The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 29, 2014

College hockey gameday: Minnesota State vs. UMass Lowell

The Mankato Free Press

---- — The 11th-ranked Mavericks (26-13-1) will take on the fifth-ranked River Hawks (25-10-4) in the first round of the tournament. This is MSU’s second-straight trip to the NCAAs and Lowell’s third in a row. The two teams met three times in the Division II national tournament in 1979, 1980 and 1981. Lowell leads the all-time series 4-3. In the regional’s first game, No. 3 Boston College plays No. 17 Denver.

The 5-hole

Five things to know about the Northeast Regional

1. In the balance: Over the course of their 13-game unbeaten streak, the Mavericks are getting contributions throughout their lineup. In the team’s current line configuration, the top three forward lines have accounted for 87, 85 and 83 points, respectively. Leading scorer Matt Leitner (12-32—44) has failed to register a point in just two of his last 18 games. His linemate, Bryce Gervais (16-10—26), has 16 points, including 10 goals, in his last 13 games. Jean-Paul LaFontaine (20-20—40) is looking to end an eight-game goal-scoring drought.

2. Staying the same: Minnesota State appears to be going with with the same defensive lineup that won the Broadmoor Trophy a week ago in Grand Rapids, Mich. Josh Nelson and Carter Foguth remain out with injuries. Junior Brett Stern (1-6—7) packed on more minutes and scored his first goal of the season in the WCHA title game, while Nelson’s brother, Casey (1-4—5), a freshman, filled in admirably after being a healthy scratch over the Mavericks’ previous 13 games.

3. Scouting the River Hawks: Lowell reached the NCAAs, the same way MSU did — by winning its conference tournament. Unbeaten in six of their last eight games, including a pair of shutouts in the Hockey East semifinals and finals, the River Hawks are led in scoring by senior forward Joseph Pendenza (13-16—29). He’s part of a top line with A.J. White (7-12—19) and Josh Holmstrom (6-11—17). Lowell has the stingiest defense in the country, allowing 1.85 goals per game. Only one other team in the country is below 2.00.

4. About Boston College: The Eagles (26-7-4) were the country’s No. 1 team for most of the season. From Dec. 6 to Feb. 22, they rattled off a 19-game unbeaten streak. The Hockey East regular-season champion has won just one of four games since then. Boston College has the Hobey Baker favorite in junior forward Johnny Gaudreau (32-37—69), who leads the nation in goals and points. Senior forward Kevin Hayes (24-32—56) is next for the nation’s top offense (4.05 goals per game).

5. About Denver: The Pioneers (20-15-6) reached the regional by winning the inaugural NCHC playoff championship last weekend in Minneapolis. First-year coach Jim Montgomery hasn’t changed the formula too much with DU. Senior goaltender Sam Brittain has played 38 games and has a .932 save percentage and a 2.11 goals-against average. Freshman forward Trevor Moore (13-18—31) is the top scorer for the former WCHA power.

Shane Frederick

NCAA Northeast Regional Today and Sunday; DCU Center; Worcester, Mass. Saturday's games: Boston College vs. Denver, 3 p.m.; UMass-Lowell vs. Minnesota State, 6:30 p.m. Sunday's game: Championship, 4 p.m. TV: MSU's game will be streamed live online through ESPN3, tape-delay on ESPNU at 10:30 p.m. Radio: KTOE 1420AM and 102.7 FM Live blog: Twitter: @puckato