NCAA Hockey: Field for the Frozen Four is set

UND goalie Zane Gothberg makes a save earlier this season - Eric Classen UND athletics

“I think that we lucked out,” Lou Nanne said. “We definitely got the easiest road, playing North Dakota. Not that North Dakota is a bad team. But they’re definitely the weakest team of the four. I think we lucked out because Union is playing Boston College.”

Good Afternoon Wilderness! Today, I am going to talk briefly about college hockey and the Frozen Four. On April 10th and 12th, division I college hockey will crown their national champion.

The field for the Frozen Four is set. Boston College, Minnesota, North Dakota and Union College, all won their regional tournaments, and have advanced to the Frozen Four at Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia, Pa.

Now we wait two weeks for the Frozen Four.

There is some irony; North Dakota and Minnesota have played in 283 games against each other, starting with the 1947-48 season. All-time, Minnesota holds the edge over North Dakota with a 130-138-15 record. After Minnesota left the WCHA for the Big Ten, and North Dakota left the WCHA for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the two teams didn't play during the 2013-14 season.

This was the first time in 66 years that the two teams didn't play against each other during the regular season. The two teams renew their storied rivalry in the city of brotherly love. If you've watched this series for more than a minute, that's funny to you.

The University of North Dakota (25-13-3) meets the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (27-6-6) in the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game.

The other semifinal matchup is between the ECAC's Union College Dutchmen (30-6-4) and Hockey East powerhouse the Boston College Eagles (28-7-4).

Johnny Gaudreau leading candidate for the Hobey Baker

The Eagles are led by forward Johnny Gaudreau who's the hands on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Basically, the Hobey Baker already has his name on it. The discussion we're having now, who's going to be the other two finalists sitting next to him during the awards ceremony.

They announce the Hobey Baker Memorial Award during the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 11, 2014. There's a chance that one of Johnny's line mates are going to be sitting next to him when the award is given to him.

This season, Gaudreau (35g-42a-77pts) has been paired with senior forwards Kevin Hayes (27g-36a-63pts) and Bill Arnold (14g-38a-52pts) and they've given Hockey East goalies fits.

Nanne,'we definitely got the easiest road'

Former Minnesota North Stars and Golden Gophers great Lou Nanne was on KFAN with Dan Barreiro Monday and he had some interesting things to say the Frozen Four. Apparently, Lou seems to think that the Gophers are going to roll through the Frozen Four. (26.30 mark)

"I think that we lucked out," Nanne said. "We definitely got the easiest road, playing North Dakota. Not that North Dakota is a bad team. But they're definitely the weakest team of the four. I think we lucked out because Union is playing Boston College."

UND not an easy draw

Wow! Nanne could end up eating those ill-advised words. First, North Dakota is not an easy out, they won 25 games this season. Also, Union and B.C. are very good teams. Any one of the teams in the Frozen Four could win this thing.

Yes Nanne, even North Dakota.

When UND secured a trip to the Frozen Four, I started reading comments on-line from fans that said North Dakota’s not a very good hockey team and that UND backed into the NCAA tourney. Seriously, bad teams don't win 25 games, slip into the NCAA tourney and advance to the Frozen Four by beating a one and a two seed.

It’s true, UND isn't loaded with first round draft choices, and they don’t have a dynamic players like Danny Kristo or Corban Knight. They do have incredible depth and speed. At the beginning of the season, UND head coach Dave Hakstol said that this team was one of the deeper teams that he's had during his ten years at UND.

While UND doesn’t have the big thumper on the blue line, or that blue chip forward, they have four balanced forward lines that all play key minutes. The fourth line isn't just out there killing minutes, they're making plays.

It all starts with the defense

On the backend UND is pretty solid. In three career NCAA playoff starts, UND sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg is 3-0-0 record, with a 1.19 goals against average and a .959 save percentage. On the back end, UND has three defenseman with 20+ points Jordan Schmaltz (6g-17a-23—pts), Nick Mattson (4g-19a—23pts), Dillon Simpson (7g-15a—22pts), Paul LaDue (6g-15a—21pts). UND leads the nation in points per game by defensemen. According to the UND SID Jayson Hajdu, UND leads the nation in points per game by defensemen, with an average of 2.76.

There are four teams left in the NCAA tourney. Any one of these teams can win the Frozen Four. Boston College is probably the favorite right now. That being said, it’s shorted sighted to call anyone left an easy draw. You don’t get to the NCAA Frozen Four by being a bad team. Just ask Minnesota, North Dakota and UMass-Lowell about Yale.

Yale came into last year’s NCAA tournament as the final at-large bid, and the Bulldogs took down a three number one seeds (Minnesota, UMASS-Lowell and Quinnipiac) and a two-seed (North Dakota) to win the NCAA title. Anything can happen in this tournament. No team should over look anyone. Good luck to all of the team involved in the Frozen Four

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