There's no shred of doubt that both No. 1 Minnesota and No. 3 Union are the most deserving teams to play for the NCAA title on Saturday night after emerging from a competitive bracket in spectacular fashion.
Union won it's second-ever Frozen Four appearance against No. 2 Boston College thanks to a stunning hat trick from Daniel Ciampini, who will once again need a titanic effort to overcome the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.
Meanwhile, Minnesota almost succumbed to the upset bug against North Dakota, but a goal from Justin Holl with 0.6 seconds left in the third period allowed the Golden Gophers to advance to their 11th national title appearance.
It's easy to doubt Union at face value. Let's clear that up:
Sure, it's the first time any Union team will contend for an NCAA title since their men's lacrosse team in 1929.
These Dutchmen are living in the now thanks to the second-best offense in the country, which averages 3.73 goals per game. Despite the enormity of the contest, defenseman Mat Bodie says his team's approach remains the same, per Adam Kimelman of NHL.com:
"You want to get out to a quick start and hopefully we can learn from [Thursday] that you've got to bring it from the opening shift," Bodie said. "We're just treating it like any other game. You prepare the same way and you've just got to be ready to go."
Unlike most of the season, Bodie and Co. have a tough task ahead. Not only are the Golden Gophers an annual powerhouse, they tout arguably the nation's best goalie in Tampa Bay draft pick Adam Wilcox.
Wilcox is the name to watch on Saturday night. He put Minnesota on his back in the Frozen Four and saved 36 shots while his defense allowed North Dakota to have its way. He surrendered one goal overall, but his impact on the outcome was blatantly obvious:
He has a tough task ahead in stopping the likes of Ciampini, but his second-best save percentage at .935 and goals against average at 1.79 speak volumes about his ability in front of the net—regardless of the stage.
After the Big Ten Player of the Year and Mike Richter Award finalist, the Golden Gophers also tout two strong names offensively in Kyle Rau and Sam Warning, who own 39 and 33 points totals this season, respectively.
In the epitome of a quality championship game, neither team has a true advantage anywhere on the ice. As simple as it sounds, which team plays a more technically sound game on both ends of the ice will emerge the winner.
Just keep an eye out for the experience difference, as Union is the more senior team and did have a Frozen Four appearance back in 2012. That's not meant to discredit Minnesota, a team with a plethora of future pros.
Don't blink on Saturday as the collegiate hockey season comes to a close. Minnesota and Union will do right by fans with a thrilling showdown.
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