It's easy to look at the two Frozen Four 2012 semifinal matchups and think one is better than the other.
One semifinal features two of the biggest names in college hockey, Boston College and Minnesota, with nine national titles between them. The other features two teams with zero national titles and zero NHL draft picks, and it's been pushed off to one of the many teritary arms of the ESPN broadcast empire as a result.
But those who scoff at the lack of name recognition between the Union College Dutchmen and Ferris State Bulldogs are missing out on a defensive battle between two teams that won regular season titles in their respective conferences. This is not a flukey by-product of the single-elimination format: Both teams have lost a combined total of five games in 2012, and both squads are serious contenders to take home their first national championship.
No. 3 Ferris State Bulldogs vs. No. 1 Union College Dutchmen
Thursday, April 5, 4:30 p.m. ET | TV: ESPNU
Tampa Bay Times Forum, St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Road to Tampa for both Union and Ferris State mirror one another quite a bit, and it's all thanks to solid goaltending. Dutchmen goalie Troy Grosenick was a Hobey Baker Award finalist with a 1.64 goals against average, and Bulldogs netminder Taylor Nelson was a first-team All-CCHA selection. Perched behind two top-five defenses, it's no surprise that only Massachusetts-Lowell were able to put more than a goal by these two teams in the regional round of the tournament.
Offensively, however, the two teams take different routes to get goals. The Bulldogs don't score as often as Union, averaging .62 fewer goals per game, but they're able to utilize their depth well. Senior Jordie Johnston leads the CCHA regular season champs with 20 goals, and Ferris State has the ability to get goals from throughout the lineup.
Jeremy Welsh, who scored 27 goals for Union this year, leads the ECAC champs along with Kelly Zajac, the brother of New Jersey Devils' forward Travis. Welsh has a five-game goal scoring streak going and leads a dangerous top line that the Bulldogs will need to stop. They were able to stop Denver's potent top line, so it will be interesting to see if Ferris State can repeat the performance.
In the end, this game will come down to defense. Whether it's the team with a hotter goaltender or Ferris State's elite PK going against the Dutchmen's top-5 power play (at 24.8%), whoever advances to the national championship will have relied on their bread and butter. The Bulldogs need to get a team effort to win another low-scoring game and stop Union's offense but they'll have to contend with a tough defense and top goalie.
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