Cawledge Hawkey’s biggest stage has finally arrived. Starting today, four teams fight to be the last one standing as the 2014 national champions of Division I hockey. They’ll do so on Flyers home ice at the Wells Fargo Center starting at 5:00 p.m. when Union College takes on Boston College. The night cap will see North Dakota up against Minnesota at 8:30 p.m., with the winners playing in the finals on Saturday night.
So if you’re asking any of the following questions, like how did each team get to this point? Who are their star players? Where the hell is Union College? And which team should I root for? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Broad Street Buzz has you covered for the Frozen Four, and it starts with this Frozen Four preview.
Defending Champion: Yale Bulldogs (Did not qualify for NCAA Tournament).
Minnesota Golden Gophers
How they got to Philadelphia: Minnesota finished the season 27-6-6 and 14-3-3 in the Big Ten, winning the Big Ten regular season championship. They were upset in the Big Ten tournament by Ohio State, but earned an at large bid. It helps being ranked the No. 1 team in the nation. Minnesota won the West Regional fairly easily, defeating Robert Morris 7-3 in the first round, then bouncing St. Cloud State 4-0 in the regional final.
History: The Gophers are making their 21st appearance in the Frozen Four. They have won 5 national championships, winning their last title in 2003.
Head Coach: Don Lucia. Lucia earned his 650th career victory in their regional final win over St. Cloud State. He has won two national championships as head coach of Minnesota.
Minnesota is a dangerous team and has proved it all year long. Top notch goaltending from Andrew Wilcox, who has posted a 1.89 GAA and a .934 save percentage, has helped lead the Gophers to this point in the season. They are ranked third in team defense, allowing 2.00 goals a game, and allowing only 78 goals all season.
Their offense isn’t too bad either, as they average 3.51 goals per game. They also take 34.7 shots per game, which is good enough for fifth in the nation. Freshman Justin Kloos was named Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional, scoring three goals in two games. Kyle Rau leads the team in scoring with 14 goals, 23 assists for 37 points.
How they go to Philadelphia: Union went 30-6-4 overall, and 18-3-1 in the ECAC en route to the ECAC regular season and tournament titles. They defeated Vermont 5-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and then won the East Regional championship over Providence 3-1.
History: This is the Dutchmen’s second Frozen Four appearance in three seasons. They last made the Frozen Four in 2012 in Tampa. It is only the fourth time Union has qualified for the NCAA tournament in school history, their first appearance coming in 2011.
Head Coach: The Dutchmen are coached by Rick Bennett, who has been named Coach of the Year by College Hockey News. He is 78-27-16 in his three seasons at Union.
Although this team is a No. 1 seed, one can consider Union as the underdog of the tournament. Consider the fact that this school has an enrollment of only a little over 2,000 students and only had their first 20 win season in 2009, this team has made great strides on the national stage. The Dutchmen have arguably one of the best defenseman in the country in Shayne Gostisbehere, a Flyers prospect who you may want to keep an eye on this weekend. He is an offensive defenseman who likes to move the puck, something the Flyers desperately need.
The Dutchmen are also led by Daniel Carr, who is 7th in the nation in scoring with 22 goals. Union scores 3.7 goals a game and have scored 148 goals on the season. Colin Stevens is solid in net with a 1.93 GAA. The Dutchmen only allow 2.05 goals a game and are defensively sound. This team can score, while not allowing their opponent to score. Simple formula, sure. But in other words, they have the recipe to win it all.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
How they got to Philadelphia: Boston College went 28-7-4 and 16-2-2 in Hockey East in the regular season to win the Hockey East regular season title. The Eagles took out Denver 6-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, then dispatched UMASS-Lowell, a 2013 Frozen Four finalist 4-3 to win the Northeast Region
History: Boston College is making its 24th Frozen Four appearance. They have won five NCAA national titles, with their most recent title in 2012.
Head Coach: Jerry York. York has won four national titles with Boston College and is the NCAA’s all time leader in wins with 957.
If you’re a fan of offense, Boston College is your team. The high flying Eagles average over four goals a game and have three players in the top six in points. Gaudreau is a stud, leading the NCAA in goals with 35 and total points with 77. A Calgary Flames prospect, Gaudreau is a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. But it’s not just about Gaudreau. Kevin Hayes is right behind Gaudreau in points with 63 and has 27 goals in his own right. In fact, the entire first line comprised of Hayes, Gaudreau and Bill Arnold have over 50 points each.
Besides those three however, Boston College has only two players with more than 20 points. Thatcher Demko leads the Eagles in net, posting a 16-4-3 record with a 2.16 GAA. He is supported by a very young defense, with only one senior defenseman on the team. But with a team that can score like Boston College, the Eagles are going to be a tough team to take down.
Grand Forks, North Dakota
How they got to Philadelphia: The lowest seed in the Frozen Four, as a four seed, North Dakota needed an at-large bid on the last day of the season to get to the tournament. They finished 25-13-3 overall and 15-9-0 in the NCHC. They then took out No. 1 seed Wisconsin before defeating Ferris State 2-1 in the Midwest Regional final.
History: Formerly the Fighting Sioux, North Dakota has qualified for the Frozen Four 20 times. They have won seven national championships, their last one coming in 2000.
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol. Hakstol is in his 9th season as head coach, compiling a record of 225-111-33 in his career.
North Dakota is basically copying what Yale did last season. Yale barely qualified for the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid, then went on a tear en route to their first ever hockey national title. North Dakota is looking to capture that magic, and with a storied program like they have, it can be done. Flyers fans will be on the lookout for Michael Parks, a junior drafted in the fifth round in 2010. Parks is a two-way forward who has 30 points on the year.
They’ll need a big weekend from goaltender Zane Gothberg to get to their ultimate goal. Gothberg is one the team can rely on to steal a couple victories, as he posted a 1.99 GAA with a .926 save percentage. North Dakota lacks the firepower the other three teams have. In fact, they do not have a single player who has over 20 goals. But they play solid defensive hockey and can be a nuisance to any team it faces.
Union vs Boston College 5:00 p.m. on ESPN 2
North Dakota vs Minnesota 8:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.
Saturday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN