It’s that time of time of the year again where the 16 best collegiate hockey teams square off for the NCAA Division I championship. The tournament is broken down into four regions with four teams each. This piece will be an NCAA East region preview.
Let’s take a look at the four teams and who could be making their way to St. Paul, Minn.
College Hockey Tournament: NCAA East Region Preview
Where: Webster Bank Arena; Bridgeport, Conn.
When: Friday and Saturday
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Record: 25-9-2 overall; 17-6-1 Big Ten conference (regular season and playoff champions)
Player to watch: Jake Evans, forward (Montreal Canadiens prospect) 11 goals, 29 assists, 40 points
Synopsis: The Fighting Irish swept both the Big Ten regular season and playoff titles to get the second overall seed. Notre Dame has five other NHL draftees and Hobey Baker top 10 finalist Cale Morris. The Irish can also close games as they’re 20-2-2 when scoring first. Top-seeded Notre Dame will play No. 4 Michigan Tech to start the tournament at 3 p.m. Friday.
Record: 23-11-4; 13-7-4 Hockey East (3rd in regular season; reached tournament final)
Player to watch: Brian Pinho, forward (Washington Capitals prospect) 12 goals, 19 assists, 31 points
Synopsis: The Friars have reached the tournament five straight seasons, including a national title in 2015. Providence has been bounced out of the first round the last two seasons and was beaten twice by first-round opponent Clarkson. Head coach Nate Leaman does have nine players that are NHL draft picks.
Clarkson Golden Knights
Record: 23-10-6; 12-5-5 (3rd in ECAC, lost in tournament final)
Player to watch: Sheldon Rempal, forward, 23 goals, 23 assists; 46 assists
Synopsis: Clarkson started and ended its season very well thanks to a mix of a strong group of seniors and sophomores. The Golden Knights did struggle after the first of the year where they only won one game out of 13 before beating Quinnipiac to end the regular season. Goalie Jake Kielly has been able to steal games for Clarkson, including a shutout against Providence on Oct. 21. Clarkson is also hoping some of that magic from the women’s team winning three titles in five years rubs off.
Michigan Tech Huskies
Record: 22-16-5, 12-11-5 (5th in WCHA, won conference tournament)
Player to watch: Patrick Munson, goalie, 10-7-3, .908 save percentage; 2.61 GAA
Synopsis: Tech managed to steal a bid by winning the WCHA over highly-touted Minnesota State. The Huskies only have two NHL draft picks (Jake Jackson for the San Jose Sharks and Dane Birks for the Pittsburgh Penguins), but head coach Joe Shawhan has the team making the NCAAs in his first season in charge. Tech does have wins over tournament qualifiers Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State.
The Irish have plenty of offensive fire-power and will pepper the Huskies to take the opening game. Clarkson has beaten Providence twice, but it’s difficult to beat someone three times. However, the Friars have had a difficult time solving the Knights defense. All in all, the region is Notre Dame’s to lose.
ANN ARBOR, MI – JANUARY 05: Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Jake Evans (18) and Michigan Wolverines forward Dexter Dancs (90) chase after the puck during a regular season Big 10 Conference hockey game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Michigan Wolverines on January 5, 2018 at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)