In a late spur-of-the-moment decision, I’m taking this act on the road one more time before we make the big honkin’ road trip to D.C. for the Frozen Four.
That’s right, we’re going to live free or die in Manchester, New Hampshire with the Northeast Regional.
Live Free or Die is New Hampshire’s state motto, but it sounds like something Tupac would say.
I know, I know… I’m just sayin’.
Manchester offers up the most intriguing set of teams amongst the four regions and should offer up the best games as well. Bruce Ciskie at FanHouse offers up his quick take on what to look for out of the Northeast, and if you know anything about college hockey, you know that these four teams offer up a ton of college hockey history.
I know that mystique and aura are just crappy terms for nostalgia, but this regional offers it up in spades. With Boston University you’ve got oodles of history and Beanpot Tournament Trophies galore. You’ve also got them as the #1 overall seed in the tournament and champions of the Hockey East Conference. They’re kind of good. They’re kind of really, really good.
Then there’s the University of North Dakota. They were in the Frozen Four last season and were summarily trounced by eventual champions Boston College in the National Semifinals. This year, they come stumbling into the NCAA tournament after slipping up badly in the WCHA Final Five, bowing out there in the semifinals. They were the regular season WCHA champions and took home the MacNaughton Cup.
North Dakota fans are oddly confident heading into the NCAA Tournament, it seems, since some of the fans are already looking ahead to a potential Regional Final matchup with BU.
Why look ahead though? Perhaps it’s because perennial Hockey East worryworts from the University of New Hampshire are their opening round opponents.
New Hampshire has everything going for them. They’ve made the tournament and get the guaranteed semi-home game in Manchester. How does this happen, you ask? The NCAA wants to try and guarantee some attendance, so they’ll place local teams in Regional sites – almost opposite to how this works with the NCAA Basketball tournament with respect to Regionals.
New Hampshire also comes into this weekend stumbling having lost to Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, many New Hampshire fans are just waiting for the floor to fall out on them once again.
What are UNH fans like? Think of Red Sox fans before 2004 but without the bad attitudes. They’re the Eeyores of college hockey fandom, and I say that with as much care as I can muster. UNH fans are tremendous fans, some of the best all-around in college hockey, they’re just down on hockey life.
UNH’s matchup with UND, if you believe the fans of each side, is shaping up to be a battle between teams looking for their lives to just be ended in the least painful way possible. Then again, fans operate in extremes. I expect this game to be one of the best of the tournament between two highly-skilled and pedigreed programs.
Rounding out the foursome in Manchester is THE Ohio State University. The Buckeyes are probably best known school of these four, but as is the case with college hockey more often than not, the more well known you are the worse you are at it. While BU is the top seed in the tournament, Ohio State is not the worst team in the field (that distinction belongs to Bemidji State University) which affords OSU more of a chance to win, especially since OSU plays in the CCHA with two other #1 seeds (Michigan and Notre Dame).
Does OSU have a chance? Sure they do, the NCAA Hockey tournament is a bit more susceptible to huge upsets than most other NCAA Tournaments. Ohio State has wins this year against three of the tournaments top seeds from the aforementioned Michigan and Notre Dame as well as Denver University. They’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
The downside? BU is a monster this season. They’ve been better than everyone else all year long and they’re battle tested after making their way through the Hockey East Tournament. Ohio State may scare them for a bit but I don’t really consider them to be much of a threat.
Stranger things have happened, however.
ESPN 2 will be carrying these games and the two premiere hockey gurus the World Wide Leader has to offer will be in the house with John Buccigross and Barry Melrose handling duties for this one. The Regional Final on Sunday will be carried on ESPNU.
I’ll have updates periodically posted on my Twitter page, so if you’re not following me yet, get off your ass and do it already.