The Frozen Four will begin next Thursday night from Tampa Bay with a group of college hockey teams that the masses should be familiar with. Boston College and North Dakota have frequented the finals for their entire program histories, while Quinnipiac is one of the winninget teams in the nation over the past few seasons, and Denver remains the last team to go back-to-back. Despite a season full of parity, four of the top teams in the country will be the ones to face off from Amalie Arena, and each of them has a good of a chance as any to take home the title.
North Dakota is seeking its eighth national title and heads into its 22nd ever Frozen Four. The only team returning for its second straight finals appearance, Cam Johnson has been spectacular between the pipes, North Dakota has not had to worry about the loss of Zane McIntyre from last season. Brock Boeser’s 54 points lead all players to have made it to the Frozen Four, and Drake Caggigula has played well, with 46 points this season. It has been young players leading the way for North Dakota, led by Boeser, a prospect or the Vancouver Canucks. The young team is even led by a first year coach, Brad Berry, the only team to make it this far under a rookie behind the bench this season.
While the Pioneers are no stranger to the Frozen Four, making it 15 times in program history, this is Denver’s first appearance since 2005. The Pioneers exploded after having a mediocre season, led by a top line of Danton Heinen, Dylan Gambrell, and Trevor Moore. Gambrell is one of the top NHL draft prospects playing in the tournament. 18-2-4 since the start of the new year, Denver has gone overlooked as one of the hottest teams in the nation. While the talk has been around Northeastern’s run, Denver has quietly done the same exact thing, except was able to make it nearly all the way thus far. Like many of the teams in the tournament, a lot of the Pioneers’ offense comes from the defense, led by Will Butcher. With the best forward line in the nation (other than Michigan), the Pioneers have plenty of offense, even to get by a stingy defensive team like North Dakota.
Out of all the teams to make the Frozen Four out of Hockey East, Boston College may have had the most difficult path. This is the 25th Frozen Four appearance for the Eagles, the most of any team in the country. It isn’t a stretch to say BC has the most talented roster in the nation, led by Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald, conference rookie of the year Colin White, and star goaltender Thatcher Demko, a candidate for the Hobey Baker award. Despite some missteps along the way, including nearly falling to Vermont on the conference playoffs, the Eagles played excellent to knock off Minnesota Duluth in the tournament semi finals. Boston College appears to have found its groove, and has the potential to take down even the top seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats.
This is the second time in the past four years that the Bobcats have made the Frozen Four. With just three losses all season, Quinnipiac has become a powerhouse in college hockey. The Bobcats made UMass Lowell goaltender Kevin Boyle look mortal, scoring four goals in the semi finals off one of the candidates for goalie of the year. Chase Priskie, a Florida native, leads the way as one of the top NHL prospects with the Bobcats in a Frozen Four field full of pro potential. One of the winningest programs in college hockey recently (tied for first over the past two seasons), Quinnipiac has been overlooked behind its northeastern combatants in the powerhouse Hockey East conference. Sam Anas is one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, and has been playing spectacular throughout the entire Bobcat playoff run, despite playing through injury.