NCAA tourney: Familiar faces & players to watch

The NCAA hockey tournament begins this weekend with 16 teams vying for regional titles at four sites. With several Indiana Ice alumni currently in their college careers, as well as a number of Chicago Blackhawks draft picks who could become members of the Indy Fuel in the future, there’s a lot to watch.

The Blackhawks’ recent draft strategy of focusing on college players means there are quite a few. In their two years together, Justin Holl, Sam Jardine, Nick Mattson and Daniel Ciampini have been assigned to the Fuel from the Blackhawks’ organization after playing a four-year college career.

Your NCAA tournament for the 14 former Ice players and seven Blackhawks (and potential future Fuel) prospects in the tourney.

East regional (Saturday/Sunday at Albany, NY)

(1) Quinnipiac vs. (4) RIT, 4 p.m. Saturday

  • This game has a lot of local flavor. Quinnipiac, the tourney’s top seed and the ECAC champion, has 4 former Indiana Ice players. It’s the team with the most familiar faces in the tourney.
  • Quinnipiac
    • Alex Barron is a senior defenseman. He has six points in 34 games, and 31 points in 141 career games. He had 29 points and was +41 in 87 games for the Ice between 2010-12.
    • Bo Pieper is a sophomore forward with five goals and four assists in 38 games. He played 63 games for the Ice in 2012-13.
    • Canon Pieper is also a sophomore forward who had 18 points in 64 games with the Ice in 2012-13. He has played two games for Quinnipiac this season
    • Joe Fiala has played one game this year and has two assists in 28 career games. He is a junior forward. He had 21 points in 114 games with the Ice between 2011-13.
  • RIT
    • Alexander Kuqali: Played 112 games for the Ice between 2009-12. This season, the senior defenseman has 16 points in 38 games, and has played 152 career games at RIT with 59 points. His older brother Nicholas plays in the ECHL.

(2) UMass-Lowell vs. (3) Yale, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

  • UML has no players with local ties – Fuel forward Michael Colantone started the season with the RiverHawks, but turned pro at midseason and has been a fixture in the Fuel lineup.
  • Yale has two players to watch
    • Ryan Obuchowski was a standout for the Ice from 2010-12, where he had 54 points and was +21 in 114 games. This season, the senior defenseman has 12 points in 31 games, and has 16 goals and 52 points in 133 games at Yale.
    • John Hayden was a third-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2013. He is a junior center with 16 goals and 23 points this season, and has 29 goals in 93 career games.

Northeast regional (Friday/Saturday at Worcester, Mass.)

(1) Providence vs. (4) Minnesota-Duluth, 4:30 p.m. Friday

  • Just one player to watch in this one – Providence’s Brian Pinho has nine goals, 25 points and is +17 in 37 games for the defending NCAA champions. The sophomore has won championships in back-to-back years – he was part of the Friars’ NCAA title team last year, and scored the Clark Cup-winning goal for the Ice in 2014. Pinho is a Washington Capitals prospect, having been picked in the sixth round in 2013. He has 43 points in 76 career games at PC.

(2) Boston College vs. (3) Harvard, 8 p.m. Friday

  • This cross-town matchup has one player to watch. BC’s Chris Calnan was a third-round Blackhawks pick in 2012. The junior right wing has three goals and nine points in 26 games, and 38 points in 100 career games.

Midwest Regional (Friday/Saturday at Cincinnati)

(1) North Dakota vs. (4) Northeastern, 2 p.m. Friday

  • North Dakota‘s roster has two Blackhawks draft picks
    • Nick Schmaltz was a first-round pick in 2014 and is a sophomore for UND. He has 42 points in 33 games. With his numbers and high-round pedigree, expect Schmaltz to be headed to Rockford or even Chicago when he becomes a pro.
    • Luke Johnson was a fifth-round pick in 2013 for the Blackhawks, The junior center has nine goals and 19 points in 40 games.
  • Northeastern has one former Ice player and one Chicago draft pick
    • Sam Kurker had six goals and 14 points in 24 games for the Ice in 2013-14, helping them win the Clark Cup. He is in his first year at Northeastern, with six goals and 18 points in 40 games. Kurker is a junior – he played a season and a half for Boston University before joining the Ice in 2013-14. He was a second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues.
    • Dylan Sikura was a sixth-round Blackhawks pick in 2014. The sophomore forward has 10 goals and 28 points in 38 games.

(2) Michigan vs. (3) Notre Dame, 5:30 p.m. Friday

  • Michigan has three players to watch
    • Cristoval “Boo” Nieves played 13 games for the Ice in 2011-12, tallying 10 points before heading back to school to finish the year, and then heading to Michigan. He has 10 goals and 30 points in 33 games this season, and has 28 goals and 109 points in 142 career games. The senior was rafted by the New York Rangers in the second round of the 2012 draft.
    • Alex Talcott was a Clark Cup champion with the Ice in 2013-14. He had 35 points in 98 games with the Ice from 2012-14, and scored the tying goal in the Ice’s championship-clinching Game 5 win in Waterloo in 2014. The sophomore forward has played eight games at Michigan.
    • Tyler Motte is a junior center who was chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. He has 31 goals and 54 points this season in 36 games, and has 49 goals and 103 points in 105 career games.
  • North Dakota’s Dennis Gilbert is a freshman who was chosen in the third round by the Blackhawks in 2015. He has two goals and 10 points in 36 games as a freshman.

West Regional (Saturday/Sunday at St. Paul, Minn.)

(1) St. Cloud State vs. (4) Ferris State, 3 p.m. Saturday

  • One player to watch in this one, Ferris State’s Tyler Andrew. The sophomore forward has three goals and eight points in 34 games this year, and 16 points in 63 career games. He had 24 points in 47 games with the championship-winning Ice in 2013-14.

(2) Denver vs. (3) Boston University, 6:30 p.m. Saturday

  • Some Ice alumni in this one. For Denver, watch:
    • Troy Terry. He played one game for the Ice in 2013-14, and was chosen in the 5th round of the 2015 draft by the Ducks. He has nine goals and 17 points in 38 games for the Pioneers.
    • Emil Romig. The junior forward has three goals and 11 points in 33 games this season, and 28 points in 96 career games. He had 10 goals and 18 points in 47 games with the Ice in 2011-12.
  • Boston University has one former Ice player, Robbie Baillargeon, who has six goals and 12 points in 35 games for the Terriers this season. The junior is an Ottawa Senators prospect, having been chosen in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. He had 63 points in 79 games with the Ice from 2011-13.