Friday, March 23, 2012

Five Muskegon alums in NCAA tourney

The Muskegon Lumberjacks are dedicated to player development and that commitment will be on display this weekend as five of their former players get a taste of the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.

Lumberjacks’ alumni Matt Berry (pictured), Alexx Privitera, John Parker, Mike Conderman and Micki Mihailovich are all set to represent their schools in this weekend’s regionals to be played in four locations. Sixteen teams remain in the hunt for the Frozen Four, which will take place April 5-7 in Tampa, Fla.

Overall, there are 217 United States Hockey League alumni among the 424 players on tournament qualifiers, giving the country’s top junior league 51 percent of the postseason talent pool. 35 percent of all Division I players this season had USHL experience.

Berry, a Canton native who led last year’s Lumberjacks with 25 goals, netted 10 as a freshman for No. 15 Michigan State, which collides with No. 3 Union Friday at 3 p.m. in the East Regional from Bridgeport, Conn. The Spartans are returning to the tourney for the first time since 2008. Berry’s 10 goals were second best on the team and his 18 points ranked him fifth. He was an Honorable Mention to the CCHA All-Rookie Team.

Privitera scored the fourth-most points (34) among USHL defenseman last year in Muskegon, and he brought his high-octane act to Boston University this winter. The New Jersey product bounced back from a broken wrist to post 14 points (4g, 10a) for the No. 10 Terriers, who square off with sixth-ranked Minnesota at 5 p.m. Saturday in the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. BU won the national title in 2009.

No. 11 Maine – with the help of Parker, last season’s Lumberjacks captain – will take on defending NCAA title-holder Minnesota-Duluth Saturday night at 7:30. Parker, who scored 31 points in Muskegon and won the USHL’s Clark Cup in 2009, skated in 32 games and posted seven points (3g, 4a) for the Black Bears, who will take the ice in Worcester, Mass., for the East Regional.

After battling through injuries early this season, Conderman and Mihailovich combined to play in seven games for UMass-Lowell, which makes its return to the tournament with a game against No. 7 Miami University Friday night in the East. The 13th-ranked River Hawks are making their fourth appearance in the regionals and first since 1996.

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