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  Friday, April 18, 2014
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Posted 03-31-05
Spoke Too Soon
By Paul Noonan
    Jerry York may have jinxed them all. The BC coaches wish for a Hockey East final four was impossible to begin with (BC and BU would have inevitably played each other beforehand), but for the four Hockey East powerhouses, they have already played their final games. Instead, the WCHA has accomplished York's goal, as their four tournament teams (North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College and Minnesota) have all advanced to the Frozen Four next Thursday. Unfortunately, Hockey East's best, as well as the ECAC's and even the CCHA's, must watch as the Western Collegiate Hockey league exudes its dominance.


     The now very strong conference has won four of the last five NCAA college hockey titles (Denver, North Dakota and Minnesota [twice]). Scratch that, five of the last six, since this year's title can go to no other team but a WCHA one. This conference has proven to be the most superior so far this century, better than the CCHA, better than the Hockey East, better than the ECAC, you name it, they're better. And with these big schools winning a lot of the recruiting battles, for instance Minnesota out- dueled many suitors for prized talent Phil Kessel and North Dakota already boasts two first- round NHL draft picks (Drew Stafford, Travis Zajac), many opponents are finding it tough to compete with these teams.


      The winner of the North Dakota/Minnesota game, in my opinion and many others, looks like they will be the favorite to win it all, even more so than the defending champion Denver Pioneers. The Hockey East's four best would likely support that opinion. Minnesota, Denver and North Dakota eliminated all four of the schools, with North Dakota toppling Hockey East's best, BC. The Fighting Sioux started their tournament against the BU Terriers, and North Dakota shut them out 4-0, sending them to a match- up with BC. The Fighting Sioux seemed to have no trouble again as they ended BC's championship dreams with a 6-3 victory securing their Frozen Four spot. Meanwhile, Minnesota ended Maine's hopes of returning to the finals when they beat the Black Bears 1-0. It was Minnesota who also ruined Maine's dream season three years ago when the Black Bears lost in the finals to the Golden Gophers. The last Hockey East team standing was UNH. However, the defending champions proved to be too much for the Wildcats as they sent UNH packing with a 4-2 victory on the heels of Gabe Gauthier's hat trick.


      So now the Hockey East, along with the rest of the college world, must find a way to beat the WCHA. The task certainly won't be easier if they keep winning. Paraphrasing Chris Connolly, the Hockey East's players are, in general, too small. Now not every talented hockey player can be six feet plus, two hundred plus pounds, but the Hockey East seems to be lacking much if any. BC really only boasts Brian Boyle and Andrew Alberts. BU does have 6'7" Thomas Morrow, but they also iced 5'5" Brad Zancanaro (although I am a fan of his). UNH's Sean Collins almost proves this theory wrong, but his much smaller Wildcats folded under the bigger Denver Pioneers, after barely squeaking by Harvard's big defensemen. Maine boasts two 6'4" defensemen, but other than that they are not a big team. Don't get me wrong, these kids are very talented, but when they step on the ice against the likes of the WCHA, who are equally as talented, but much bigger, lately they have struggled.


      I'm not saying that it takes size to win, for Harvard and Cornell are big, but also out of the picture, yet it does seem to help. Sure the WCHA has its share of small players as well, but they have many more big ones mixed with them. Travis Zajac, Drew Stafford, Chris Chucko, these are some of the WCHA's big guns, all are 6'2" and all played a pretty big role in their teams' successes. The Hockey East must find a way to beat them with smaller players, or try to beat them at their own game, and start to bulk up. For as of right now, the WCHA is the giant of college hockey.



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