The field has been officially set for the 2013 Frozen Four—the semifinals and finals for the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship—and the excitement over this year’s tournament is through the roof.
Not only is this portion of the tournament the most riveting because of the importance of each play in each game, but the fact that none of the schools still alive have tasted a national championship also means a guaranteed first-time winner will be crowned.
The semifinals and finals will invade the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh (home of the Penguins), and the NHL prospects in action and ramifications of this tourney will be the focus of the hockey world over the next week.
If you are a casual hockey fan or have just never watched the Frozen Four, this is college hockey at its best and is one of the most exciting portions of the year.
Where: CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
When: Thursday, April 11, and Saturday, April 13
Live Stream: ESPN3
UMass-Lowell vs. Yale, Thursday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Quinnipiac vs. St. Cloud State, Thursday, April 11, at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
National championship game - Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
For the printable bracket, check out NCAA.com.
Predicted National Champion: UMass-Lowell River Hawks
The fact that not one of these schools has won a national title in men’s hockey is a stunning fact, but the lack of experience opens the door for the best pure team to win it all.
The best overall team left in the tournament is the UMass-Lowell River Hawks (26-10-2).
UMass-Lowell had to go through both Wisconsin and New Hampshire to win the Northeast Region, and the team has no intention of letting Yale be the school that stops its run to a NCAA championship.
Whether it’s Yale in the semifinals or the winner of the Quinnipiac vs. St. Cloud State game in the finals, the River Hawks will be forced to lean on the stellar play of their defense, led by junior Chad Ruhwedel.
As great as Ruhwedel is in both the offensive and defensive zones, the team's opponents will be forced to focus their own defensive efforts on the strong offense of UMass-Lowell forwards Scott Wilson and Joseph Pendenza.
With the elite combination of talent and depth on both defense and at the forward positions, the fact that the school rides a seven-game winning streak into the semifinals should come as a surprise to no true hockey fan.
While Quinnipiac got the No. 1 overall seed, it will be the River Hawks that win a national championship.
Semifinals: UMass-Lowell 3, Yale 2
Semifinals: Quinnipiac 4, St. Cloud State 2
Finals: UMass-Lowell 5, Quinnipiac 4