Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
This article is about what you think it is, we went through each team playing in this regional and will offer up one prediction about something that we think will happen, that is not necessarily indicative of the final score of any game. Each team playing tomorrow, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota Duluth, and American International College (AIC), all has back stories, and a roster capable of each doing different unique things. Let’s get right into it with the hosts of the tournament, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota.
North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Turnovers or lack thereof determines the winner
This team, as AIC Head Coach Eric Lang noted is deep and can win games in a lot of different fashions. One thing that they have done in the mere instances of playing less than the near perfect team they are is turning the puck over in their own end. When this happens, Adam Scheel has to respond fast, and makes a fair amount of saves to bail his team out. With that said, watching AIC all year, and watching UND, know that Lang will have his group ready. If the Fighting Hawks can avoid turnovers in their own end and consistently gain easy entry into AIC’s zone, they can then cycle and dictate the pace like they want to. If not, then you will see how opportunistic AIC is in their ability to capitalize on mistakes. The Fighting Hawks are the number one overall seed in the country for a reason, they have the best roster with the most top-level talent on it, and have proven their ability to stay together and fight back after their opponent gives them their best. How they limit turnovers in their end, combined with their ability to stick to their own script will go a long way to determining their success in this tournament.
Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs
Get more offensive on defense
This team’s biggest consistent source of strength is in its systems. Head Coach Scott Sandelin always has a room full of gritty players that execute the game plans he puts up for them to utilize. The Bulldogs are playing a fast Michigan team that can force their opponents to speed up their own game to keep them out of sorts. To counter that, the defense corps of this team has to generate some more help in goal production, and players like Matt Cairns and Louie Roehl have to pitch in offensively. They will not ever claim to be a Dylan Samberg or Scott Perunovich, but the if the physical defense corps can generate some help on offense, then all things are possible for these Bulldogs.
Use your speed
How do you defeat two teams with strong systems? Well, not allow them to use them of course. The Wolverines, lead by Owen Power on defense, and two probable top five picks up front in Matthew Beniers, and Kent Johnson, are the team to watch for every NHL fan of a struggling team. If your team is in the draft lottery, you could end up with any of these players and not be disappointed. For this team in the here and now, they have to figure out how to tap into their high end talent to defeat systems-heavy teams in this regional. All of them, and this team has some of the best skating ability in the tournament, and that speed is its own differentiator.
AIC Yellow Jackets
The depth needs to elevate
This AIC team is deep, they have six lines of forwards, 8-10 defenders that can play on any night, and three goalies with a win.. By saying this, we are talking about scoring. Someone who may have been on the bench last weekend could have a big impact on the game Friday night. For this group to have success against the best team in the country, they have to play a perfect game of hockey, and get help from everyone. If this group can get some assistance from its depth (Eric Otto and Aaron Grounds are two of the depth players that have stood out this year), options for them open up.
Regardless of the results this weekend, as of now, all teams are cleared to compete. Given the unfortune that has befell St. Lawrence and Notre Dame, it is more incumbent upon us to enjoy all of these moments. Life dealing with Covid-19 for everyone has been tough, and this year has been different, but this weekend, we have four regionals ongoing, and a chance for men’s college hockey to hold the spotlight. Best wishes for the health and safety of all.
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