The Daily hockey beat predicts NCAA national semifinal
With a win against Quinnipiac in the Allentown NCAA regional, the Michigan hockey team made its 26th Frozen Four in program history. Now the Wolverines head to Boston to take on Denver — winners of the Loveland regional — in a national semifinal game. The Daily hockey beat predicts that heavyweight matchup.
The seniors have been too consistent this season to not catapult Michigan to victory. Nolan Moyle, Nick Blankenburg and Jimmy Lambert have the best hockey hair in the country. That will be the difference maker tonight.
Seriously, though, the game will be tight in the beginning, and Denver will score first. The Pioneers’ first goal will come late in the first period and they will score again early in the second.
But I think that the third period will belong to the Wolverines and they will come back from the two goal deficit, eventually winning 3-2.
Michigan has been my national champion pick since before the season started and I see no reason to jump ship now. The Wolverines weren’t overly-impressive during the regional victories, and while this may cause concern for some, I see it as reason for optimism. This team hasn’t fully peaked and there’s no better time to do so than in Boston.
As for Denver, the Pioneers are a very talented team. They dominated the second half of their schedule and come into the Frozen Four with as much confidence as anyone. This isn’t a slight on them — I think they’re good enough to beat anyone, but Thursday night should belong to Michigan.
I think the so-called Hero Line, consisting of sophomore forwards Matty Beniers, Brendan Brisson and Kent Johnson — the team’s brightest stars — will shine on the brightest stage. They were relatively quiet in Allentown and the energetic atmosphere at TD Garden should play into their favor. That, coupled with sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo’s brilliance in net, should be enough to propel the Wolverines into the national championship.
I also believe this is a game of unspoken heroes. While the senior fourth line has impressed, I think freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich is the x-factor and will record the overtime winner. Michigan 4-3 in an instant classic.
In the beat’s prediction article to begin the season, I predicted Michigan to finish the season as the national runner-up.
So do I pick the Wolverines to lose and guarantee at least one of my predictions finally being correct? Or do I double-double down on my original prediction, risking it all for fame and glory?
I’ll take the latter. Michigan will beat Denver and advance to the National Championship on Saturday.
The Pioneers have a strong strength of schedule, securing multiple wins against teams like Minnesota Duluth and Western Michigan. They are more than capable of beating the Wolverines, but Michigan will prevail behind strong play from Portillo and effective power plays.
The Wolverines will go up 2-0 on a couple first period power play goals and hold that lead all the way through to advance to the National Championship this Saturday.
It’s a clash of titans.
Michigan and Denver both have the star power, the depth, the goaltending and the momentum to reach the National Championship game. That makes it really hard to predict who’s going to win. But that’s why they pay me the big bucks (at the rate of about $2 a story).
I don’t think scoring wins this game. The Pioneers and the Wolverines can score at will and they’re going to do just that with a championship berth on the line.
This game is going to come down to defense, and I think the edge goes to Denver.
It’s not that Michigan struggles to defend — despite some struggles against Quinnipiac, every defense pairing has played well down the stretch. Rather, it comes down to winning the transition game, and the Wolverines’ tendency to overcommit on offense is going to cause issues.
Denver is fast and well-coached, and its skaters will recognize position lapses when defensemen like Blankenburg or freshman Luke Hughes inevitably cheat up for offensive chances. The Wolverines’ forwards — excluding the Senior Line — were sloppy in keeping numbers back to cover those decisions against the Bobcats, and it’s why they almost lost a game they should’ve won handily.
Forwards absolutely must cover those mistakes, but there will inevitably be missed assignments just like earlier this season. With all the chips on the table, the Pioneers aren’t going to show mercy.
Michigan’s last line of defense — Portillo — is playing his best hockey right now, but he can’t be expected to stop every single rush opportunity. If the Wolverines don’t give him some help in transition, Denver wins this game with ease.