WNY Hockey Prospects

2015 NCAA Tournament Preview: Midwest

Sean Malone (Image Credit Gil Talbot)

The 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament begins this weekend and as many people know, there will be quite a few Western New York Hockey Prospects who will be looking to help their team’s reach this year Frozen Four this April 9 & 11 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Here’s a preview of this weekends matchups.

Midwest Bracket – South Bend, IN

Saturday March 28th
No. 1 Minnesota State vs. No. 4 R.I.T.
4:00 P.M. on ESPNU

As the winner of the Atlantic Hockey Association, the Rochester Institute of Technology was guaranteed a bid in the NCAA Tournament. What wasn’t guaranteed however was an easy game. R.I.T. finds themselves matched up against the tournament’s #1 overall seed in the Minnesota State Mavericks and will have their hands full this afternoon in South Bend if they are to pull of the upset.

Although most college hockey analysts and writers aren’t giving the R.I.T. much of a chance in this game, they certainly have more than a punchers chance in my opinion. The matchup will not be easy as the Mavericks are likely the stingiest team in the league in terms of defensive play and goaltending. The Mavericks are backstopped by junior netminder Stephon Williams, a 4th Round Draft pick of the New York Islanders in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Williams 1.64 goals against average is one of the best marks in all of college hockey and has helped him to a 25-5-3 record. Even more impressive than Williams’ play in net might be the fact that the Mavericks only allow an average of 21.6 shots a game, or roughly 7 shots per period for the opposition.

R.I.T. on the other hand plays a very offensive game. The Mavericks will look to contain R.I.T.’s top line but will certainly have its hands full. R.I.T.’s offense very much goes as does their top line. Led by senior forward Matt Garbowsky who enters the game with 26 goals and 27 assists for 53 points, the line also features Josh Mitchell with 15 goals and 35 assists for 50 points and Brad McGowan with 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points. In addition to McGowan, Campbell or Garbowsky, the Tigers roster also features four Western New York Hockey Prospects in goaltender Mike Rotolo (Greece, NY), and forwards Garret McMullen (Churchville, NY), Max Mikowski (Cheektowaga, NY) and Dan Schuler (Webster, NY). Rotolo has been excellent this season but so has senior netminder Jordan Ruby who has been playing since the start of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament due to an injury to Rotolo and coach Wayne Wilson will likely ride the hot hand of Ruby even if Rotolo is ready to return. If R.I.T. can get their top line going early, it will go a long way towards helping the Tigers earn a huge upset.

 

Saturday March 28th
No. 2 Nebraska-Omaha vs. No. 3 Harvard
7:30 P.M. on ESPN3

An interesting matchup for many reasons, the Midwest Bracket’s late game features The University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks and the Harvard Crimson. The two teams have gone in opposite directions recently but both will be looking to earn a shot at the Frozen Four in Boston with a win.

Nebraska-Omaha has struggled recently with a 2-5-3 record over their last ten games including a two game sweep in the first round of the NCHC tournament and the Mavericks needed a lot of help just to get in to this tournament. The Mavericks have struggled offensively for the better part of a month scoring more than one goal just twice in their last seven games but could be getting a boost for their matchup against Harvard with the potential return of senior captain Dominic Zombo. Zombo has been out since January with a lower body injury and will be looking to jumpstart a team that needs to start fast if they hope to contain a Harvard offense that features the nations leading goal scorer in Jimmy Vesey.

Moving in the exact opposite direction over the last month or so is a Harvard Crimson team who enter this game playing their best hockey of the season. With an offense led by Vesey (31 goals in 36 games) the Crimson will look to jump on the Mavericks early. The Crimson struggled for much of the early part of the season due to an incredible numbers of injuries to some of their biggest contributors but things have changed recently. Since the return of Sean Malone (West Seneca, NY) Alex Kerfoot, Patrick McNally and and Colin Blackwell, the Crimson’s game has finally gotten to a place that head coach Ted Donato is comfortable with. Malone, the Western New York Hockey Prospects #2 overall rated player has been excellent since his return to the lineup and will play a big role for Harvard in this game. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick has 8 goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 20 games and has been excellent since his return. Malone, who plays an elite 200 foot game, has already carved out a nice role for himself in just his second year in Cambridge and will likely see a lot of minutes against the Mavericks in tonight’s matchup.

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