NCAA Regionals - A Rematch In St. Paul
March 28, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
NOTRE DAME SPORTS RELEASE
Notre Dame, Ind. - For the second consecutive season and the sixth time since 2007, the Notre Dame hockey team will appear in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish, the No. 2 seed in the West Regional in St. Paul, Minn., will face No. 3 seed St. Cloud State at 8:00 p.m. (CT) in a game that will be televised on ESPNU with Clay Matvick and Sean Ritchlin calling the action. The opening game of the regional will feature top-seeded Minnesota versus No. 4 seed Robert Morris University from Pittsburgh, Pa., in a game that will start at 4:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.
Notre Dame's meeting with St. Cloud State is a rematch of last year's Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio. There, the No. 4 seeded Huskies handed the No. 1 seed Notre Dame a 5-1 loss to start their run to the Frozen Four.
The Irish enter the regional ranked ninth in both the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine and USCHO.com polls with a 23-14-2 overall record. St. Cloud State is ranked eighth in both polls and is 21-10-5 on the season. The Huskies were the regular-season champions of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) in that league's first season of competition. They were upset in the conference quarterfinals by Miami University, two games to none.
The winner of both of Saturday's regional games will advance to the West Regional final at 6:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday evening, March 30. That game will be televised by ESPNU. The winner of the regional will advance to the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. on April 10-12.
So how will the Irish use last year's loss to the Huskies as motivation for Saturday's rematch? Irish head coach Jeff Jacksonreminds us that the make up of both teams has changed a bit and the teams will have to play their games.
"We have a lot of guys in that room that were part of that 5-1 loss. They know what happened last year," says Jackson.
"The important thing is that this is a new year, a new team, they (St. Cloud State) are a different team. They are still similar in the way that they play and so are we. This is about playing on Saturday against a very good hockey team. We can't isolate on the fact that they were the team that finished our season last year. We have to focus on doing the things that are going to help us be much more successful than we were a year ago."
In preparing for this year's game, Jackson started his preparation by watching last year's contest.
"The first thing I did was watch clips from that game," says Jackson.
"In watching the game, we didn't execute very well last year for whatever reason, I'm not sure. We tried to prepare our team - maybe we tried too hard. I am trying to put more emphasis on us this year. Obviously you have to do some things to offset their strengths and weaknesses but this has to be about us. I thought we turned pucks over too frequently that played right into their transition game. Maybe we didn't prepare enough for their high trap in the neutral zone, but it's not just that. We have to be able to make plays at both blue lines, not just chipping pucks out or chipping pucks in. We need to generate offense from the blue lines rather than just turning pucks over."
Notre Dame is making it's seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's 46-year history with all of them coming since the 2003-04 season (`03-'04, `06-'07, `07-'08, `08-'09, `10-'11, `12-'13 and "13-'14). This will be the sixth time that a Jeff Jackson-coached Irish team has advanced in his ninth season. The last appearance came last March in the opening game of the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio. In 12 NCAA games, Notre Dame is 6-6 all-time with two trips to the Frozen Four (2008, 2011).
2004 - Midwest Regional, Grand Rapids, Mich.#1 Minnesota 5, #4 Notre Dame 2
2007 - Midwest Regional, Grand Rapids, Mich.#1 Notre Dame 3, #4 Ala.-Huntsville 2 (2ot) #3 Michigan St. 2, #1 Notre Dame 1
2008 - West Regional, Colorado Springs, Colo.#4 Notre Dame 7, #1 New Hampshire 3 #4 Notre Dame, 3, #3 Michigan State 1
2008 - Frozen Four, Denver, Colo.#4 Notre Dame 5, #1 Michigan 4 (OT) #3 Boston College 4, #4 Notre Dame 1
2009 - Midwest Regional, Grand Rapids, Mich.#4 Bemidji State 5, #1 Notre Dame 1
2011 - Northeast Regional, Manchester, N.H.#3 Notre Dame 4, #2 Merrimack 3 (OT) #3 Notre Dame 2, #4 New Hampshire 1
2011 - Frozen Four, St. Paul, Minn.#3 Minnesota Duluth 4, #4 Notre Dame 3
2013 - Midwest Regional, Toledo, Ohio#4 St. Cloud State 5, #1 Notre Dame 1
A LOOK AT ST. CLOUD STATE
The Huskies are making their 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their second consecutive after advancing to the Frozen Four last year where they fell to Quinnipiac in the semifinals, 4-1. St. Cloud State has appeared in the tournament in 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. The Huskies own a 3-10 mark in previous NCAA contests.
