The 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey tournament is down to the final four teams, but instead of being dubbed the Final Four like the men’s basketball tourney, this has been dubbed the Frozen Four.
See what they did there?
Not only is this the best college hockey has to offer, the fact that these future stars will be featured under the bright lights of the CONSOL Energy Center—home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins—will be a test of how each player handles the pressure.
Add into the equation that none of the teams still alive have ever won a national championship, and the hockey world is guaranteed a first-time winner. That’s always exciting.
This is the most enthralling period of the college hockey season, and anyone that loves the sport should be ready for the action.
Here’s all you need to know heading into the wild weekend.
Where: CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
When: Thursday, April 11, and Saturday, April 13
Live Stream: ESPN3
Bracket: For the printable bracket, check out NCAA.com.
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)
Breaking Down Each Team
UMass-Lowell River Hawks (28-10-2)
The unquestioned favorite to win it all this year is the red-hot UMass-Lowell River Hawks. As winner of seven straight and 14 of its last 15 games, UMass-Lowell will have a target its back heading into the Frozen Four.
The River Hawks may have never won a national championship before (none of the teams left in the tournament have either), but with extensive depth at forward and an even more impressive defensive unit, UMass-Lowell will look to steal the show.
Led in the offensive end by Scott Wilson and Joseph Pendenza (37 points each), the River Hawks provide consistent scoring each game and have a relentless attack that tends to wear opponents down over the course of a game.
Add that offensive prowess to an elite defense led by Chad Ruhwedel, and the result is a goals against average of just 2.00. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck deserves credit for the success in net, but as a team, the River Hawks will be tough to beat.
Yale Bulldogs (20-12-3)
The Yale Bulldogs don’t get the respect they should in men’s hockey, but there is a serious chance that the team could shock the No. 1 seeded UMass-Lowell River Hawks in the semifinals.
Yale enters the Frozen Four winning seven of its last nine games, mostly because of the offensive juggernaut the team has, Kenny Agostino (17 goals, 23 assists and 40 points).
If the Bulldogs can get Agostino playing well early while leaning on goaltender Jeff Malcolm to continue playing elite hockey, there is a chance that the team could stun the world and move to the finals.
As talented as the roster is, the team is susceptible on defense and can fall victim to a relentless offensive attack. The River Hawks possess that exact type of offense, so if Yale wants the victory, the team will have to play its best game of the year.
Quinnipiac Bobcats (29-7-5)
The highest-ranked team coming into the Frozen Four is also the top overall seed in the entire tournament, the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Despite the hype around the team, the lack of experience on this big stage has managed to even the playing field.
Quinnipiac isn’t worried, though, especially with a team that leans heavily on one of the best college goalies in the nation, Eric Hartzell, and is predicated on elite defensive play.
Hartzell finished the regular season ranked third in the country with a 1.55 goals against average and five shutouts, while also adding an impressive .933 save percentage and 29 victories.
The Bobcats' offense shouldn’t be underestimated either, especially with Jeremy Langlois and Matthew Peca (30 points apiece) relentlessly attacking throughout the game, but Quinnipiac will always be a team built on defense and goaltending.
St. Cloud State Huskies (25-15-1)
While most of the other teams made it to the Frozen Four on their defensive prowess, the St. Cloud State Huskies are the best offensive team in the entire tournament. At 3.41 goals per game, the Huskies were the second-highest scoring team in the nation.
Led by the elite play of forward Drew LeBlanc (13, goals, 37 assists and 50 points) and the goal-scoring touch of Jonny Brodzinski (22 goals), the Huskies will push the tough defense of their competition to the limits.
The biggest key for St. Cloud State will be the play of goaltender Ryan Faragher. While the Huskies’ goalie has been amazing at points during the season, he has been lackluster at times too, posting an overall 24-14-1 record, a 2.23 goals against average and a save percentage of .916.
While those numbers are admirable, against the top teams in the nation, St. Cloud State could be exposed for its weakness.
As long as the Huskies continue to commit to playing strong fundamental defense in front of Faragher, their talented offensive unit still has the firepower to help deliver a national championship if the unit stays hot through the Frozen Four and into the finals.
Semifinals: UMass-Lowell 3, Yale 2
Semifinals: Quinnipiac 4, St. Cloud State 2
Finals: UMass-Lowell 5, Quinnipiac 4