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Gophers players and fans celebrated an early goal by Justin Kloos in the first period Sunday in an NCAA tournament game at Xcel Energy Center.

MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

Three high-profile programs should generate Frozen Four buzz

  • Article by: Jason Gonzalez
  • Star Tribune
  • April 3, 2014 - 12:32 AM

Big acts return to the Frozen Four this year.

Boston College, North Dakota, Minnesota and proven up-and-comer Union will be on display for college hockey’s biggest weekend. Big names mean big numbers and extra attention in Philadelphia.

“It’s going to be pretty close to a sellout crowd there,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “You’ve got marquee names, and that’s going to draw a lot of interest.”

It’ll be a big change from last year’s finale in Pittsburgh. Three programs were making their first appearance in the Frozen Four, and eventual national champion Yale was making its second.

This year’s field has a combined 67 Frozen Four appearances. Boston College leads with 24, the Gophers have 21, North Dakota 20 and Union two.

Attendance held up well for last year’s newcomers, although it was a struggle to fill the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh for Thursday night’s semifinals. With Boston College’s Hobey Baker Award favorite Johnny Gaudreau playing in his hometown, and the historic rivalry between North Dakota and the Gophers on tap for the semifinals, filling seats and TV ratings shouldn’t be a problem this year.

“From a TV standpoint, obviously having North Dakota, Minnesota and Boston College is great,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Union was in the Frozen Four two years ago and they’re an outstanding team. … I think it’ll be two outstanding games in the semifinals.”

Hobey finalists named

St. Cloud State senior forward Nic Dowd is one of three Hobey Baker Award finalists. The field was cut down from 10 on Tuesday, eliminating Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox.

Gaudreau, a junior winger, and St. Lawrence senior forward Greg Carey are the other finalists for college hockey’s top player award.

It’s the second consecutive year a St. Cloud State player has been among the final three. Drew LeBlanc won the program’s first Hobey Baker Award last season.

Wilcox shut out St. Cloud State in Sunday’s NCAA tournament West Regional, but none of the three goaltenders in contention made the final cut.

The winner will be announced on April 11 at the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

“It was nice to be in the top 10, it’s a pretty good accomplishment. … Not making the top three is fine. The last two weeks here [preparing for the Frozen Four] are what we were playing for from the start of the season,” Wilcox said. “That’s what I’m most excited for, that’s what I wanted coming into college here. … That’s what the team wants, and that’s the biggest prize and the only one I want.”

Wilcox is still a front-runner for the inaugural Mike Richter Award honoring the nation’s top goaltender.

Fairly healthy

The Gophers’ bumps and bruises are limited heading into their final week of practice.

The complete roster practiced on Wednesday although freshman forward Hudson Fasching skated wearing a red cross jersey, meaning no contact with him. The jersey was just a precaution after Fasching took a hard fall in last weekend’s regional. He moved well and looked healthy throughout the workout.

Lucia said the extra time off between the regional and Frozen Four enables teams to rest at the end of their seven-month season.

“You gotta be mentally and physically fresh at this time of the year since our season is so long,” Lucia said. “I’ve always said, ‘If you’re going to do well at the end, you have to be good, you gotta be lucky and gotta be healthy.’ And we’re healthy right now and, hopefully, we’ll be really good.”

© 2014 Star Tribune