College Hockey Roundup: Avs assistant David Quinn named BU head coach; NCAA hockey predictions and more

Image courtesy of bostonherald.com

Well that didn’t take too long did it?  Less than 72 hours after Jack Parker’s final game guiding the Boston University men’s ice hockey program, the school found his replacement — and they decided to keep in the family. At a Tuesday morning press conference former Terrier defenseman and current Colorado Avalanche assistant coach, David Quinn was introduced as the man who will succeed Parker.

Quinn, a native a Cranston, RI, was a first-round pick (13th overall) of the Minnesota North Stars back in 1984 out of Kent High School in Connecticut. Interestingly enough, Quinn was one of four American players taken in first round of that draft, behind Chicago native Ed Olczyk (third overall) to the Blackhawks and Dearborn, MI native Al Iafrate (fourth overall) to Toronto. Detroit native Kevin Hatcher went to Washington with the 17th pick.

Back to Quinn. He played defense for Parker from 1984-87, and after his junior year he tried out for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team but he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, which prevents blood from clotting properly. Due to the disorder, Quinn was forced to retire from the game. Four years later he was given a tryout with the 1992 Olympic team. Quinn did not make it, but he caught the eyes of the New York Rangers, who signed him to a contract in February of 1992. He finished the 1991-92 season with the Rangers AHL team in Binghamton.

Quinn then latched on with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL for the 1992-93 season. In 60 games played, Quinn notched eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points but retired from hockey after its completion. He then worked as an assistant at Northeastern for a year then joined Mike Kemp’s staff at the fledgling University of Nebraska-Omaha where he worked for three years.

Quinn left Omaha to take a developmental coach position for USA hockey, eventually becoming the head coach the U.S. under-17 team. In 2004, he returned to Commonwealth Avenue and joined Parker’s staff. After the Terriers won the national title in 2009, Quinn departed once more, to become head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL.  In three seasons with the Monsters, Quinn posted a record of 115-94-27. He was promoted last year to his current position as an assistant coach for the Avalanche under BU alum Joe Sacco.

There are three reasons why I like this move for BU:

1) Quinn is regarded in college hockey as an outstanding recruiter. He recruited many of the players on the 2009 national championship squad such as Colin Wilson (Nashville Predators), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues) and Nick Bonino (Anaheim Ducks). Not that BU needs any help in the recruiting department but you better believe players went to BU to play under Jack Parker. How Quinn handles the incoming recruits of Jarrid Privitera (Dubuque USHL), Brenden Collier (Valley Junior Warriors EJHL), Rob Baillargeon (Indiana USHL), Kevin Duane (Junior Bruins EJHL), Doyle Somerby (Kimball Union HS, NH) and Dalton MacAfee (St. Sebastian’s HS, MA) and 2014 recruits such as Jack Eichel and Jonathan MacLeod of the U.S. under-17 team remains to be seen. Will they all stay committed or go else where? Only time will tell.

2) Quinn is a BU guy. I think that played heavily into BU’s consideration. Reports indicate that the school also spoke with New York Rangers’ assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who co-captained BU’s 1990 Frozen Four Team and Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes, a member of BU’s 1995 national champions and the 1997 Frozen Four squad. Parker is in many ways irreplaceable but Quinn is a professional with a proven head coaching record he’s a young guy at only 46. Quinn no doubt in my mind will succeed at BU.

3) Lastly, it was a great hire because he has the prototypical New England accent. Enough said.

Oh what a great time of year it is to be hockey fan. NHL playoff races are heating up; trade deadline rumors are swirling and it’s NCAA hockey tournament season. This year’s tournament has some intriguing first round matchups.

