Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan, North Dakota, and Notre Dame will battle in St. Paul April 7-9 to claim the NCAA college hockey championship title at the Frozen Four. Michigan will meet North Dakota and UMD will meet Notre Dame to determine the final pair. The defending national champs Boston College were stunned by a sturdy Colorado College team, but that wasn’t the last shock as the No. 1 seed fell short of advancing in what many called the “dog fight.”
The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs took on the top seeded Yale Bulldogs to move on for the first tourney spot. UMD looked like they had it all wrapped, 5-1. Yale took task and came within reach, 5-3, but couldn’t pull it off. UMD (24–10–6) held on to be the first team to advance to the NCAA championship game. UMD have had 4 tournament appearances, the latest in 2004.
West Regional action took St. Louis by storm with the appearance of two vital St. Louis Blues personalities: Red Berenson and Jaden Schwartz.
Sixth-ranked Michigan (26-10-4) met Nebraska-Omaha (21-15-2) in the first round. UNO joined the WCHA last season and took on such notable tournament teams as Denver and North Dakota. The Wolverines made their 21st consecutive appearance in the West Regional held in St. Louis where Wolverine coach Red Berenson played then coached. In a controversial call, the Wolverines took the win in overtime, 4-3.
Michigan faced Colorado College for the next slot. And it was tough. Scooter Vaughn scored first the Wolverines and stood with a 2-0 lead. Ryland Schwartz beat Wolverines goaltender Shawn Hunwick to up their chance 2-1 with just over 3 minutes left. With their 43 shots to 19 shots, the Wolverines kept it close but move on to St. Paul for their 24th tournament appearance.
Though the CC Tigers lost to Michigan, they played a phenomenal game against the defending champs. Colorado College faced Boston College with a 4-1 lead in the second, then leapt into an 8-4 victory knocking off the defending champs and No. 1 seed in the West. Boston’s star forward Cam Atkinson, a Hobey Baker finalist, met his match in Colorado College’s freshman, Jaden Schwartz, who is the first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues.
Green Bay hosted the Midwest regional action. WCHA super teams, North Dakota and Denver graced the rink for a chance to move on. For North Dakota, it was no contest as they denied Rensselaer 6-0.
Denver faced a tough Western Michigan team to advance. The Broncos, who have never won a championship and was last in the tourney in 1996, had control through the second period with a 2-0 lead, but Denver roared back to tie the game in the third pushing the challenge to OT. Then, another OT. Until Jason Zucker scored his 22nd goal of the year, for a 3-2 win. Zucker is a draft pick of the Minnesota Wild. Denver moved on for a rematch of the WCHA championship game with North Dakota, who won 3-2 in double overtime. North Dakota wanted another run at the title with a 6-1 victory over the Pioneers to advance to St. Paul. Both Denver and North Dakota have each won 7 national titles.
Notre Dame (23-13-5) beat New Hampshire, 2-1, to take the final slot in the Frozen Four for their second appearance. The last Frozen Four for both Notre Dame and Michigan was in Denver in 2008, and advanced beating Michigan but lost to Boston College. There is a possibility that Notre Dame and Michigan could face off for the NCAA title- awesome rivalry in college football, so the Frozen Four battle would be amazing.
It’s been a good showing for Colorado this season with Air Force, Colorado College and Denver competing in the ultimate college hockey experience. The Midwest will be abuzz with fans traveling to St. Paul, which means the Xcel Energy Center will be electrified with plenty of hockey loyal. Watch for Frozen Four updates April 7-9. Notre Dame will play Minnesota-Duluth on Thursday, April 7 at 5pm EST in the early semifinal, followed by the Michigan-North Dakota semifinal. Tune to ESPN for Frozen Four games and coverage.