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Albany Regional preview: A look at UND, Notre Dame, MSU-Mankato and Harvard

The Fighting Hawks open NCAA tournament play at 5 p.m. Thursday against the Fighting Irish.

North Dakota vs Western Michigan
North Dakota forward Ashton Calder (16) makes a pass against Western Michigan during the third period Friday, March 18, 2022, in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ALBANY, N.Y. — UND opens NCAA tournament play at 5 p.m. Central on Thursday against Notre Dame in MVP Arena in downtown Albany.

UND's game will come after the regional's top seed, Minnesota State-Mankato, takes on Harvard at 11 a.m. Both games will be on ESPNU. Here's a look at the four teams participating in the Albany Regional.

North Dakota

Seed: No. 2.
Record: 24-13-1.
League: National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
NCAA tournament appearances: 34.
NCAA titles: 2016, 2000, 1997, 1987, 1982, 1980, 1963, 1959.
Last Frozen Four: 2016.
Coach: Brad Berry (seventh season).
Top forward: Soph. Riese Gaber. The former United States Hockey League MVP is UND's most electric forward, using his speed and quick release to lead the Fighting Hawks in goals (15) and points (37). Nearly half of his goals (seven) have come on the power play.
Top defenseman: Jr. Ethan Frisch. The blue liner from Moorhead won the NCHC's defensive defenseman of the year award. But he can also add an offensive punch. Frisch has nine goals this season and had a stretch where he scored in six of seven games.
Top goaltender: Fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll. The Bemidji State transfer has posted a .907 save percentage this season, but has been particularly hot down the stretch, posting a .936 since Jan. 22.
Injuries: D Jake Sanderson (8-18—26, last played March 12), F Gavin Hain (6-3—9, last played Jan. 7), F Carson Albrecht (2-4—6, last played March 12), F Dane Montgomery 1-2—3, last played March 12).
Key stat: UND has 84 man games missed this season due to injuries, illnesses and three one-game suspensions. It has played four games without a full lineup of 19 skaters. The only players on the roster who have suited up in every game are forwards Judd Caulfield, Jake Schmaltz and Nick Portz.
Why they'll win: Despite playing with severely shorthanded lineups down the stretch, UND charged to the NCHC's Penrose Cup as regular-season champions. This team knows how to win close games, too. They've won their last seven one-goal games. That's crucial at this time of year.
Why they won't: Without Sanderson, UND lacks gamebreakers, and that could spell trouble against a tough defensive team like Notre Dame.

North Dakota vs Western Michigan
North Dakota defenseman Ethan Frisch (15) steals the puck from Western Michigan forward Ethen Frank (26) as he tries to take a shot at North Dakota goaltender Zach Driscoll (33) during the first period Friday, March 18, 2022, in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Notre Dame

Seed: No. 3.
Record: 27-11.
League: Big Ten.
NCAA tournament appearances: 13.
NCAA titles: None.
Last Frozen Four: 2018.
Coach: Jeff Jackson (17th season).
Top forward: Jr. Max Ellis. The right winger isn't big (5-foot-9), but he's got blazing speed and can score goals. Ellis had a hat trick against Michigan earlier this season. He leads Notre Dame with 16 goals, but enters the NCAA tournament on an 11-game goal drought.
Top defenseman: Sr. Spencer Stastney. The Nashville Predators draft pick, named team MVP this season, runs things from the back end for the Fighting Irish. Stastney excels in all situations. He has as many shorthanded goals (two) as power-play goals.
Top goaltender: Fifth-year senior Matthew Galajda. The former Hobey Baker Award finalist transferred from Cornell to Notre Dame for his final year of college eligibility. Galajda has a .930-plus save percentage for the third time in his four college seasons.
Injuries: F Grant Silianoff (5-13—18, last played Feb. 19).
Key stat: Notre Dame has 17 players who have reached double digits in points this season — most of any NCAA tournament team.
Why they'll win: Notre Dame is one of the best defensive teams in the country. The last three meetings against Michigan, the nation's No. 3 offensive team, the Irish held the Wolverines to one, one and two goals. At this time of year, defense can take teams a long way.
Why they won't: From time to time, offense dries up for Notre Dame. In seven of its 11 losses this season, the Fighting Irish didn't score more than one goal. If one of those nights pops up at the wrong time, the Irish will get knocked out.

