2013 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Northeast Regional
- at Verizon Wireless Arena (Manchester, N.H.) -
No. 3 UMass Lowell (26-10-2, 16-9-2 Hockey East) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (22-12-7, 13-8-7 WCHA)
No. 12 Denver (20-13-5, 14-9-5 WCHA) at No. 10 New Hampshire (19-11-7, 13-8-6 Hockey East)
NOTES ON THE...
>> Third-ranked UMass Lowell earned the nation's third overall seed, after securing its first Hockey East championship title with a 1-0 win over Boston University on Saturday at TD Garden. Junior Derek Arnold scored the lone goal at 11:09 of the third period and freshman Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves en route to earning Tournament MVP honors.
>> Lowell enters the NCAA first round with a 20-3-1 record since Christmas - the best mark of any Division I program in the nation. Its next closest competitor will sit on the opposite side of the ice on Saturday in Wisconsin, at 20-5-1.
>> Senior Riley Wetmore will become the first captain in school history to captain the River Hawks to two NCAA Tournaments in as many years. Friday's game will also continue his impressive ironman streak of 150 consecutive games played since beginning his UML career.
>> Thanks to a 3-2 win over Colorado College to clinch the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn., the fourth-seeded Badgers earned their 24th-ever berth into the national tournament. The Badgers own winning records all-time against the other three competitors, including a 7-1-1 mark against UML.
>> Wisconsin has clinched its third 20-win season in four years, and its seventh in 11 seasons during Mike Eaves' era at the helm, thanks in large part to freshman Californian Nic Kerdiles, who posted three goals, including two game-winning goals, and three assists at the Final Five, earning MVP honors. Kerdiles ranks second in the nation in scoring during the month of March with 11 assists and 15 points.
>> UW, which comes to Manchester for its 13th consecutive weekend of play, has played to 15 one-goal games in its last 22 and is outscoring its opponents at even-strength this year by a 90-54 mark.
>> The 'Cats enter the weekend as the host institution of the regional for the fifth time since 2004, despite falling to Providence in an exciting three-game series in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
>> UNH has a 7-1-1 overall record for a .833 winning percentage against teams competing in 2013 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, including a season sweep of top-seeded UMass Lowell in Hockey East league play. In addition, prior to 2012, the last time it did not advance to the NCAA tournament was 2001. One year later, the Wildcats advanced to the Frozen Four.
>> In its meeting with Denver on Nov. 24, 2012, UNH came back for a 6-4 win at Magness Arena, led by three goals and two assists each from junior Kevin Goumas and sophomore Grayson Downing. Goumas (who posted a league-best 32 assists this year) and sophomore netminder Casey DeSmith were named Honorable Mention Hockey East All-Stars at last Thursday's league banquet.
>> UD dropped its final two games to Colorado College in the WCHA Playoffs on March 16-17 but still earned a No. 3 seed this weekend, thanks to its 12th season in a row with 20 or more victories (the nation's longest streak). The Pioneers have won both of their previous meetings with the Wildcats in NCAA competition, decisive wins in the 1995 East Regional and the 2005 Northeast Regional.
>> The 2013 Pioneer senior class - led by second-leading scorer Chris Knowlton - has led Denver to 97 wins, one WCHA regular season title and is only the second class in program history to make four consecutive NCAA appearances.
>> Sophomores Juho Olkinuora and Joey LaLeggia were named to the All-WCHA Second Team, while Nolan Zajac was recognized with All-WCHA Rookie Team status this year. Olkinuora, an Espoo, Finland native, ranks 22nd nationally with a 2.28 GAA and 14th in save percentage at .929, while his season resume includes a 29-save shutout of Boston University on Dec. 29, 2012. The team is led by junior Nick Shore, a hometown Denver native, who has scored 14 goals and 33 points thus far.
>> Denver boasts the nation’s highest scoring defensive unit with 121 points - 36.1 percent of the teams’ total point output, including 29 points from sophomore LaLeggia, who was named All-WCHA Second Team.
TIMES AND TELEVISION
Friday's opening semifinal between the River Hawks and Badgers kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN3.com, while UNH and Denver drop the puck at 8 p.m. with a live broadcast on ESPN3. The winners in the opening round will meet Saturday at 6:30 on ESPN3. Clay Matvick and Jim Paradise will have the call of all three games.
TO THE VICTOR...
The winner of two games this weekend will advance to the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and face the West Region champ (North Dakota, Niagara, Minnesota, or Yale) in the national semifinals on Thursday, April 11.
Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.