This season, St. Cloud State was 21-10-5 on the year and 15-6-3-0 in the NCHC, winning the conference's first-ever regular-season title. That marks the second year in a row that St. Cloud claimed a regular-season title, as they were the WCHA champions in 2012-13.
Head coach Bob Motzko is in his ninth season behind the Huskies bench and is a 1987 graduate of St. Cloud State. In nine seasons, he owns a 183-135-40 record and was the NCHC coach of the year in 2014. He also has a pair of WCHA coach of the year honors to his credit, winning them in 2006 and 2007.
Leading the St. Cloud State attack is senior forward, team captain and Hobey Baker Candidate Nic Dowd who tied for the team lead in scoring with 21 goals and 18 assists for 39 points. He was a first team all-NCHC selection for the 2013-14 campaign and was named the NCHC Student-Athlete of the Year and the conference's Defensive Forward of the Year. Also scoring 20 goals for the Huskies this season was sophomore Jonny Brodzinski with 20 goals and 19 assists to tie Dowd for the scoring lead. One point behind them was sophomore center Kalle Kossila with 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points. In all, six players on the SCSU roster had 10 or more goals as the team scored 132 goals in 36 games for a 3.67 goals per game average that is third best in the nation.
The Huskies were lethal on the power play with 36 goals on 139 chances for a 25.9% success rate to rank third in the country in that department.
Junior goaltender Ryan Faragher played in 33 games and had a 19-8-4-1 record to go with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage with one shutout.
IRISH VERSUS HUSKIES
Fancy these two teams meeting for the second consecutive year in NCAA Tournament action. Last season, the Huskies handed Notre Dame a 5-1 loss in the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio to end the Irish season. That win came in the 11th game between the two schools in the series history and gave St. Cloud State a 6-5-0 advantage in those 11 contests. The team's first met in the 1988-89 season, splitting a series in St. Cloud, Minn., as the Huskies won the opener, 4-3, with the Irish taking a 3-2 decision in the second game. The following year, 1989-90, the teams met four times, twice at each school. St. Cloud won three of those four meetings. They would not meet again until the 1996-97 season, playing a pair of games at the Joyce Center with the team's splitting two contests. The Irish won 5-2 with SCSU taking a 2-1 win in the second game. Prior to last year's tournament meeting, the last time they met was during the 1997-98 season with the Irish sweeping the Huskies, 4-3 in overtime and 4-1 in the second game. The teams are 3-3 at St. Cloud and 2-2 at Notre Dame. This will be the second meeting between the two schools in NCAA play with the Huskies holding a 1-0 edge.
IRISH VERSUS MINNESOTA
Notre Dame and Minnesota have met 41 times in the all-time series with the Gophers holding a 24-14-3 advantage. At Notre Dame, the Irish are 5-6-1 against Minnesota while at Minneapolis, the Irish are just 8-15-2. On neutral ice, the Irish are 1-3-0 versus the Gophers. The two teams have met once before in NCAA play - March 27, 2004 - in the opening round of the Midwest Regional at Grand Rapids, Mich., with Minnesota taking a 5-2 victory. The two teams have met twice this season at Notre Dame with the Irish taking a 4-1 win on Nov. 8 and Minnesota a 5-4 victory on Nov. 9 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
IRISH VERSUS ROBERT MORRIS
Notre Dame and Robert Morris have met twice with both games coming during the 2006-07 season with each team winning once. The Irish played the Colonials on Jan. 5, 2007 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., with Notre Dame taking a 6-2 victory. Two nights later at Notre Dame's Joyce Center, the Colonials took a 4-2 win.