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After going 6-6 in the regional round, I am back at it again this week as the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey tournament moves on to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. The Frozen Four consists of two number one seeds playing against two number four seeds, but if we have learned anything from regional weekend, do not expect these games to be cake walks for the top seeds. Here are my picks for the two games to be played Thursday evening.
(4) Yale vs. (1) UMass-Lowell, 4:30PM
For me, Yale is the only real shocker in the Frozen Four. The other three teams really proved themselves all season long, and Yale was quietly building their resume for the Frozen Four. Despite Yale’s two wins in the regionals, they were not exactly filling up the net with pucks. They will need to score in bunches to beat the strong offense of the Riverhawks, as well as to beat arguably the hottest goaltender in the nation at the moment in Connor Hellebuyck. In both games of the regionals I have said that Yale would get beaten with ease, so I won’t say that this time, but I think Lowell will pull this one out in a low scoring tilt, sending the Riverhawks to the title game. Really look for Hellebuyck to shine in this one.
(4) St. Cloud State vs. (1) Quinnipiac, 8PM
This game intrigues me more than I think any other game of the tournament so far. St. Cloud is the only team that I accurately picked to win twice, and as the four seed, I believe their lethal offense will be able to pull off yet another upset in this one. A player to keep an eye on for the Huskies of St. Cloud State is freshman forward Joey Benik. With just two goals in the entire regular season, Benik scored one goal in his conference tournament and four goals in two games during the regionals. It will be interesting to see if Benik can keep putting the puck in the net against Quinnipiac’s Hobey Baker finalist netminder Eric Hartzell. The big matchup in this game is going to be Hartzell and Quinnipiac’s top ranked defense (allowing just 1.63 goals per game on average) up against St. Cloud State’s second ranked offense (averaging 3.41 goals per game). I have really been impressed by the Huskies, and am going to go with them in the upset.
I will do one last piece on Friday predicting the national title game, which is going to be a good one regardless of the outcomes from today. Watching these two games is certainly going to be fun. Look for wins from the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks and the St. Cloud State Huskies in today’s games, however, as always, expect the unexpected.