March 24, 2013
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota enters its 34th NCAA tournament with an overall record of 26-8-5 this season. The Gophers rallied to earn a piece of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title with a 16-7-5 mark in conference play and lead the WCHA in offense, defense, power play and penalty kill. Minnesota actually boasts the nation's top offense this season with 137 total goals and 3.51 goals per game and the nation's top power play at 24.7 percent (40-for-162). Don Lucia is in his 14th season as head coach of the Gophers program and earned his 600th career win earlier this year. Erik Haula leads Minnesota with 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) this season and needs just one point to set a new career high for the junior while Nick Bjugstad leads Minnesota with 21 goals this season. However, the play of rookie goaltender Adam Wilcox has been one of the major storylines around Dinkytown this season as the freshman's 25-7-5 record this year tied Wilcox for the Minnesota rookie wins record. The netminder also boasts a 1.85 GAA and a .922 save percentage. The Gophers fell 2-0 to Colorado College in WCHA Final Five semifinal action last weekend.
Yale enters the NCAA tournament with an overall record of 18-12-3. The Bulldogs finished in third place in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), with a league record of 12-9-1. Head coach Keith Allain is in his seventh season leading the program. Offensively, a pair of upperclassmen leads Yale. Junior Kenny Agostino leads the team in points with 37 (15g, 22a), and senior Andrew Miller has 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) on the season. Senior Jeff Malcolm has handled a majority of the work between the pipes for the Bulldogs. In 26 appearances this season, he has compiled a .914 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. Yale got on a roll during the middle of the season, dropping just two of 12 contests from December 8 to February 1. The Bulldogs come off a fourth-place finish in the ECAC tournament.
North Dakota is a very familiar team to Minnesota; the two teams have faced off 290 times over the years. This season, the Gophers met North Dakota twice. Minnesota earned a victory and a tie during a January series at Mariucci Arena. North Dakota enters the tournament with a 21-12-7 record. A member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference (WCHA), North Dakota took third in the conference’s regular season. Head coach Dave Hakstol is in his ninth season at the helm of the program. Offensively, a pair of Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist, in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight, leads the team from Grand Forks. Kristo enters the tournament in a tie for third on the list of national scoring leaders with 51 points (25 goals, 26 assists). Knight brings 48 points (15 goals, 33 assists) in to the NCAAs. North Dakota’s defense features six NHL-drafted players, while both junior Clarke Saunders and freshman Zane Gothberg have seen significant time in net and are could potentially get the call in the NCAA tournament.
Niagara Purple Eagles
Niagara enters the NCAA tournament with a record of 23-9-5. The Purple Eagles claimed the Atlantic Hockey regular-season crown and completed the regular season with an unbeaten home record of 15-0-2. Dave Burkholder is in his 12th season as head coach. Niagara is a veteran-laden team. Junior Ryan Murphy leads the team with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists), and senior Giancarlo Iuorio leads the conference with 21 goals in just 26 games. Junior defenseman Kevin Ryan leads the team’s blue line in with 24 points (1 goals, 23 assists). Perhaps the most publicized member of the Niagara squad is junior goaltender Carsen Chubak. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist has a goals against average of 1.90 and a save percentage of .938 this season. The Purple Eagles were upset in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals last weekend by rival Canisius.
NCAA Regional: Sights and Sounds
Saturday’s NCAA opener is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU, Watch ESPN, 1500 ESPN and the Gopher Radio Network.
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