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#1 Boston University vs. #4 Nebraska-Omaha

In my mind, this could be the most intriguing match-up of the first round. It's a battle of the old school vs. new school.

Boston University has seen a return to prominence this season. Like Michigan State, it's been a long time since they've scored a goal in the NCAA tournament. They last scored in a 6-4 win over Harvard in the first round of the 2003 NCAA tournament. Since then, they've been shutout twice and missed the tournament twice.

BU has looked like the BU of old this season though. They won the Hockey East regular season title thanks to a late season falter by Boston College, and then went on to win the Hockey East tournament. Also, after dropping the first meeting of the season, BU went on to defeat rival, and number 3 seed in the Northeast regional Boston College 4 straight times.

Boston U's senior class, which had been a disappointment up to this season, is playing their best hockey in their final season. Tiny Brad Zancanaro has developed into a scorer along with senior teammate John Laliberte. David Vander Gulik, who hasn't had quite the same success as his BCHL linemmates Gabe Gauthier and Jeff Tambellini, missed some time due to injury this season, but is back and playing very well. He has two hat tricks in his last four games.

In goal, Minnesota native John Curry has been reliable for the Terriers. He's 9th in the country with a 2.16 goals against average.

Nebraska-Omaha will be making their first trip to the NCAA tournament. The Mavericks first NCAA tournament bid almost eluded them after a late season swoon, however. Omaha climbed as high as tied for fourth in the Pairwise Rankings this season, but after failing to win a game against lowly Western Michigan, and being swept in the playoffs by Northern Michigan, UNO was firmly on the NCAA bubble. There were no major conference tournament upsets though and Omaha was able to sneak away with the last at-large bid.

That doesn't mean the Mavericks are just happy to be there. They'll bring a high-powered offense to Worcester that could cause problems for BU. They're led by the country's most dynamic scorer in Scott Parse, and his talented linemate Bill Thomas. Omaha's offense runs deeper than their dynamic duo, though. They also get solid offensive contributions from sophomore Bryan Marshall, freshmen Tomas Klempa, and junior Alex Nikiforuk. Offensive-minded defenseman Juha Uotila can also join the rush and be a dangerous scoring threat.

The success of the Mavericks should rest on how well they play defense. They lost talented defenseman Joe Grimaldi to the OHL in the second half of the season, but the team seemed to rally behind his loss and played better in his absence. They're still thin on the blueline though.

Goaltending was also a major question mark coming into this season after starting goalie Chris Holt left to join the New York Rangers organization. Freshmen Greg Barrett and Jerad Kaufmanm battled for the starting job, with Kaufmann winning out. Kaufmann's numbers are respectable, but I don't think Omaha can rely on him to steal a game for them in the tournament.

This is a tough game to predict. Omaha is a very tough match-up as a number four seed, but given the way they played down the stretch, I'm going to have to pick Boston University. This should be a very close game, but I see BU's depth and stronger goaltending helping BU win this one late.