred miles and playing in a rink where the overwhelming majority of spectators will be cheering for the opposing team but, then again, Denver University seemingly always qualify for the annual NCAA tournament and, therefore, the atmosphere will be nothing that every single one of head coach Jim Montgomery’s players are not already well accustomed to. Aside from the quest to equal the University of Michigan’s NCAA record nine national championships altogether, “D,U.” are also seeking to become the first school to win back to back national championships since – wait for it – the Pioneers did it in 2004 and 2005. So, in other words, forget about any so-called ‘hostile’ environment because Denver University might be busy dealing with pressures of historical proportions.
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Truly top shelf players such as center Henrik Borgstrom, the Finnish import whom the Florida Panthers picked in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, right wing Troy Terry, the 2018 U.S. Olympian who had three goals and two assists during Denver University’s 6-3 win over Penn State in the in the Midwest Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament last season, as well as goaltender Tanner Jaillet, the highly experienced senior goaltender who has already appeared at the Frozen Four twice in his collegiate career thus far, are only a small sampling of the reasons that make it extremely difficult to go against the Pioneers.
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The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, have clear flaws when matched up against Denver University statistically. Not only does Penn State take an average of three more penalty minutes per game than the Pioneers do, PSU head coach Guy Gadowsky’s charges also kill penalties at a lesser rate, as well. The most glaring disparity is on defense, where Penn State are ranked 42nd out of 60 Division I teams by allowing 3.11 goals per game but Denver are ranked # 3 because they surrender an average of only 2.05 goals per game.
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The one unmistakable thing that the speedy Nittany Lions do have going for them is a powerful offense that ranked # 2 in the entire country by scoring an average of 3.70 goals per game. Penn State will also definitely get a lift from the return of sophomore center Nikita Pavlychev, who participated in practice at the PPL Center in Allentown on Friday afternoon, if only because the towering Russian is very effective on defense. It is also perhaps a good omen because, after all, it was Pavlychev, the seventh round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2015 NHL Draft, who netted a shorthanded goal in the NCAA game against the Pioneers last spring.
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Final Conclusion —  I think Denver University have a very formidable team to be certain, but one-third of the regular skaters in the line up are freshmen who may or may not be able to withstand the fires found in the cauldron that is the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. I think that Penn State have a number of players in the neighborhood of, at, or more than two hundred pounds and that the Pioneers blue line corps, which features several clearly undersized defenders, could have problems winning battles along the boards. I think the PSU head coach Gadowsky learned a lot from the loss to D.U. in Cincinnati last season and that he will come up with an astute game plan which his players will adhere to. I think Penn State will benefit enormously from being at the PPL Center in Allentown … I think the Nittany Lions dump the defending NCAA champion Denver University and skate again on Sunday!
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KRAM:  If I’m reading this right, Penn State is both bigger and faster than the defending national champions?  If so, you’d think they’d be the favorite instead of just happy to be here.  Their late run to qualify was impressive, as we feared they’d miss out on “hosting” their own regional.  And, it’s a good time of year to be playing your best hockey.  Unfortunately, despite “home ice” and “hot team” and “big and fast” I think Denver is just better.  It will be close early, but Denver will pour it on late in the game.  Prediction:  Denver University 5  Penn State 1.  [Note:  “Reverse-Jinx”  is in effect.  I’ll be rooting hard for the underdog here, too.]
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“…Rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth
Greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth”
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer


Categories: PPL Center Arena

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