Providence (East)

Dunkin Donuts Center

1. Quinnipiac vs. 16. Canisius    (Saturday March 30 at 5:30 p.m.)

6. Boston College vs. 12. Union  (Saturday March 30 at 9:00 p.m.)

Regional Final (Sunday March 30 at 6:30)

The Quinnipiac Bobcats (27-7-5) enter the tournament as the number one overall seed for the first time in their program history. Quinnipiac has had a magical season led most notably by goaltender and Hobey Baker candidate Eric Hartzell. The Bobcats are coming off a weekend that saw them defeat No. 15 Yale, 3-0, to improve to 12-0-0 against teams ranked in the Top-20 in the national polls.

Quinnipiac currently features the nation’s stingiest defense, allowing just 1.62 goals per game, and also holds the nation’s best penalty kill at 91 percent. Canisius received the No. 16 overall seed after defeating Mercyhurst in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Championship Game last Saturday.

The Golden Griffins (what kind of name is that) have won eight in a row to qualify for the NCAA’s for the first time in its history. Up front the Griffs are led by junior forward Kyle Gibbons, who in 41 games played this year had 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points.

While the so called experts thinks Quinnipiac will run away with this game I give you this bit of information. In the last nine years, every game featuring an Atlantic Hockey team in the first round has been close, including wins by Air Force and RIT. Canisius (19-18-5) did lose to No. 2 Minnesota this year by just a 1-0 score. While the Bobcats did stumble in the ECAC semifinals losing to Brown 4-0  I don’t see the Griffs getting much past Hartzell and the Bobcats.

Prediction-Quinnipiac

Do I really need to introduce the Boston College Eagles? BC (22-11-4) has won three of the last five national titles. They are led up front by Hobey Baker candidate Johnny Gaudreau and in net by senior Parker Milner. One thing for sure is the Eagles ought to be glad Jerry York is behind the bench after a second eye surgery last week to repair a detached retina, because BC is only 4-3 without him — including a 6-3 loss to BU in the Hockey East semis on Friday.

Union (21-12-5) comes into the tournament coming off its second straight ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship. Saturday’s meeting will mark the first time in the program’s 22-year Division I history that Union and Boston College will meet. Union is 1-2-0 against Hockey East opponents this season, including a 4-1 win over Merrimack in the Catamount Cup on December 30. The Dutchmen were in the Frozen Four last season and have a wealth of experience but BC has been there. They have the pedigree. They play in a tougher league.

Union may have Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere but they have no Johnny Gaudreau, who always seems to step his game up when the bright lights are shining.

Prediction-Boston College

Toledo (Mid-West)

Huntington Center

4. Notre Dame vs. 13. St. Cloud State  (Saturday March 30, at 1:30 p.m.)

5. Miami vs. 11. Minnesota State (Saturday March 30, at 5:00 p.m.)

 Regional Final (Sunday March 31, at 4:00 p.m.)

The Fighting Irish (25-12-3) got hot down the stretch and won the CCHA tournament championship, ending Michigan’s 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. ND is 2-1-0 this season against teams from the WCHA. Four ND players hail from the state of Minnesota, including Mario Lucia — the son of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. Anders Lee leads ND this season with 20 goals 18 assists for 38 points. Bryan Rust has 15 goals and 18 assists and Jeff Costello has 11 goals 19 assists. Junior Steven Summerhays is ND’s top goalie with a 1.94 GAA and a .922 save rate this winter. ND has outscored its opponents 311-229 this season.

St. Cloud State (23-15-1) is 1-2-0 in games played against CCHA teams in the NCAA tournament. SCSU is 5-5-0 in the all-time series against Notre Dame and is 1-2-0 in games played against CCHA teams in the NCAA tournament.

Huskies forward Drew LeBlanc is one of this year’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award top 10 finalists. He is the fourth SCSU player to be selected as a Hobey Baker Award top 10 finalist. LeBlanc finished the year with 50 points.

I’ve always liked St. Cloud State and I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s the uniforms? Or their mascot? Or the fact that former Flyer Andreas Nodl is an alum? I don’t know.

