Commentary

Hockey gears up for tournaments

The Atlantic Hockey, CCHA and ECAC Hockey tourneys begin

Updated: March 6, 2009, 7:54 PM ET
By Inside College Hockey

Men's hockey conference tournaments are kicking off this weekend with Atlantic Hockey, CCHA and ECAC Hockey. Inside College Hockey has everything you need to know for the first rounds.

Atlantic Hockey

Bracket

No. 10 AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL at No. 7 HOLY CROSS
Season Series: Holy Cross, 3-1-0


American International: 5-27-2 (5-22-1 AHA)
Holy Cross: 11-18-5 (10-15-3 AHA)

Yellow Jackets Fact: AIC last won its opening-round game in 2007.
Crusaders fact: Holy Cross is 0-3 in playoffs since a second-round NCAA run in 2006.

How AIC Wins: The Jackets must find a way to score after being held to one goal or fewer in their past three meetings with the Crusaders.
How Holy Cross Wins: The Crusaders' offense is showing signs of life after a recent skid. Ian Dams has no NCAA playoff experience and Adam Roy suffered two OT losses last year, so someone has to come up big.

No. 9 CONNECTICUT at No. 8 SACRED HEART
Season Series: Sacred Heart, 2-0-0


Connecticut: 9-25-2 (8-18-2 AHA)
Sacred Heart: 9-21-4 (9-16-3 AHA)

Huskies Fact: Ninth place is the lowest UConn finish in Atlantic Hockey history and the Huskies' worst since finishing 10th in the MAAC in 2002-03.
Pioneers Fact: Sacred Heart had the longest streak of top-5 finishes in the league snapped at five years.

How Connecticut Wins: Beau Erickson has a goals-against average of just more than two in the past two weeks, and that could be just enough to bolster a rejuvenated Husky offense.
How Sacred Heart Wins: The Pioneers' offense seems to come and go, so Sacred Heart needs a good night to avoid having UConn post another upset, like in 2006.


CCHA

Bracket

No. 12 BOWLING GREEN at No. 5 OHIO STATE
Season Series: Ohio State, 2-0-0


Bowling Green: 11-22-3 (8-19-1, 0 SOW CCHA)
Ohio State: 20-12-4 (13-11-4, 3 SOW CCHA)

Falcons Fact: Bowling Green is just 2-13-1 away from home this season and has lost seven road games in a row.
Buckeyes Fact: Ohio State hasn't scored a power play goal in any of its past 24 chances, going back more than four games.

How Bowling Green Wins: Taking advantage of an experienced lineup that won a playoff series on the road last year, the Falcons can keep a cooler head than a younger, less-experienced Buckeyes team.
How Ohio State Wins: Keep up a sense of urgency that helped them to wins over Michigan and Miami over the past two weekends and show some improvement on special teams.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 6 NORTHERN MICHIGAN
Season Series: Michigan State, 1-0-1 with a shootout win


Michigan State: 10-21-5 (7-17-4, 3 SOW CCHA)
Northern Michigan: 14-15-5 (11-12-5, 3 SOW CCHA)

Spartans Fact: History is on Michigan State's side, as it is a very impressive 14-1-0 all-time in first-round playoff games.
Wildcats Fact: Northern Michigan was highly regarded heading into the season, and the Wildcats' 11-3-2 record since the beginning of 2009 shows why.

How Michigan State Wins: Jeff Lerg takes the team on his back and inspires some of his younger teammates to step up their efforts and forget the regular-season disappointments.
How Northern Michigan Wins: Keep up the dynamic play they've kept up throughout the second half, and count on contributions from leading scorer Mark Olver and the Swedish connection -- Gregor Hansen and Erik Gustafsson.

No. 10 LAKE SUPERIOR STATE at No. 7 WESTERN MICHIGAN
Season Series: 1-1-0


Lake Superior State: 10-18-8 (7-15-6, 1 SOW CCHA)
Western Michigan: 12-17-7 (9-13-6, 2 SOW CCHA)

Lakers Fact: After going a respectable 4-3-1 in January, the Lakers struggled to a 1-7-0 record in February. Their only win in February came against the Broncos.
Broncos Fact: This is the third time this decade Western Michigan has hosted a playoff series, but home ice hasn't been kind to the Broncos -- they lost both previous series.

How Lake Superior Wins: Staying out of the penalty box, as Western Michigan has one of the better power plays in the league, and the Lakers' penalty killing is simply average.
How Western Michigan Wins: Keep up the recent spike in production from dynamic forwards Patrick Galivan -- who won the league scoring title -- and Greg Squires, as well as some blue-line contributions from Tyler Ludwig.

No. 9 FERRIS STATE at No. 8 NEBRASKA-OMAHA
Season Series: Ferris State, 2-1-1 with a shootout win


Ferris State: 12-17-7 (9-14-5, 2 SOW CCHA)
Nebraska-Omaha: 13-15-8 (8-13-7, 3 SOW CCHA)

Bulldogs Fact: The second half of the conference season was disappointing for Ferris State, but a point of pride is the penalty kill, which ranked third in conference play.
Mavericks Fact: Nebraska-Omaha hasn't won a game since Jan. 9 and has averaged just 1.35 goals per game since then after averaging 3.22 goals in its first 22 games.

How Ferris State Wins: The Bulldogs need solid goaltending from Taylor Nelson and Pat Nagle to get through the first round.
How Nebraska-Omaha Wins: The Mavericks need to get back to the defense-first philosophy that made them successful in the first half, while making sure they finish the chances they get.


ECAC Hockey

Bracket

No. 12 BROWN at No. 5 HARVARD
Season Series: 0-0-2


Brown: 3-21-5 (3-15-4 ECACH)
Harvard: 9-14-6 (9-7-6 ECACH)

Bears Fact: Brown has won just one playoff series in the past five years, a first-round series against Rensselaer in 2005.
Crimson Fact: This is the ninth straight year that Harvard will play its first postseason series on home ice. The Crimson have advanced in all eight previous home series.

How Brown Wins: Maintain momentum. That sounds a little strange for a three-win team, but the Bears have a win over Quinnipiac, a tie against Colgate and a close loss to nationally ranked Cornell -- a game that Brown led deep into the third period -- in its past three games.
How Harvard Wins: Protect this house. All nine of Harvard's wins on the season have come in league home games, where they went 9-1-1 in their 11 ECACH contests.

No. 11 RENSSELAER at No. 6 DARTMOUTH
Season Series: Dartmouth, 2-0-0


Rensselaer: 7-25-2 (6-15-1 ECACH)
Dartmouth: 14-12-3 (11-9-2 ECACH)

Engineers Fact: Five of Rensselaer's top six scorers are freshmen or sophomores.
Big Green Fact: Since ECAC Hockey adopted its current playoff system in 2003, the Big Green have been seeded no lower than sixth, other than in 2008 (12th).

How RPI Wins: Get a big save early. RPI has been outscored by 10 in the first period despite having the same number of shots as their opponents. When the Engineers scored first, they were 5-2-1 in league games.
How Dartmouth Wins: Take advantage on the power play. Four of their tallies in the regular-season meetings against RPI were PPGs, and the Engineers are one of the most penalized teams in the country.

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