Frozen Four Comes to Downtown Boston
The NCAA Men’s Division I Hockey Championship tournament semifinals, better known as the Frozen Four, will be in Boston this year. The Frozen Four semis will be on April 9th, with the championship game to be held on April 11th.
This year’s tournament has a sharp distinction between two sets of teams: the experienced veterans and the wannabe champions.
De facto host Boston University falls into the first category. The Terriers come in on the crest of a monster season. They won the Beanpot, Hockey East and the Hockey East tournament, sweeping the Northeast regional as the #1 seed. This is BU’s 22nd Frozen Four appearance, having secured five titles, the last in 2009.
Hobey Baker finalist and freshman phenom Jack Eichel leads BU’s offense. Eichel will be the 2nd player taken in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. He led the NCAA in points, assists and plus/minus (+49!). With Eichel and the home town advantage, the Terriers are favored to take the title.
The first hurdle for BU is the Frozen Four’s other veteran entry, the University of North Dakota. This is UND’s 23rd Frozen Four, and they have won seven titles. They won the West regional as the top seed there, and have been ranked 2nd in the country most of the season.
UND arrives in Boston riding the hot goaltending of Hobey Baker finalist, junior Zane McIntyre. He allowed just two goals total in the West regional, and playing at TD Garden will be a likely home ice preview for the Boston Bruin prospect. No NCAA D1 goalie won more games than McIntyre this season.
Perhaps the only goalie hotter than McIntyre coming in is Omaha’s Ryan Massa, a senior who led D1 with a sizzling .939 save percentage this season. His University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks come in at 20-12-6, the weakest record of the four teams. The Mavericks won the Midwest regional when Massa held Harvard to just one goal (scored by Nashville Predator prospect Jimmy Vesey, the nation’s top goal scorer) in the opener, and then shut out Rochester in the 2nd round.
Rochester was likely spent from eliminating the number one seed in the country when they upset Minnesota State in their opener. So Massa and the Mavericks have yet to face a higher seeded team, which will change if they hope to win the team’s first ever national title. The Mavericks have never been to the Frozen Four.
UNO faces Providence in the opening game of the Frozen Four. Although also winless on the national stage, the Friar program is not new to the stage, having made three previous trips. The last one, however, was 30 years ago. Coach Nate Leaman has spent four years building this program at Providence.
Providence came through the East regional as a four seed by scoring 11 goals in two games, including seven in knocking off top seeded Miami of Ohio. For the season as a whole, however, Providence (like UNO and UND) does not have a top 35 scorer, and will rely on the goaltending of Calgary Flames prospect, junior goalie John Gillies (.929, 2.01).
Boston University has three of the country’s top 35 scorers…all three are in fact in the top 10. Will it be the offensive firepower of BU coming out ahead, or can McIntyre be the difference for UND in the veteran game? Whichever team wins will surely be the favorite in the final against the wannabe game winner between Providence and UNO, which will come down to which hot goaltender is hottest on Thursday night.
However it turns out, Bostonian hockey fans are in for a treat.
The official BU Alumni watch party is at The Harp beginning at 5pm Thursday, but if you want to avoid the crowds around the Garden and stay Downtown, The Times Pub on Broad Street will have a great atmosphere for the games.