Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Frozen Four: Vermont-BU preview
By Inside College Hockey
Vermont vs. Boston University
Verizon Center | Washington, D.C.
Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2HD, ESPN360)
How they got here
VERMONT -- East Regional 3-seed
Vermont 4, Yale 1
Vermont 3, Air Force 2 (2OT)
BOSTON UNIVERSITY -- Northeast Regional 1-seed
Boston University 8, Ohio State 3
Boston University 2, New Hampshire 1
Boston University's forward lines run deep and its top three lines are dangerous. Even the fourth group can pot a timely goal and maintain momentum when the Terriers get rolling. The first unit features Hobey Baker finalist Colin Wilson and the team's leading goal scorer, Jason Lawrence, who has 24 on the year and scored three goals in two games at the regional -- including the game winner against New Hampshire in the final minute of the third period. The third line of Chris Connolly, Vinny Saponari and Corey Trivino is an all-freshman trio that now has a full season of experience under its belt. John McCarthy, Nick Bonino and Brandon Yip are on the second line and have combined to score 43 goals.
Discussion of Vermont's forward group starts with junior Viktor Stalberg, a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist and All-Hockey East first-team selection. Stalberg is a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick and led the Catamounts in goals (24), assists (21) and points (45). He gets support on a line with Brian Roloff and Justin Milo. Roloff has scored 10 goals and Milo has 11. Among Milo's tallies are four power-play goals and four game-winning goals. The line of Colin Vock, Dean Strong and Wahs Stacey is good at both ends of the rink. All three are creative with the puck. Center Matt Marshall is the only freshman forward and has played in 30 of 38 games.
Boston University's defense corps may be the best in the nation. It starts with senior All-American Matt Gilroy, the blue-line leader with 36 points. Juniors Eric Gryba (Ottawa) and Brian Strait (Pittsburgh) are both NHL draft picks and bring a more defense-first style. Sophomores Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk both have played 41 of 43 games, and freshman David Warsofsky, a St. Louis draft pick, has been in the lineup all 43 games for the Terriers. They're big and mobile.
Vermont's defense corps lacks the star power that the Terriers' possess, but the Catamounts just need to play a simple game and take care of their own end. The group is comprised of four sophomores, a junior and a freshman. Sophomore Dan Lawson is the offensive leader. He has eight goals and scored the game winner in the second overtime period against Air Force in the regional final.
Two freshmen goaltenders will match up in this game, but Boston College's John Muse proved last year that a rookie can play well and win twice at the Frozen Four. BU's Kieran Millan has been one of the best rookies in the nation and carries a 27-2-3 record in 33 starts, a 1.85 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage into this weekend's action. Vermont's Rob Madore has solid numbers, just not quite as astronomical as Millan's. Madore is 15-9-4 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. After losing three straight starts to end the regular season and open the Hockey East playoffs, Madore responded by allowing just three goals over the equivalent of 2½ games against high-scoring Yale and Air Force at the regional.
Vermont made an impact on special teams when it swept a pair of games against Boston University back in November, scoring four power-play goals and a shorty at Agganis Arena. However, penalty killing is a relative weakness for the Catamounts. They rank 42nd nationally in short-handed situations, but killed off all of the penalties they were assessed at the regionals. Stalberg's seven power-play goals leads the team.
BU has scored 54 power-play goals and its opponents have just 32 on the year. A plus-22 in power-play situations is a big help toward winning 33 of 43 games. Jason Lawrence has a nation-best 14 power-play goals. The Terriers have also scored 10 short-handed goals on the year. Chris Higgins has two of those.
Boston University coach Jack Parker is in his 36th year as coach of the Terriers and earned his 800th career coaching victory earlier this season. He has won two national titles as head coach and is second among all active coaches in victories.
Kevin Sneddon, the sixth-year coach of the Catamounts, is in 11th year as a head coach and met two milestones by winning his 150th game overall and 100th at Vermont this season. It's his first Frozen Four as a head coach, but he played in the tournament and won a national title with Harvard in 1989.
Why Boston University wins: It's the better team with too much talent and too much depth to miss out on the school's first national championship since 1995. BU hasn't played its best hockey in the past several weeks, but a week and a half to regroup and focus should pay dividends for the Terriers.
Why Vermont wins: Even though it took place several months ago, the Catamounts can draw on some confidence from a weekend sweep of the Terriers. They're the only team to have beaten BU twice this year, and those wins came just two weeks after BU posted a 7-2 win at Vermont on Nov. 1.
Also see: Miami (OH)-Bemidji State breakdown
For more on college hockey and the 2009 Frozen Four, check out Inside College Hockey.