The Huntington Center, the home of the Toledo Walleye, will play host to some of the best college hockey teams this weekend when the NCAA Midwest Regional is held in Toledo.
Miami and Notre Dame — two members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association — are among the four Division I teams competing for a spot in the NCAA’s Frozen Four.
On Saturday, top-seeded Notre Dame (25-12-3) meets No. 4 St. Cloud State (23-15-1) at 1:30 p.m.
No. 2 Miami (24-11-5) faces off against No. 3 Minnesota State Mankato (24-13-3) in Saturday’s 5 p.m. semifinal.
The winners will meet for the title at 4 p.m. Sunday. The game can be seen on ESPNU.
Notre Dame enters the regional as the fourth-ranked team in the nation. During the regular season the Fighting Irish finished second in the CCHA standings with a 17-8-3-2 record. Notre Dame beat Michigan in the conference tournament title game last Sunday.
The Irish, who enter riding a six-game winning streak, are 7-0-2 overall in their last nine games under seventh-year coach Jeff Jackson. They are paced offensively by junior forwards Anders Lee (19 goals-18 assists, 37 points), Bryan Rust (15-18, 33 points), Jeff Costello (10-18, 28), and T.J. Tynan (10-17, 27).
Leading Notre Dame’s blueline are sophomore Robbie Russo (5-18, 23) and senior Sam Calabrese (1-19, 20), and the goaltender is junior Steven Summerhays, who has a 1.96 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
Notre Dame is playing in its sixth NCAA tournament, including five under Jackson, who guided Lake Superior State to NCAA championships in 1992 and ’94. He led the Irish to Frozen Four appearances in 2008 and 2011.
ST. CLOUD STATE
St. Cloud State has grown quite familiar with NCAA tournament play in this millennium, earning eight of their nine berths since 2000. Seventh-year coach Bob Motzko’s team, ranked No. 9 nationally, won their first Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s regular-season title with an 18-9-1 record, but lost to Wisconsin in the WCHA tourney semifinals.
The Huskies’ scoring parade is paced by senior forward Drew LeBlanc (13-37, 50), who was the WCHA player of the year, and junior forward Nic Dowd (14-25, 39). Freshmen forwards Jonny Brodzinski (21-11, 32) and Kalle Kossila (15-17, 32) add depth to the offense. The top defensemen are junior Nick Jensen (4-26, 30), the WCHA’s defensive player of the year, and sophomore Andrew Prochno (5-21, 26). Sophomore goalie Ryan Faragher sports a 2.29 GAA and .914 save percentage.
St. Cloud State will leave the WCHA to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference next season.
Miami, ranked No. 5 nationally, was the regular-season champion of the CCHA with a 17-7-4-4 record, and had won 12 of 15 games before losing to Michigan in the CCHA tourney semifinals.
Coach Enrico Blasi, in his 14th season, has guided the RedHawks to eight straight NCAA tournament appearances. Miami is playing in its ninth national tourney overall. Blasi was named CCHA coach of the year this season.
Sophomore center Austin Czarnik (14-28, 42) was the CCHA player of the year, and freshman forward Riley Barber (15-23, 38) was the conference rookie of the year. Other top forwards include seniors Curtis McKenzie (10-13, 23) and Marc Hagel (5-13, 18), and sophomore Cody Murphy (10-8, 18).
Freshman Matthew Caito (5-16, 21) is Miami’s top defenseman, and the the freshman goaltending duo is Ryan McKay (1.37 GAA, .948 save percentage) and Jay Williams (1.94, .924).
MINNESOTA STATE MANKATO
The underdog in the four-team regional field, Minnesota State Mankato is playing in just its second NCAA tournament, with the first coming in 2003.
First-year coach Mike Hastings has led the Mavericks to a No. 11 national ranking. They placed sixth in the WCHA during the regular season at 16-11-1, and were eliminated for the conference tournament by Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.
Highlighting the Minnesota State offense is the forward contingent of sophomore Matt Leitner (17-30, 47), senior Eriah Hayes (20-16, 36), sophomore Jean-Paul Lafontaine (9-26, 35), and junior Zach Lehrke (8-17, 25).
The Mavericks’ blueline is paced by sophomore Zach Palmquist (7-18, 25), junior Josh Nelson (5-9, 14), and freshman Jon Jutzi (1-8, 9). Goalie Stephon Williams (1.96 GAA, .925 save percentage), voted the WCHA’s freshman of the year, has been solid between the pipes.
Hastings was named WCHA coach of the year.
TICKETS: Single-game tickets for the regional are $45.
Tickets for all three games are available for $75, with students paying $65.
Tickets are available at the Huntington Center box office, the BGSU ticket office and at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.