Quinnipiac, Boston College, North Dakota and Denver are set to battle in Tampa for the national championship of college hockey.
They’ll start with four teams in sunny Tampa on Thursday, but before the weekend is over, only one will be left standing at Amalie Arena.
Boston College and Quinnipiac will meet first in the Frozen Four, clashing for a chance to play for the national title. The semifinal kicks off on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, with the victor facing off against the winner of the Denver-North Dakota game at 8:30. The finale takes place two nights later at 8 p.m. ET in a guaranteed East-meets-Midwest bout for the NCAA trophy.
How they got there
Quinnipiac: The Bobcats rolled into the NCAA Tournament as the the top seed, coming as no surprise after losing only three games all season. They plowed through the ECAC, leaving Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard behind them en route to the league's postseason title. In fact, since its deciding first-round game against Cornell, Quinnipiac has allowed just three goals in four games, also taking down RIT and Lowell on the way to its second Frozen Four appearance. Coach Rand Pecknold and Co. will look to win their first national title—the Bobcats are the only remaining team without one—after falling short against league rival Yale in the 2013 final.
Boston College: The Eagles return to Tampa, the site where they won it all in 2011-12. This time around, BC eked out a first-place finish in the Hockey East standings, going 28-7-5 overall and picking up a another Beanpot title. They battled past Vermont in the first round of league playoffs, but fell to neighboring Northeastern in the semifinal game. While the Eagles didn’t earn an autobid into the tourney, it’s been relatively smooth sailing with a win over Harvard and fending off a late push by Minnesota Duluth in the East Regional final.
Players to Watch
Quinnipiac: Michael Garteig, goalie—The senior has been a major reason why the Bobcats have gotten this far with the most wins in the nation (31), racking up eight shutouts along the way. The East Regional MVP ranks fifth in the nation in GAA (1.83) with a 0.50 goals-against average and .976 save percentage in the tournament.
Boston College: Thatcher Demko, goalie—The only keeper with more shutouts than Garteig this season, Demko has blanked opposing offenses 10 times and has a .936 save percentage, the best of any of the four goalies left. A 2014 draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks, the junior hasn’t shown any signs of rust after sitting out due to surgery on both hips after the end of his second college season.
|Jerry York||Coach||Rand Pecknold|
|Ryan Fitzgerald (23 g–23 a–46 pts)||Leading scorer||Sam Anas (24 g–26 a–50 pts )|
|Thatcher Demko||Probable starting goalie||Michael Garteig|
|21.5||Power play percentage||27.4|
|87.9||Penalty kill percentage||89.3|
|25||Frozen Four appearances||2|
|13||NHL draft picks||2|
How they got there
North Dakota: Trying to win its first title since 2000, North Dakota finished the season with a 32-6-4 record. The recently re-dubbed Fighting Hawks roared into the NCHC Frozen Faceoff as the winners of six straight before falling to Minnesota-Duluth and then tying Denver in the league's third-place game on March 19. Once the NCAA tourney began, however, first-year coach Brad Berry’s squad kicked it up a notch, racking up 11 goals in wins over Northeastern and Michigan to earn a third straight trip to the Frozen Four and a rematch with the rival Pioneers.
Denver: The only team to have scored more goals in the opening round of postseason play finds itself in a place it hasn’t been in a while: the Frozen Four. This is the program's first appearance since it won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. The Pioneers posted a 25-9-6 record, losing just two games since the start of 2016. And much like opponent North Dakota, it had its season seemingly stall in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. However, the offense has since come alive, rifling 13 goals into the back of the net, including six against Ferris State in the West Regional title game to advance to the Frozen Four.
Also at stake for the teams in their matchup is a chance to break their tie for the second-most national titles. A championship would give either school eight to its credit, behind only Michigan's nine.
Players to Watch
North Dakota: Brock Boeser, forward—As one of the most exciting freshman in the country, the Canucks' 2015 first round pick was silent in North Dakota’s regional final win, but posted three points in its win in the opener against Northeastern. His deft hands and quick release made him the Hawks' scoring leader with 54 points, good for fifth best in the nation. He potted 26 goals.
Denver: Dylan Gambrell, forward—His 47 points ranked second to Boston Bruins draftee Danton Heinen’s 48, and made him the third-highest scoring frosh in Division I. Ranked among the International Scouting Service’s top North American skaters for the 2016 NHL draft, he played a major role in his team’s win over Ferris State, posting a goal and three points, to propel the Pioneers to the Frozen Four.
|Brad Berry||Coach||Jim Montgomery|
|Brock Boeser (26 g–28 a–54 pts)||Leading scorer||Danton Heinen (20g–28a–48 pts)|
|Cam Johnson||Probable starting goalie||Tanner Jaillet|
|19.5||Power play percentage||19.0|
|86.4||Penalty kill percentage||82.0|
|22||Frozen four appearances||15|
|12||NHL draft picks||5|