Breaking Down the Frozen Four

 Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

minnesota wisconsin

min wis games

 

If you take away Minnesota’s 3-0-1 record versus Wisconsin this season the teams sport identical 29-3-3 records.  Minnesota went out of the WCHA to play Penn State, Boston University, Princeton (2x), St. Lawrence (2x), and St. Cloud State in a non-conference matchup while Wisconsin took on Lindenwood (2x), New Hampshire (2x), and Clarkson (2x).  There’s a slight edge to Wisconsin there as their average opponent took 48.96% of the shots on goal to Minnesota’s opponent’s 48.10%.

The numbers against high quality opponents (opponents who took more than 50% of the shots on goal) are similarly neck and neck with Wisconsin playing one more thanks to meeting 50%+ teams North Dakota in the WCHA tournament and Boston University in the NCAA Tournament.  Wisconsin took 61.64% of the shots against those high quality teams to Minnesota’s 60.35%.  Wisconsin’s average high quality opponent came in at 57.17%, Minnesota’s at 57.28%.

If you ignore the head-to-head data, on paper Wisconsin looks like a slightly better team in many areas.  Of course, there’s a reason they play the games and the games have not gone that way.  I think Wisconsin has to do one thing noticeably better than Minnesota in their NCAA tournament matchup, whether it’s special teams, shooting, goaltending, or somehow finding a way to enjoy a significant shot advantage.  If those things remain relatively even, history has shown that Minnesota wins that game almost every time.  This might be why:

Wisconsin vs Minnesota Goal scorers

That is a list of all those that have tallied points in the four games between the teams plus Annie Pankowski.  The reason Pankowski is included and the reason six names are highlighted is because those are each team’s top three scorers on the season.  Minnesota’s have thrived versus Wisconsin.  Wisconsin’s have not versus Minnesota.  Either Wisconsin’s producers need to find another gear and actually produce against Minnesota, or its depth needs to make up the difference.

Boston College vs. Harvard

BC - Harvard bc harvard games

 

Unlike last round we have head-to-head data for both matchups, although the sample size for Boston College and Harvard is smaller than what we just looked at.  When pressed for a reason for their November 28th, 10-2 shellacking, the Harvard twitter account gave the following response:

too much turkey

The two games started off pretty similarly.  BC opened the scoring at 0:25 and 1:35 in the 10-2 and 2-3 games respectively..  Harvard equalized at 19:02 and 9:08.  Boston College went ahead at 3:30 and 8:18 in the second.  Harvard equalized about a minute later (4:17, 9:39) in each case.  That’s where things diverge.

In game 1, Boston College scores again about a minute later (5:38), and then they scored again (7:38), and again (10:18), and again (16:23), and again (18:36) to head into the third with a 7-2 lead.

In game 2, the Beanpot Championship, it’s Harvard that scores soon after (11:54), which they hold onto for the remainder of the game.

I came to the conclusion that Boston College is an excellent first period team, an elite second period team, and merely a very good third period team.  Here are the numbers:

Goals by period:

  1. 50-13 (+37)
  2. 78-15 (+63)
  3. 66-17 (+49)

Shots by period:

  1. 513-218 (+295)
  2. 540-232 (+308)
  3. 477-272 (+205)
  4. 3-9 (-6)

Some of that is to be expected.  Boston College is a good team that played in a lot of games that were essentially over by the start of the third period.  Of their 38 games they had 3+ goal leads heading into the third in 19 of them, 2+ goal leads in 27 of them, and 1+ goal leads in 32 of them.  Plus only 12 of their games ended a score difference of two goals or less.  To put it simply, some of their lagging shot totals in the third period can be attributed to taking their foot off the gas or to playing their lower lines and pairs very, very often.

But some of it is that Boston College just isn’t as good in the third as they are in the first and second.

Shot differential by period where the game was within two goals at the start of the third:

  1. +138
  2. +178
  3. +101

Shot differential by period where the game was within one goal at the start of the third:

  1. +95
  2. +108
  3. +45

Shot differential by period where the game was tied at the start of the third:

  1. +37
  2. +56
  3. +24

And perhaps most tellingly, shot differential by period of BC in games they tied or lost:

  1. +25
  2. +40
  3. even
  4. -6

Over the course of the season Boston College has, for the most part, tried to get a lead in the first, tried to bury a team in the second, and coasted through the third.  In games when they haven’t had the benefit of a lead, they’ve struggled to keep up their intensity in the third period and overtime and that’s been the recipe for beating them.

Harvard is perhaps uniquely suited to this task because they rely less on a top line of scorers and more on their overall skater depth.  The difference between Boston College’s top scorer Alex Carpenter and their third leading scorer Emily Pfalzer is 39 points (81 and 42).  To contrast, the difference between Harvard’s top scorer Mary Parker and their fourteenth leading scorer (which would be their first fourth line or bottom pair player) was 27 points (38 and 11).  They’re able to roll their lines more evenly and more consistently and conserve the energy of their top players to a greater extent.

Of course, it’s worth noting that while there is certainly a way you can beat Boston College, executing it is an entirely different matter as the Eagles have beaten literally every team they’ve played at least once.

 

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About Alex

I am awesome.
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