Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCAA Tournament Time!

With the work thing getting in my way this week, and quite a bit recently, Alex over at MURedHawks Hockey Blog has the honors this week of writing up the preview of today's game against UAH. Thanks for letting me steal the content, Alex!

Many of you diehard college hockey fans have no doubt heard about the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, but the majority of the publicity that UAH has gotten lately has been less than encouraging. Throughout the program's existence, UAH has been a part of the soon to be defunct College Hockey America (CHA). For now, the Chargers are in essence "homeless," without an official conference to play in next season and an independent schedule in front of them. With Nebraska-Omaha's departure from the CCHA creating an open slot, UAH applied for membership, and received a "thanks but no thanks" reply from the league and commissioner Tom Anastos. Most certainly down, but not out, the Chargers are writing a new chapter in their program's history, winning the final CHA Championship and making the NCAA Tournament as an Automatic Qualifier.

This won't be the first time that the two schools have met. Miami swept the Chargers in the 2003-2004 season at Goggin Ice Arena and Miami holds a 5-1 all-time advantage against UAH. Here's a look at the matchup, scheduled for 4pm ET on ESPNU:

Up front, UAH has forwards Cody Campbell and Andrew Coburn. Campbell, a sophomore and Coburn, a junior are both 22 point scorers. Campbell has 8-14-22 on the season and Coburn is an assist better than his teammate, notching 7-15-22. Separating these two players gives the Chargers the ability to roll more than one line, as Coburn usually centers a line with Kevin Morrison and Chris Fairbanks. Campbell plays on the right wing with Neil Ruffini in the middle and Sebastien Geoffrion on the left side. The RedHawks will need to keep an eye on these two lines, especially Ruffini's.

The bread and butter within the Chargers game resides on the blueline and on special teams, particularly with the penalty kill, ranked 4th in the nation. On the blueline, there are a good mix of underclassmen and "veterans"; seniors with NCAA tournament experience.

Unlike the RedHawks, UAH has a definitive number one goaltender in Cameron Talbot. No platoons here. The junior has recorded the decision in every one of the Chargers games this season and has a record of 12-17-3 with a 2.62 GAA and a .924 save percentage (which ties him for 5th in the nation with our own Cody Reichard). Backup 'tender Blake MacNicol has only seen action in two games and has no record.

Keys to Victory
For Miami to advance, staying out of the penalty box and running a physical game are both very important. The RedHawks definitely have the size advantage in this matchup, and will rely on that physicality to carry the tempo.

Prediction: UAH is a great story, but doesn't have the depth that the RedHawks do. Many say this is a "trap game"; a 4-1 matchup, but I think the skill and experience win out. Miami advances, 4-2.

Friday Recap

East Regional
#4 RIT 2, #1 Denver 1 - Yet another #4 seed defeating a #1. Last year, three #4's advanced to the second round including Miami. Obviously the RedHawks will be on full alert today as they take on a #4 seed themselves.

#3 New Hampshire 6, #2 Cornell 2 - Overrated Cornell taken behind the woodshed by UNH. All-world goaltender Ben Scrivens let in several soft goals as the Wildcats rolled.

West Regional
#1 Wisconsin 3, #4 Vermont 2 - Close game, but Wiscy wasn't really threatened.

#2 St. Cloud 4, #3 Northern Michigan 3 (2 OT) - Bummer for the CCHA, but NMU played well. Interestingly, SCSU notches it's first ever NCAA Tournament victory setting up a rematch of last week's WCHA tournament semifinal where the Huskies shutout the Badgers 2-0. This game will be played in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul likely handing the Huskies a sizeable home ice advantage.

Saturday's Schedule

Midwest Regional - Semifinals
#1 Miami v. #4 Alabama-Huntsville - 4pm ESPNU
#2 Bemidji State v. #3 Michigan - 7:30pm FSN North

Northeast Regional - Semifinals
#1 Boston College v. #4 Alaska-Fairbanks - 1:30pm
#2 North Dakota v. #3 Yale - 5pm FSN North

East Regional Final
#3 UNH v. #4 RIT - 6:30pm ESPNU HD

West Regional Final
#1 Wisconsin v. #2 St. Cloud State - 9pm ESPNU HD

Sunday's Schedule
Northeast Regional Final - 5:30pm ESPNU
Midwest Regional Final - 8pm ESPNU

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