2015 Frozen Four Preview: Matchups, Players To Watch, And Where To Watch

The NCAA collegiate hockey tournament is ready to get revved up once again this week as the Frozen Four is taking place in at TD Garden in Boston, starting Thursday night.

The Frozen Four, which is being played nearly two weeks after the Regional tournament, features just two of the tournament’s top four seeded teams — No. 32 North Dakota and No. 3 Boston University. Nebraska-Omaha and Providence are the other two participants.

Providence College will tangle with Nebraska-Omaha in the first semifinal while Boston University takes on North Dakota in the second semifinal. The puck is scheduled to drop at 5 p.m. (ET) for the opening game and 8:30 p.m., for the second game on April 9. Both games will be shown on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

North Dakota (seven) and Boston (five) have combined for 12 hockey national championships. On the other side, Providence is making its first appearance in the Frozen Four since 1985, and Nebraska-Omaha is in the semifinals for the first time in program history.

Here’s a breakdown of the teams that are playing in the Frozen Four.

Boston University (27-7-5)
How they got to the Frozen Four: The Terriers captured the Hockey East regular season crown and then ran through the conference tournament, outscoring their opponents 20-6 in four games to claim the tournament crown as well according to Scott McLaughlin of WEEI Radio. BU then advanced to the Regional title by beating Yale (3-2) in overtime and Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game by the same score.

The lowdown: The Terriers, who are playing in their first NCAA tournament in three years, are the youngest team in the country. BU has just two seniors on its rosters and rely heavily on their freshmen — the Terriers played nine freshmen during the regional tournament, including four defenseman.

“Got 40 games under your belt in college hockey, you’re a seasoned freshman.”

One of the freshmen that the Terriers count heavily on is Hobey Baker finalist Jack Eichel. Eichel, who is projected to be one of the top picks in this year’s draft, has 24 goals and 43 assists.

BU has the No.2 offense and power play in the country. Their top line — Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, and Danny O’Reagan — has combined for 41 goals and 67 assists. The Terriers have seven former NHL draft picks on the squad.

Player Position NHL Team Draft
Brandon Hickey D Calgary Flames 2014, 3rd Round (64th)
Matt Grzelcyk D Boston Bruins 2012, 3rd Round (85th)
Danny O’Regan F San Jose Sharks 2012, 5th Round (138th)
Johnny MacLeod D Tampa Bay Lightning 2014, 2nd Round (57th)
Robbie Baillargeon F Ottawa Senators 2012, 5th Round (136th)
Doyle Somerby D New York Islanders 2012, 5th Round (125th)
J.J. Piccinich F Toronto Maple Leafs 2014, 4th Round (103rd)

North Dakota (29-9-3)

How they got to the Frozen Four
: North Dakota won the NCHC regular-season title but finished fourth in the conference’s tournament, after being outscored 8-2. North Dakota defeated Quinnipiac and St. Coud by identical 4-1 scores to reach the Frozen Four for the second straight season.

The lowdown: North Dakota’s.667 winning percentage is the best in the history of the tournament according to College Hockey News’ Avash Kalra. North Dakota has one of the best goaltenders’, Zane McIntyre, in the nation and are very deep. They also have 14 draft picks on the squad.

McIntyre has a nation-best 29 wins to go along and the sixth-best save percentage (.931). The Hobey Baker finalist nabbed 48-of-50 shots he faced during the West Regionals.

Player Position NHL Team Draft
Tucker Poolman D Winnipeg Jets 2013, 5th Round (127th)
Keaton Thompson D Anaheim Ducks 2013, 3rd Round (87th)
Nick Mattson D Chicago Blackhawks 2010, 6th Round (180th)
Paul LaDue D Los Angeles Kings 2012, 6th Round (191st)
Wade Murphy F Nashville Predators 2013, 7th Round (185th)
Nick Schmaltz F Chicago Blackhawks 2014, 1st Round (20th)
Austin Poganski F St. Louis Blues 2014, 4th Round (110th)
Michael Parks F Philadelphia Flyers 2010, 5th Round (149th)
Mark MacMillan F Montreal Canadiens 2010, 4th Round (113th)
Gage Ausmus D San Jose Sharks 2013, 5th Round (151st)
Brendan O’Donnell F Tampa Bay Lightning 2010, 6th Round (156th)
Jordan Schmaltz D St. Louis Blues 2012, 1st Round (25th)
Luke Johnson F Chicago Blackhawks 2013, 5th Round (134th)
Zane McIntyre G Boston Bruins 2010, 6th Round (165th)

Providence (24-13-2)

How they got to the Frozen Four: Providence finished second in the Hockey East during the regular season and was then upset in the quarterfinals by New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. The Friars reached the Frozen Four with a 7-5 victory over Miami (Ohio) and 4-1 win over Denver in the Regional Tournament.

The lowdown: Providence has one of the best goaltenders, John Gillies, and are very good at handling the puck. Gillies has a.929 save percentage.

Providence, which has seven draft picks on its roster, has scored on just 8.7 percent of their shots this year.

Player Position NHL Team Draft
John Gilmour D Calgary Flames 2013, 7th Round (198th)
Mark Adams D Buffalo Sabres 2009, 5th Round (134th)
Mark Jankowski D Calgary Flames 2012, 1st Round (21st)
Anthony Florentino D Buffalo Sabres 2013, 5th Round (143rd)
Jake Walman D St. Louis Blues 2014, 3rd Round (82nd)
Brian Pinho F Washington Capitals 2013, 6th Round (174th)
John Gillies G Calgary Flames 2012, 3rd Round (75th)

Nebraska-Omaha (20-12-6)

How they got to the Frozen Four: Nebraska-Omaha is one of the biggest surprises in college hockey this year, according to the College Hockey News’ Jashvina Shah. The Mavericks defeated Harvard (4-1) and RIT (4-0) in the regional tournament.

UNO finished third in the NCHC during the regular season and then was upended in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

The lowdown: Goalie Ryan Massa has been outstanding for the Mavericks. He leads the nation with a.939 save percentage, though he has been even better since January 13 — posting a.944 save percentage.

Nebraska-Omaha is not a good possession team, ranking No. 46 out of 59 teams in that category. The Mavericks have seven NHL draft picks on their roster.

Player Position NHL Team Draft
Brian Cooper D Anaheim Ducks 2012, 5th Round (127th)
Luc Snuggerud D Chicago Blackhawks 2014, 5th Round (141st)
Avery Peterson F Minnesota Wild 2013, 6th Round (167th)
Tyler Vesel F Edmonton Oilers 2014, 6th Round (153rd)
David Pope F Detroit Red Wings 2013, 4th Round (109th)
Tanner Lane F Winnipeg Jets 2010, 6th Round (160th)
Jake Guentzel F Pittsburgh Penguins 2013, 3rd Round (77th)

[photo via North Dakota Athletics]