One thing I know for sure is I hate everything there is about Notre Dame. Everything from Knute Rockne, Golden Tate, Lou Holtz, their uniforms, the dump that is South Bend, Indiana and stinking Rudy. Yes, I know they have nothing to do with hockey but I don’t care. I actually think SCSU can pull off the upset.

 Prediction- St. Cloud State

Miami (24-11-5) won the CCHA regular season with a very young team. The Red Hawks were prone to lapses this season. They were shutout seven times this season and got throttled by an underachieving Michigan 6-2 in the CCHA semifinals. Miami is the No. 2 seed for the second straight year and third time overall, also earning it in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, though the ‘Hawks are 0-2 as a No. 2 seed. Miami is 7-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and last appeared in the Midwest Regional in 2010, when the Red Hawks won the regional and advanced to the Frozen Four. Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik, who is a Hobey Baker Award finalist, was named the league’s Player of the Year and freshman forward Riley Barber earned CCHA Rookie of the Year.

Minnesota State posted a record of 24-13-3 overall and 16-11-1 in WCHA play this year to tie for fourth in the league. The Mavericks, who are making just their second ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, won their first-round series in the WCHA Tournament over Nebraska-Omaha, but fell to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Minnesota State’s other NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2002-03, when the Mavericks lost in the first round. Sophomore forward Matt Leitner led the Mavs in scoring with 47 points this season.

My head wants to pick Miami and my heart is telling me Minnesota State. Mankato does have awesome uniforms and David Backes is an alum. For that I might as well make this my upset region.

Prediction- Minnesota State Mankato

Manchester (Northeast)

Verizon Wireless Center

3. Mass.-Lowell vs. 14. Wisconsin  (Friday March 29, 4:30 p.m.)

7. New Hampshire vs. 9. Denver   (Friday March 29, 8:00 p.m.)

Regional Final (Saturday March 30, 6:30 p.m.)

This is quite possibly the most intriguing match up of this year’s tournament. Wisconsin (22-12-7) needed to win the WCHA tournament to get in, and it did. UMass-Lowell (26-10-2) didn’t need to, but they did. Lowell was also the regular-season Hockey East champ, and is in back-to-back NCAA’s for the first time ever.

Freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck (WPG 130th overall ’12) stopped 70 of 71 shots and backstopped the River Hawks to 2-1 win over Providence and 1-0 victory over Boston University to clinch the Hockey East Tournament Title. He was named Most Valuable Player. With the likes of Maine, BC, BU, UNH, and Merrimack who would have thought Lowell would be here. This team is for real.

Wisconsin returns to the tournament for the first time since losing to Boston College in the 2010 championship game. The Badgers enter the national tournament as the 2013 WCHA Final Five champion, having won six-straight games. Generally, teams that enter these types of tournaments on a role tend to do favor well. Wisconsin is a defensive first team with Joel Rumpel (undrafted) in goal and Jake McCabe (BUF 44th overall ’12) and John Ramage (CGY 103rd overall ’10) on the blue line.

ESPN’s Barry Melrose likes Wisconsin to win the whole tournament. Sorry Barry. I like Norm Bazin’s Lowell.

Prediction-UMass-Lowell

New Hampshire (19-11-7) gets in the tournament because it’s hosting this regional. They finished fifth in the league, and lost its quarterfinal playoff series. The Wildcats had some big non-league wins this year, including one over Denver and a sweep of St. Cloud State. UNH  has been to the tournament 11 of the last 12 years and 18 of the past 22 dating back to 1992. New Hampshire has a 14-24 record in 21 previous NCAA appearances and the Wildcats have advanced to seven Frozen Fours, the most recent of which was in 2003 when the ‘Cats played in the title game.

