2015 NCAA Tournament – Midwest Regional Preview

Midwest Regional

Site: Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, Ind.Saturday’s schedule: (1) Minnesota State vs. (4) Rochester Institute of Technology, 4 p.m. EDT, ESPNU; (2) Omaha vs. (3) Harvard, 7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN3.

Sunday’s schedule: Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPNU.

Minnesota State

Record: 29-7-3 (21-4-3 WCHA, first)
How they qualified: WCHA champions
Last appearance: 2014
Championships: None
Player to watch for: Stephon Williams (34 GP, 25-5-3, 1.63 GAA, .926 SV%)

Overview: They have a lot of pressure being the No. 1 overall seed. The Mavericks have yet to win a NCAA tournament game at the Division I level after being one-and-done the three previous times they’ve been in the tournament. Of all the teams affected by conference realignment, they have benefited the most as they’ve elevated themselves to a national power. They’re qualifying for the tournament for the third straight year so this roster will not be in awe of the pressures the tournament brings. They’ve won the conference double this season and they can make it three trophies with a national title.

Rochester Institute of Technology
Record: 19-14-5 (14-9-5 Atlantic Hockey, third place)
How they qualified: Atlantic Hockey champions
Last appearance: 2010
Championships: None
Player to watch for: Matt Garbowsky (38 GP, 26-27–53)
Overview: The Tigers have a proven track record of shocking the world and knocking off top teams (look back to 2010). But this edition is nothing like the team that went to the Frozen Four. The 2015 Tigers was a middle of the standings team until something clicked around the holidays and they’ve been 14-4-2 over the second half of the season. They are 0-3 against teams that have qualified for this years tournament but they all came in the early half of the season.
University of Nebraska Omaha
Record: 18-12-6 (12-8-4-3 NCHC, third)
How they qualified: At-large
Last appearance: 2011
Championships: None
Player to watch for: Austin Ortega (36 GP, 19-15-34)
Overview: Like Providence, Omaha started out well but a series of losses has them backing their way into the field. Also like the Friars, they’ve had two weeks off to refresh the batteries before heading to South Bend. What should concern Mavericks fans is they have won one game in 65 minutes or less since Feb. 14. Sure they’ve won two shootouts in that span, but in the NCAA’s eyes they’re marked as ties. This is a young roster as they have only three senior skaters. Their top seven guys in points are freshman and sophomores, which means they lack big game experience at this level.Harvard University

Record: 21-12-3 (11-8-3 ECAC Hockey, sixth place)
How they qualified: ECAC champions
Last appearance: 2006
Championship: 1989
Player to watch for: Jimmy Vesey (36 GP, 31-26–57)

Overview: Not many teams have been as Jekyll-and-Hyde as the Crimson this season Going into their Jan. 10 game against Yale where they lost 4-1, they were ranked third in the nation. On February 27, they were ranked 16th. Over that time they went 4-9-1. But they picked it up heading into the ECAC tournament, where the’re only loss was a 2-0 loss to Yale in Game 2 of the ECAC quarterfinals. They rattled off three straight wins since then to take the ECAC title. One thing that works in their favor is they are 17-1-1 when scoring first.

Last Words: The No. 1 overall seed has advanced to the Frozen Four three years running and six of the last seven. The Mavericks occupy the hot seat this time around and they will face a team that has a Frozen Four under their belt. On the other side one team hasn’t won a game in the tournament while the other hasn’t played this deep in March in nine years. Two teams enter South Bend hot, while the other two are unpredictable. Which team will book a flight to Boston?

Prediction:  Minnesota State over Harvard

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