Monday, May 14, 2012

Former NCAA Skaters Will Be Counted on in 2012 NHL Semifinals

Eight victories from now, the Stanley Cup will be awarded to one of the four teams remaining in the 2012 NHL playoff picture. Whoever raises Lord Stanley's prize this spring, one thing is sure– at least one of its players will have spent some time on a college campus.

For the New Jersey Devils, who haven't gotten this far since 2003 when they won their last Cup, look for Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, both from North Dakota, to be counted on for offense. Zajac has already collected five goals and 10 points in playoff action, including an overtime goal, while Parise has put up four goals and eight points. Former Boston College teammates Brian Gionta (2 goals, 4 points) and Peter Harrold (4 assists) will be called on to chip in on the fourth line, although usual-defenseman Harrold was a scratch late in the Flyers series. They will be joined by Minnesota State product Ryan Carter (1 goal, 3 points).

Mark Fayne (1 assist) will help the Devils' stay-at home defense, while Miami’s Andy Greene could be relied on to help kick-start the attack from the blue line; although he has just one assist so far in 12 playoff games.

For the New York Rangers, who last got this far in 1997 and will now face New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals, their roster of NCAA alumni includes Brian Boyle (BC), Derek Stepan (Wisconsin), Carl Hagelin (Michigan), Chris Kreider (BC), Ryan McDonagh (Wisconsin) and Stu Bickel (Minnesota).

Stepan leads all former collegian Rangers with a goal and seven assists so far, while Boyle had three goals in the first round against Ottawa. Bickel and McDonagh have each played in all 14 of the Rangers' postseason games, although neither has yet to record a point.

Twin speedsters Hagelin and Kreider have three points apiece so far. Hagelin missed three games against Ottawa due to suspension, while Kreider had game-winners against both the Senators and Washington Capitals after joining New York following BC's national title run last month.

The linchpin of the Los Angeles Kings’ playoff effort so far has been goaltender Jonathan Quick, a University of Massachusetts product who has gone 9-1 in 10 playoff outings so far against top-seeded Vancouver and second-seeded St. Louis. Former Maine forward Dustin Penner has tallied two goals and seven points, and previously won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.

The L.A. defense includes Matt Green (North Dakota), Willie Mitchell (Clarkson), Rob Scuderi (Boston College) and Alec Martinez (Miami); who together had combined for a plus-15 rating prior to the semifinal round. Scuderi also won a Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, after winning an NCAA title with BC eight years prior. The Kings last made it to the semifinals in 1993 on Wayne Gretzky's watch, where they fell to Montreal in five games.

As for their Western Conference finals opponent, former Boston University blueliner Adrian Aucoin has registered two assists and a plus-4 in 10 games this postseason for the Phoenix Coyotes, who ousted Chicago and Nashville to get to this point for the first time in franchise history. The lone former collegian on the Phoenix playoff roster, he was scratched from Sunday's 4-2 loss to Los Angeles.

Two rounds to go. Then its pencils down, and Cup up.

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