The Pioneers currently boast a record of 20-13-5, which included a mark of 14-9-5 in WCHA action.  Denver has secured a 20-win season for the 12th consecutive year, which is the longest current stretch nationally. This will be Denver’s sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and its 24th overall.  The Pioneers received an at-large bid after finishing fifth overall in the WCHA regular season standings.  Denver owns a 27-19 mark all-time in NCAA Tournament action and has advanced to the national semifinals 14 previous times in its history. Junior forward Nick Shore (LA, 82nd overall ’11) led the Pioneers in scoring with 33 points, while junior forward Kevin Goumas (undrafted) paced the Wildcats with 42 points. Denver has to travel roughly 2000 miles across the country to play New Hampshire in front of their home fans. I believe that will have a factor.

Prediction- New Hampshire

Grand Rapids (West)

Van Andel Arena

2. Minnesota vs. 15. Yale (Friday, March 29 at 2:00 p.m.)

8. North Dakota vs. 10. Niagara  (Friday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m.)

Regional Final (Saturday, March 30 at 4:00 p.m.)

Minnesota (26-8-5) lost the WCHA semifinal to Colorado College but they have been the most impressive and deepest team in college hockey this season in my opinion. The Gophers did make a Frozen Four appearance last season and are poised to return their once again. With the likes of Nick Bjugstad (FLA 19th overall ’10) Kyle Rau (FLA 91st overall ’11), Erik Haula (MIN 182nd overall ’09) and Zach Budish (NSH 41st overall, ’09) up front the Gophers are a dominant offensive team ranked first in college hockey in scoring.

The Yale Bulldogs (18-12-3) got in as the last at-large team in the field, seeded 15th overall. They lost two games in Atlantic City over the weekend and ultimately got in when Michigan lost the CCHA championship game. The Bulldogs have been in the NCAA’s four of the last five years now, and had wins in the 2010 and 2011 tournaments. Minnesota has been known to take some nights off. Will they overlook the Bulldogs? I don’t think so.

Prediction- Minnesota

This is the 11th straight trip to the NCAA’s, and 16th in the last 17 years for North Dakota. The Sioux (21-12-7) dynamic of senior linemates Danny Kristo (MTL 56th overall ’08) and Corban Knight (FLA 135th overall ’09) have racked up a combined 305 career points, making them the highest-scoring duo in the nation. Kristo’s 160 career points lead all active NCAA Division I men’s players, while Knight’s 145 career points rank sixth. Kristo tallied his 67th career goal last Thursday in the WCHA Final Five quarterfinal against Colorado College, giving him sole possession of the active lead in that category as well. Kristo ranks third in the national scoring race with a career-high 51 points, including a WCHA-leading 25 goals.

Knight ranks eighth nationally with a career-high 48 points and his 33 assists rank second. He leads the nation with 591 faceoff wins, 98 more than any other player and second-most in UND history.

Niagara earned its fourth NCAA tournament berth in program history after going 23-9-5 and winning the Atlantic Hockey regular season championship. Junior goalie Carsen Chubak, the AHA Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 finalist, is 23-6-5 with a 1.91 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.

Junior forward Ryan Murphy leads the team in scoring with 36 points, two points ahead of senior forward Giancarlo Iuorio. Iuorio leads the team with 21 goals. The combo of Kristo and Knight will be too much for Purple Eagles. However, part of me really wants to pick Niagara.

 Prediction- North Dakota

My Frozen Four Predictions- Boston College, St. Cloud State, UMass-Lowell and Minnesota  

Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com

A huge shout out to the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team, who completed a 41-0 season Sunday by winning their second straight national championship with a 6-3 victory over Boston University. The Gophershave now won 49 games in a row.

Their last loss was on Feb. 17, 2012, against North Dakota. Junior forward Amanda Kessel, (sister of Phil) had an NCAA -leading 46 goals and 55 assists for 102 points. Minnesota outscored opponents by 216-36 this season. Senior goaltender Noora Raty, named most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament, had 17 shutouts, a 0.96 goals against-average and a .956 save percentage this season. Truly remarkable stuff from the Lady Gophers.