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Daily Skate: First-round flops line NCAA tournament

The opening two days were ugly, but is it a trend or just an anomaly?

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Minnesota State's Jake Livingstone reaches for the puck after a collision with St. Cloud State's Grant Ahcan during the NCAA men's hockey regional Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

FARGO โ€” The first round of the NCAA men's hockey tournament ended Friday night with a big thud.

Michigan capped off a tournament of blowouts with an 11-1 victory over Colgate.

The first-round winners scored 52 goals.

The first-round losers scored five.

The average margin of victory was 5.88.

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It was ugly.

The last time there were no overtime games in the first round? 2003. That was the first year of the 16-team field.

The last time there were no one-goal games in the first round? 1992. There were only four first-round games back then.

The Big Ten was particularly dominant in the first round with Michigan's blowout, Minnesota beating Canisius 9-2, Ohio State beating Harvard 8-1 and Penn State beating Michigan Tech 8-0.

So, what happened? It's hard to say.

It's important to remember we're just one year removed from the tightest first round under the 16-team format, which was introduced 20 years ago.

In 2022, six of the eight first-round games were one-goal contests. Three went to overtime. The other two were two-goal games (excluding empty-netters).

Considering that, it seems far too premature to place any sweeping judgments about the Pairwise Rankings or the future of parity in the sport.

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There also were other factors in play that perhaps contributed to a couple of the blowouts. Canisius was the lowest-ranked Pairwise team to make the NCAAs in nine years. Colgate was the lowest-ranked Pairwise team from the ECAC to make the tournament in the last 20 years.

Of course, there were far more blowouts than those two games, but that probably did factor in.

It will be worth tracking the first-round scores into the future to see if this becomes a pattern, but at this point, it's possible it's just an anomaly.

Hobey tracking

Hobey Baker Award voting will be done next week, so the regionals are a chance for players to make their closing arguments.

Right now, Michigan freshman forward Adam Fantilli appears to be a heavy favorite. It's a statistical-based award and he leads the nation in scoring by a comfortable margin.

The other two spots in the Hobey Hat Trick are up for grabs.

Western Michigan's Jason Polin stated his case by hitting 30 goals for the season. He's the nation's leader, two ahead of Fantilli.

Polin is tied for the most goals in college hockey in the last six seasons with two other players โ€” Northeastern's Adam Gaudette in 2017-18 and Wisconsin's Cole Caufield in 2020-21. Both Gaudette and Caufield won the Hobey in those seasons.

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Devon Levi, the frontrunner for the Mike Richter Award, also has to be in the mix.

Harvard's Sean Farrell ranks second in points-per game behind Fantilli, but Minnesota's Logan Cooley is on his heels. Quinnipiac's Collin Graf, the NCAA's No. 2 scorer, can make his case in the regional final.

Notable portal moves

There were a few notable transfer portal moves the last two days.

Minnesota Duluth forward Isaac Howard, a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, committed to Michigan State, where he'll reunite with his old U.S. National Team Development Program coach, Adam Nightingale.

Niagara grabbed American International starting goalie Jarrett Fiske (.923 save percentage) out of the portal. Fiske was one of seven primary starting goaltenders in the portal.

Those still in: UMass's Luke Pavicich, Miami's Ludvig Persson, Clarkson's Ethan Haider, Wisconsin's Jared Moe, Niagara's Chad Veltri and Sacred Heart's Luke Lush.

UND will be keeping close eye on portal goaltenders. It will recruit one of them to be the team's starter next season.

Parise hits 20 goals

Former UND forward Zach Parise, age 38, scored his 20th goal of the season Friday night for the New York Islanders.

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Parise has scored goals in four-straight games. In the past 43 years, only nine players age 38 or older have scored in four-straight games. The others are Brett Hull (seven), Justin Williams (five), Joe Thornton (four), Martin St. Louis (four), Jaromir Jagr (four), Rod Brind'Amour (four), Teemu Selanne (four) and Ron Francis (four).

Former UND forward Brock Nelson also scored two Friday night and is up to 32 goals and a career-high 67 points.

Quick hits

  • Elliotte Friedmann reported UND defenseman Chris Jandric is closing in on a two-year American Hockey League deal with the Buffalo Sabres' organization.
  • Warroad forward Carson Pilgrim, whose recruitment has heated up since his outstanding state tournament, was added to the U.S. Under-17 Team this weekend.
  • On Thursday, Brendan Bushy of Thief River Falls became St. Cloud State's all-time leader in games played with 177. He will hit 178 on Saturday against Minnesota.
  • Former UND forward Ashton Calder scored a goal for Penn State in its rout of Michigan Tech on Friday. Calder is playing in the NCAA tournament for the third-straight year โ€” all for different teams. He also scored a goal in the NCAA tournament in 2021 for Lake Superior State.

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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