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Notre Dame defenseman Spencer Stastney carries the puck during a game in Compton Family Ice Arena.
Notre Dame athletics

MSU-Mankato

Seed: No. 1.
Record: 35-5.
League: Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
NCAA tournament appearances: 8.
NCAA titles: None.
Last Frozen Four: 2021.
Coach: Mike Hastings (10th season).
Top forward: Jr. Nathan Smith. The Hobey Baker Award finalist has 49 points this season, including 14 multi-point games. Smith is a rare college hockey player to eclipse 100 points in three seasons. He joined the Century Club on March 12 against Northern Michigan.
Top defenseman: Soph. Jake Livingstone. The former British Columbia Hockey League star has been drawing a lot of NHL interest this season. Livingstone is expected to return to Mankato for a third college season, but look for the 30-point scorer to make a big impact in the NCAA tournament.
Top goaltender: Sr. Dryden McKay. The senior broke Ryan Miller's NCAA shutout record this season. McKay now has 33 for his career (compared to 19 career losses). He's a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and the Mike Richter Award.
Injuries: F Zach Krajnik (2-6—8, last played March 4).
Key stat: The Mavericks are 24-1 in their last 25 games and they've won 15 in a row.
Why they'll win: Minnesota State-Mankato has proven it can beat the nation's top teams. The Mavericks are 9-2 against teams in the NCAA tournament — the best record of anyone in the NCAAs.
Why they won't: While the Mavericks have had success against NCAA tournament-bound teams this season, most of that success came early in the season. Since Jan. 1, the only NCAA-tournament opponent Minnesota State has played is Michigan Tech. The Mavericks swept that February series, but is that enough competition to prepare the Mavs for the NCAAs?

smith_M4gTVMFQ.jpeg
MSU-Mankato forward Nathan Smith prepares to take a draw against UMass forward Josh Lopina.
Photo by MSU-Mankato athletics.

Harvard

Seed: No. 4.
Record: 21-10-3.
League: ECAC.
NCAA tournament appearances: 26.
NCAA titles: 1989.
Last Frozen Four: 2017.
Coach: Ted Donato (18th season).
Top forward: Fr. Matthew Coronato. The first-round pick of the Calgary Flames has been dominant down the stretch for Harvard. Coronato leads the team with 18 goals. He's scored 12 of them in the last 16 games, including the overtime winner in the ECAC title game, which sent the Crimson to the NCAA tournament.
Top defenseman: Soph. Henry Thrun. The fourth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks is having a big season. Thrun, who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program, has seven goals and 32 points in 34 games.
Top goaltender: Jr. Mitchell Gibson. The fourth-round pick of the Washington Capitals has a .919 save percentage and has been excellent lately. He stopped 47 of 49 in the ECAC title game.
Injuries: F John Farinacci (10-9—19, last played March 13), Wyllum Deveaux (1-1—2, last played Feb. 27).
Key stat: Harvard is the youngest team in the country. The Crimson have an average age of 21 years, 2 months.
Why they'll win: Harvard has a ton of talent. With 11 NHL Draft picks on the roster, the Crimson have more than any other team in the Albany Regional. The talent is spread out to all three positions, too — forward, defense and goalie.
Why they won't: Talent is important, but so is experience. It's hard to win as a young team in college hockey, and Harvard has to play one of college hockey's oldest teams in the first round.

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Harvard freshman forward Matthew Coronato controls the puck in a game against RPI this season.
Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletics

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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