NCAA West Regional
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Friday, Gophers vs. Yale, 1 p.m.;
North Dakota vs. Niagara, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, regional final, 3 p.m.
TV: ESPNU • Radio: 1500-AM (Gophers games only)
Gophers at a glance: Coach Don Lucia is expecting a fast-paced game against Yale, a team he said resembles his own, the NCAA tournament’s No. 2 overall seed. The Gophers (26-8-5) have a seven-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, a team they last played in 2002. To extend it, Lucia said his team must limit its turnovers against the swift-skating Bulldogs, and G Adam Wilcox must stand firm against an opponent that averages 35 shots per game. Wilcox, a freshman, ranks seventh in the nation with a 1.85 goals-against average and has a .922 save percentage. He remains on pace to set team single-season records in both those categories. Sophomore F Sam Warning, who has eight goals and 15 assists in 28 games, is back at full strength after missing the first round of the WCHA playoffs because of an unspecified injury. The Gophers were shut out 2-0 by Colorado College in their last game, but they have not lost two games in a row all season.
Yale at a glance: The No. 15-seeded Bulldogs (18-12-3) are making their fourth NCAA appearance in the past five years. In 2010 and 2011, they lost in the regional finals, both times to the teams that went on to win the NCAA title (Boston College in 2010, Minnesota Duluth in 2011). They have three common opponents with the Gophers this season and earned points on the road against each, defeating Denver 2-1, beating Colorado College 6-5 and tying Boston College 3-3. After finishing third in the ECAC, the Bulldogs swept St. Lawrence in the first round of the league playoffs, but they enter the NCAA tournament off of shutout losses to Union in the ECAC semifinals (5-0) and No. 1 overall seed Quinnipiac in the third-place game (3-0). Sophomore D Tommy Fallen, honorable mention all-Ivy League, is the team’s fourth-leading scorer with seven goals and 15 assists. He is from Plymouth. Sophomore F Nicholas Weberg played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault with the Gophers’ Erik Haula and Mike Reilly. Senior F Andrew Miller (16 goals, 19 assists) is an all-ECAC first team pick and the Ivy League player of the year. Junior F Kenny Agostino leads the team with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).
North Dakota at a glance: Ranked No. 7, North Dakota (21-12-7) has a 4-3-1 record in its past eight games and is the No. 3 seed in the regional. UND is making its 28th NCAA tournament appearance and its 11th in a row, the longest active streak in the nation. Since Dave Hakstol became coach, UND has advanced to the Frozen Four in five of eight seasons and has an 11-3 record in regional games. Senior F Danny Kristo of Eden Prairie has three goals and four assists in six NCAA tournament games; he is third nationally in scoring this season (25 goals, 26 assists). Kristo and senior F Corban Knight (15 goals, 33 assists) are top-10 Hobey Baker Award finalists. North Dakota is averaging 3.30 goals per game, fifth in the nation, but it faces a daunting task in Niagara goaltender Carsen Chubak, another Hobey Baker finalist. To beat him, Knight said, his team must put lots of pucks on net and create good scoring chances in front of the goal.
Niagara at a glance: Chubak, the Atlantic Hockey player of the year, led the No. 14-ranked Purple Eagles (23-9-5) to the league’s regular-season title and their fourth NCAA tournament berth. The first Atlantic Hockey team to receive an at-large bid to the tournament, they made the NCAA field for the first time since 2008. Niagara is 1-3 in NCAA tournament play and lost 4-1 to North Dakota in a regional final in 2000. Chubak, a junior, is fourth in the nation in save percentage (.938), eighth in goals-against average (1.91) and first in shutouts (six). He is 23-6-5 this season. Junior F Ryan Murphy leads the Eagles with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists). Sophomore F Isaac Kohls of Forest Lake is the lone Minnesotan on the roster; he has four goals and seven assists in 23 games. After a 12-game undefeated streak earlier in the season, Niagara has lost three of its past five games. Canisius upset the Purples Eagles 5-3 in the Atlantic Hockey tournament semifinals.