The NCAA men’s hockey tournament championship is set.
The 16-team field was whittled down to the Frozen Four on Thursday. The No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers ousted Boston University in one semifinal, while the Quinnipiac Bobcats — No. 2 in the nation but an underdog in their semifinal — eliminated Michigan.
The national championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It will air on ESPN2 and will be available to stream on the ESPN App and ESPN+.
Every game of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament, including the Frozen Four and championship game2, will be available on ESPN+. Subscribe to watch!
Will Minnesota win its sixth national title — and its first in 20 years — or will Quinnipiac pull off the upset to claim the first championship in program history? Here are three keys to the national title game:
For Quinnipiac, is third time a charm?
Quinnipiac has had a Division I men’s hockey program since 1998. It has turned out a handful of NHL players, including Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews and Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton. But it has never won a national championship.
The Bobcats have qualified for the NCAA tournament nine times, including eight of the past 10 tournaments. Their coach, Rand Pecknold, has called them a team built for the playoffs.
“Obviously, a big part of this program is our identity and our culture,” forward T.J. Friedmann said Friday. “That means doing all the little things right, buying into the plan that we have each game. Understanding what needs to be done.”
Quinnipiac made the national championship game in 2013, losing 4-0 to Yale, and again in 2016, losing 5-1 to a North Dakota team that featured the likes of NHL star Brock Boeser. Will the third time be the charm for Quinnipiac?
To make history, the Bobcats will have to defeat the No. 1-ranked team in the country in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are laden with NHL prospects who are looking to break a drought of their own: Minnesota hasn’t won a national championship since 2003, with a team that featured since-retired NHL players Thomas Vanek and Paul Martin.
Quinnipiac was the No. 2 team in the nation, but for the second straight Frozen Four game, it is viewed as an underdog.
“Maybe we’re a little bit of an underdog because we’re the No. 2 seed, but we’re confident in our group,” forward Collin Graf said Friday. “We’ve proved the last couple of weeks that we can beat anyone.”
The Cooley line and Minny NHLers
To make the national championship game, Quinnipiac had to defeat a University of Michigan team filled with NHL-drafted players such as defenseman Luke Hughes (No. 4, 2022) and forward Rutger McGroarty (No. 14, 2022), as well as Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli, who is expected to be the second overall pick in this summer’s NHL draft behind phenom Connor Bedard.
Minnesota’s roster, like the Wolverines’, also is brimming with NHL-caliber talent.
“They have kids that are going to play us Saturday night, and Sunday they’re going to be in the NHL. There are going to be planes on the tarmac waiting to take them to different teams. So we’re going to have our hands full,” Pecknold told NY Post Sports.
Luke Mittelstadt’s 2 goals propel Minnesota to the Frozen Four final
Luke Mittelstadt tallies two goals in the third period as Minnesota defeats Boston University 6-2 in the Frozen Four semifinals.
Three of those players form one of the most dominant lines in any level of hockey this season: Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud and Matthew Knies. Lou Nanne, a Minnesota hockey icon since the 1960s, said they’re the best line he’s seen for the Gophers.
Cooley, a center drafted third overall last summer by the Arizona Coyotes, was a Hobey Baker finalist who tallied 60 points in 38 games this season. He had 14 points in seven games at world juniors. A dynamic playmaker, he got his start in Sidney Crosby’s “Little Penguins” program while growing up in Pittsburgh. Cooley has a 16-game scoring streak.
Knies also was a Hobey Baker finalist, marking the first time in 15 years that teammates were among the final three for the award. The left wing was drafted 57th overall in 2021 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made him an untouchable player at this season’s trade deadline. Knies had 42 points in 39 games this season and was a member of the 2022 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team in the Beijing Games.
Snuggerud, a right wing, was drafted 23rd overall by the St. Louis Blues last summer. He had 50 points in 39 games for Minnesota this season. His father, Dave, played four seasons in the NHL. This trio has factored into eight of the Gophers’ 19 goals in the NCAA tournament.
They’re not alone among NHL prospects on the Minnesota roster. Defenseman Brock Faber was selected 45th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2020 draft before being traded to the Minnesota Wild in the Kevin Fiala deal. Defenseman Jackson LaCombe was selected 39th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2019, while Ryan Johnson was taken 31st overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2019. Bryce Brodzinski (Philadelphia Flyers, 196th overall in 2019), winger Rhett Pitlick (Montreal Canadiens, 131st overall in 2019) and defenseman Ryan Chesley (Washington Capitals, 37th overall in 2022) were also drafted.
Meet Yaniv Perets
At every level of hockey, there’s one eternal truth: Goaltending is the great equalizer. No matter how many NHL prospects dot the Minnesota roster, the national championship could be won or lost by Yaniv Perets between Quinnipiac’s goalposts.
Perets, 23, is a third-year Bobcats player who was second in the nation with a .932 save percentage. He had a 1.48 goals-against average in 40 games for Quinnipiac. He was a runner-up for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top collegiate goalie behind Northeastern’s Devon Levi, who is playing for the Buffalo Sabres.
Perets pitched a shutout against Merrimack in the tournament opener. He gave up only one goal in the win against Ohio State. And he was an effective last line of defense against Michigan, holding the high-powered Wolverines to two goals. For the tournament, he has a .962 save percentage.
Quinnipiac is a stout defensive team, often deploying a single forechecker in its system. It’s the Bobcats’ identity and they play to it well. Perets is both the beneficiary of that defense and one of the primary reasons that it thrives.
He’s a free agent, looking to audition for NHL teams under the most intense spotlight of the season — and make program history for his school in the process. All he has to do is thwart the nation’s top team and one the most dominant lines in NCAA men’s hockey history.
Adam Fantilli’s second goal levels game vs. Quinnipiac
Adam Fantilli’s slap shot hits the back of the net for the Michigan Wolverines vs. Quinnipiac.
All times Eastern
at Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
April 8: Minnesota vs. Quinnipiac, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN+)
April 6: National semifinals (ESPN2/ESPN+)
Minnesota 6, Boston University 2
Quinnipiac 5, Michigan 2
April 8: Minnesota vs. Quinnipiac, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN+)
Manchester, New Hampshire, Regional
Thursday: Boston University 5, Western Michigan 1; Cornell 2, Denver 0
Saturday: Boston University 2, Cornell 1
Boston University wins Manchester Regional
Fargo, North Dakota, Regional
Thursday: St. Cloud State 4, Minnesota State 0; Minnesota 9, Canisius 2
Saturday: Minnesota 4, St. Cloud State 1
Minnesota wins Fargo Regional
Bridgeport, Connecticut, Regional
Friday: Ohio State 8, Harvard 1; Quinnipiac 5, Merrimack 0
Sunday: Quinnipiac 4, Ohio State 1
Quinnipiac wins Bridgeport Regional
Allentown, Pennsylvania, Regional
Friday: Penn State 8, Michigan Tech 0; Michigan 11, Colgate 1
Sunday: Michigan 2, Penn State 1 (OT)
Michigan wins Allentown Regional