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2014 NCAA Tournament: East Regional Preview

ECAC champs Union grab the top seed in Bridgeport

The NCAA tournament's East regional will take place at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Action starts early in the afternoon on Friday March 28th, and the regional final will be played the following day at 3pm local time.

College hockey's only regular and postseason league champion, Union highlights this bracket. Here's a closer look at the four teams that will compete for a spot in the 2014 Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

No. 1 Union

Bid: Automatic (ECAC Hockey Regular Season and Tournament Champions)

Location: Schenectady, NY

Record: 28-6-4 overall, 18-3-1 ECAC

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Rick Bennett (Providence ‘90)

Captains: Mat Bodie

Leading Scorers: Daniel Carr (22-23-45), Daniel Ciampini (19-16-35), Mat Bodie (4-28-32), Mike Vecchione (12-19-31), Kevin Sullivan (8-22-30)

Starting Goaltender: Colin Stevens (24-4-2, 1.96/.931)

The Dutchmen have become the prominent program in ECAC Hockey over the past half-decade thanks to Nate Leaman before he left to Providence, and now current head coach Rick Bennett.

Senior Daniel Carr is arguably the best player in program history and is the leader of the offense, but the depth up front is remarkable. The forwards are fast, skilled and fly all over the ice. The Dutchmen play an up-tempo forecheck and will come after teams.

Three freshmen forwards are significant contributors led by rookie Michael Vecchione. The Saugus, Mass. native is terrific on face-offs and has really picked up his point production after a bout with Mononucleosis in February. Eli Lichtenwald and Michael Pontarelli are the other two freshmen forwards to keep an eye on in this regional.

Junior Shayne Gostisbehere is the best defenseman in the country. The mobile blue liner is property of the Philadelphia Flyers and will aim to get his team to the Frozen Four in his future home rink, the Wells Fargo Center. Senior Mat Bodie is another terrific offensive defenseman.

Colin Stevens has done a remarkable job replacing Troy Grosenick between the pipes after the latter left a year early following last season.

No. 2 Quinnipiac

Bid: At-Large

Location: Hamden, Conn.

Record: 24-9-6 overall, 12-6-4 ECAC

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (Connecticut College '90)

Captains: Cory Hibbeler

Leading Scorers: Sam Anas (22-21-43), Kellen Jones (18-24-42), Connor Jones (15-23-38), Matthew Peca (12-26-38), Jordan Samuels-Thomas (13-16-29)

Starting Goaltender: Michael Garteig (24-9-6, 1.89/.912)

A year after falling short in the national championship game to nearby rival Yale, the Bobcats look to return to the Frozen Four. Rand Pecknold's team was downright dominant at times this season, holding opponents to minimal shots on goal and pouring on shots on the opposition's goalie.

The first line of Sam Anas and Kellen and Connor Jones is what gets most people's attention, but two other forwards to keep an eye on are Matthew Peca and Jordan Samuels-Thomas. Peca, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, was the MVP of the East Regional in Providence last season. Samuels-Thomas, a Winnipeg draft pick, is a big power forward that Colgate coach Don Vaughan described as a future NHLer before the two teams met in the ECAC Hockey Tournament.

The defense had to replace four veterans from last year's squad, but big senior Zach Tolkinen and junior Danny Federico have led a young defensive core that has had success. Phoenix Coyotes prospect Connor Clifton was one of the best and poised rookie blue liners in the nation. Devon Toews and Joe Fiala also saw significant minutes on the back line.

No. 3 Providence

Bid: At-Large

Location: Providence, RI

Record: 21-10-6 overall, 11-7-2 Hockey East

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Nate Leaman (Cortland '97)

Captains: Kevin Hart, Steven Shamanski

Leading Scorers: Ross Mauermann (19-15-34), Nick Saracino (9-17-26), Mark Jankowski (12-12-24), Noel Acciari (11-11-22)

Starting Goaltender: Jon Gillies (18-8-5, 2.20/.929)

Providence started off the season really strong with impressive weekends against nonconference foes Miami and Minnesota State. The Friars had a little bit of a drop off in the middle of the season, in part due to Jon Gillies playing through a groin injury.

Nate Leaman's squad finished off the regular season strong with four straight wins, including a series sweep of Maine in Orono. The Friars swept Maine out of the Hockey East quarterfinals two weekends late, but fell short against New Hampshire in the league semifinals.

With Gillies healthy and re-focused, the Friars are a dangerous out. Injuries to key forwards have also prevented the Friars from the same production as earlier in the season. Ross Mauermann and Nick Saracino have played through injuries and illness over the past month.

Calgary Flames Mark Jankowski, an extremely young sophomore, is a talented, yet raw forward. When he goes to the net and turns on the motors, he can be fun to watch.

The defense is very solid led by versatile senior Steven Shamanski and sophomore John Gilmour. Freshman and Buffalo Sabres prospect Anthony Florentino is a terrific young talent that plays well at both ends of the ice for a young blue liner.

No. 4 Vermont

Bid: At-Large

Location: Burlington, Vt.

Record: 20-14-3 overall, 10-10-0 Hockey East

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon (Harvard '92)

Captains: Chris McCarthy, H.T. Lenz

Leading Scorers: Chris McCarthy (16-24-40), Mario Puskarich (19-16-35), Michael Paliotta (5-22-37), Jake Fallon (5-15-20)

Starting Goaltender: Brody Hoffman (10-7-1, 2.01/.927)

Vermont snuck into the tournament as the seventh place team in Hockey East after playing eventual Hockey East Tournament champion UMass Lowell tough in the quarterfinals. The Catamounts have a stingy defense led by junior and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Michael Paliotta.

Kevin Sneddon's team is very responsible in its own end, both forwards and blue liners. The Catamounts will look to slow down Union's high-powered offense and keep the Dutchmen forwards to the perimeter.

Senior Chris McCarthy, a USNTDP product, is enjoying a terrific senior season after injuries prevented more success in his first three years in a UVM uniform. He is a strong skater who is strong on the puck and should be a future NHLer. He is one of the better two-way forwards in college hockey.

Sophomore Brody Hoffman rotated with freshman Michael Santaguida for much of the season, but Sneddon has gone with the Wilkie, Saskatchewan native for the past month. Hoffman is fairly agile and quick for such a big goaltender.