2012 ACHA Tournament Preview: Final Four
March 5th, 2012
We started with 20, now we are down to just four after the first three days of competition at the ACHA National Tournament. There were some major upsets, but thanks to a 4-1 win over #17 West Virginia
and a 6-3 win over #9 Oklahoma
, the Icers were not part of that group. In fact, of the top four seeds, only #4 Arizona State is not playing into the middle of this week. So, here is a quick preview of the opponent we will be facing in the semi-finals and, should we get past that, the two we may face in the finals.
Semi-Finals - Tuesday, March 6th
#13 Oakland Golden Grizzlies
Defeated #20 Mercyhurst (8-0), #4 Arizona State (3-2 OT), and #12 Adrian (5-4)
At first glance, a match up against a team ranked outside the top ten looks good for the Icers to advance. However if you have watched the way that the Golden Grizzlies have been playing, you would know that wasn't the case.
In their opening round game against Mercyhurst, they flat-out dominated. Then, they scored three, unanswered goals against a team that many thought would go deep in the tournament, #4 Arizona State. In the quarterfinals, they defeated a team they absolutely hate in #12 Adrian, who by the way were on a hot streak of their own. All this to say, they are "battle tested" and pose a real threat to keep knocking down higher ranked teams.
If they didn't know already, they likely will know the lore of how one of their own took down the mighty Icers just a few years ago by Tuesday. In 2007, the Grizzlies rode the shoulders of Wil McMahon and his linemates in the ACHA Championship Game to a 5-1 thumping of Penn State. The Icers have won both games against Oakland since then to even their all-time series at 2-2-0.
Finals - Wednesday, March 7th
Should the Icers prevail against Oakland in their semi-final match-up on Tuesday, they will have one of these teams standing in their way of an 8th ACHA National Championship.
#2 Lindenwood LionsRecord: 30-5-0, CSCHL Champions
Defeated #15 Central Oklahoma (5-2), #7 Minot State (7-4)
While yet to be as long as the Icers streak last decade, the Lions have appeared in the last three ACHA Championship games, winning the first two before being tripped up by Davenport last year. A fresh infusion of talent mid-season powered the Lions through to the Central States Collegiate Hockey League championship - no small task with teams like Ohio, Iowa State, Robert Morris, and Illinois.
When you watch the Lions, especially in this year's tournament, they always look like they have the game in control and can readily find the "extra gear" when needed. Much has been made of the large number of Canadian players on the Lions, but you have to credit coach Rick Zombo for always having his team ready to play and for being able to draw that kind of talent in the first place.
As for their history against the Icers, there really isn't much. Back in 2005, Lindenwood visited the Ice Pavilion and left with two, shutout losses - 1-0 and 2-0. However, Lindenwood did face a Penn State team earlier this year - the Division 2 Ice Lions. At a Division 2 Showcase being hosted by Lindenwood's Division 2 squad, a team that the Ice Lions were to play didn't make the trip - in steps the Division 1 incarnation of the Lions who needed a late comeback to win 7-5.
While there is not much to go on there, the play of the Lions speaks for itself - fast, talented and physical. Three qualities that could prove a tough hill to climb for the Icers.
#3 Delaware Fighting Blue HensRecord: 30-3-1
Defeated #14 Davenport (3-1), #6 Ohio (5-4 2OT)
In their final ACHA game, it would be fitting that the Icers face a team that they have the most history with in Delaware.
In our preview
of their home-and-home series back in November, we noted just how intertwined these two teams are. 101 meetings all-time - most against any other opponent, former Icer John O'Conner - now assistant at Delaware, current Lady Icers Head Coach Josh Brandwene - former Delaware Head Coach. And yeah, the current editions of these teams don't like each other very much.
In the first game of that series, Delaware narrowly escaped with a 4-3 win
at Rust Arena. The Icers rebounded nicely with a 5-1 win
the next night at the Ice Pavilion. The loss at Delaware was the Icers first on the season.
While there was a lot of "buzz" heading into the tournament about the ankle of star goaltender SJ Broat of Delaware, he has shown no ill effects and has been very impressive. Combine that with some of the most physically imposing forwards in the ACHA and a senior class that would like nothing better than to end the "Icers" with a loss and you can see how this match-up could be quite the challenge for Coach Gadowsky and his squad.