The Frozen Four comes to my own backyard this week and I figured I'd throw around my take. I'm admittedly out of the loop, but know a bit about the boys left.
Michigan vs Notre Dame
The Wolverines lost only five games. Five. That despite relying on eleven Freshmen and only two Seniors (Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik). They've outscored opponents 27-8 in the postseason and have averaged 4+ goals a game all year. With such a potent offense it's easy to overlook the defense, led by Goalie Billy Sauer, which gives up only two goals per game and has been instrumental in their Frozen Four push.
The two Seniors combined for 116 points and prevent match-up problems for all opponents, Notre Dame being no exception. Still, Michigan hasn't been here since 2003. Last year's graduating class was the first since 1991 not to have been in the Frozen Four at any point during their four years. Inexperience shan't ever be underestimated. Regardless of the firepower at their disposal, Michigan needs their kids to step up in a big way to achieve the ultimate goal - their 10th National Chamionship. Being #1 means nothing now.
Notre Dame has conversely 'limped into' the Frozen 4 if such a feat is possible. They were on fire out of the gates with a 16-4 record but have barely played plus .500 hockey since. "What have you done for me lately?" rings true, however, as they bounced back from a poor start to the tournament by knocking off New Hampshire and followed that by taking out the defending champ Michigan State Spartans, who were serious underdogs in their own right last year. Losing top scorer Erik Condra was an awful blow to this team, and a big reason why they suffered through an 0-42 stretch on the PP. They've battled back, however, and rallied with the pieces they've got. Notre Dame is a relatively unknown entity, but they're confident, and have the ability to sneak up on people when motivated.
It comes down to a juggernaut offense squaring up against a chippy bunch of blue-collar guys. I'd normally throw it all away and root for the underdog, especially with how Notre Dame has played when it counts most, but I'm way too impressed with Michigan's balanced attack. Number One moves on. Will be a great game, though.
Michigan 5, Notre Dame 3
Boston College vs North Dakota
These teams have met seven times in the regular season since the '03-'04 season and BC holds a 4-2-1 series edge. That record could just as easily be reversed though as it has been a tremendously well-played bunch of games by both sides, and one of the most entertaining non-conference battles in recent memory. Most notably, a 0-0 draw earlier this year, in which the game was called after two periods do to lack of visibility. Wait, what? Yeah, a power outage mucked up the ice and the rink was filled with fog. Then there's the storied playoff showdowns. These two giants have now met six times during the same stretch, BC currently with a 3-2 edge. Needless to say, there will be no surprises when they clash again.
Inconsistency plagues the Eagles who have a pair of five-game winless streaks this year, and they finished the regular season on a sour 1-4-1 note. Still, that one victory was a decisive one (4-1 against Northeastern) and they haven't lost since. The entire team has jumped onto the shoulders of rookie G John Muse who has shown some serious stones in posting a .950 save percentage in six playoff games.
BC has been plagued by injuries but they won't use that as an excuse. They have the experience to get back to the Championship game, of which they've lost the last two.
There was nothing up and down about North Dakota's season. They finished the season at a torrid 19-2-3. Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has been amazing in goal. They have arguably the best coaching staff in the game led by Jerry York and Dave Hakstol. None of this matters. BC has thwarted their last two bids at a National Championship and they are primed to make sure that does not happen again. They mean business. Revenge masks everything on paper.
Will BC squeak by ND and attempt to lose their record third National Championship in a row? Or will the Fighting Sioux finally get that Maroon & Gold monkey off their back and get back to the promised land? It's going to be a helluva game.
In one of the most hotly contested and highly anticipated games in history I'll go with ND to quell the run and gun style of BC and grind out a tough win.
North Dakota 3, Boston College 2
The writing's on the wall for what I believe to be the most well-rounded team to leave Denver as champs. That's North Dakota. Michigan's lack of experience fells them again, and MVP JPL pitches a shutout.
North Dakota 3, Michigan 0