FROZEN FOUR PREVIEW
East meets West. Newcomer faces defending champion. Nation's top player takes on the country's best playoff goalie. When Massachusetts and Minnesota Duluth battle for the national championship on Saturday night in Buffalo, N.Y., in the NCAA Frozen Four final, there will be an abundance of story lines to follow. Here is a look:
Who: Massachusetts (31-9) vs. Minnesota Duluth (28-11-2)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
How they got here
• Hockey East regular-season champion Massachusetts, the No. 3 overall NCAA seed, defeated Harvard 4-0 and Cornell 4-0 to win the Northeast Region. On Thursday, the Minutemen edged Denver 4-3 in overtime in the NCAA semifinals.
• NCHC tournament champion Minnesota Duluth, the No. 2 overall seed, beat Bowling Green 2-1 in overtime and Quinnipiac 3-1 to win the Midwest Region. The Bulldogs defeated Providence 4-1 in the national semifinals.
• UMass is in its first Frozen Four, and its only other NCAA tournament appearance came in 2007.
• UMD is seeking its third national title (the others were in 2011 and 2018) and is in its seventh Frozen Four. The Bulldogs are in the NCAA tournament for the 13th time.
• UMass, Greg Carvel, third year, 53-58-4 at UMass; 125-121-19 in seven years overall.
• UMD, Scott Sandelin, 19th year, 368-311-87.
• UMass has players from nine states (four from Massachusetts), three Canadian provinces (five from Ontario) and one from Finland.
• UMD's roster includes 17 Minnesotans, plus one player from each of five states, California, Iowa, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Bulldogs also have two players from Alberta and Ontario, and one from Saskatchewan.
Three Minutemen to watch
Cale Makar, defenseman: The sophomore won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player on Friday and could be playing for the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs next week. Makar had an assist in the Minutemen's 4-3 overtime victory over Denver in the semifinals, giving him 49 points on 16 goals and 33 assists this season. That ranks third nationally, one point behind forwards Alex Limoges of Penn State and Taro Hirose of Michigan State
Marc Del Gaizo, defenseman: The freshman might have been the best player on the ice for the Minutemen in their win over Denver, and not just because he scored the winner in overtime. Del Gaizo also had an assist and a team-high four shots on goal.
Filip Lindberg, goalie: The freshman from Finland had back-to-back shutouts in the Northeast Region and has allowed only eight goals in his past seven games overall. He made 37 saves in the semifinal win.
Three Bulldogs to watch
Hunter Shepard, goalie: Quite simply, the junior from Cohasset, Minn., is the backbone of this team. In his seven NCAA tournament games, the first-team West All-America is undefeated and has allowed eight goals, never more than two in a game. If he's that sharp again Saturday, it's highly likely the Bulldogs hang another national title banner.
Nick Wolff, defenseman: The junior from Eagan set the tone with a big hit in the first minute of the physical victory over Providence, and he was key in clearing traffic in front of the net. Wolff took a penalty, and the Friars made UMD pay with a power-play goal, so he'll have to take care to not cross the line.
Justin Richards, center: The sophomore scored the Bulldogs' first and last goals against Providence and was outstanding in the circle, winning 16 of 26 faceoffs. Richards, whose father, Todd, is the former Wild coach, is tied with Parker Mackay for the team scoring lead with 31 points.
The NCAA suspended UMass freshman forward Bobby Trivigno for the title game for a hit to the head of a Denver player on Thursday. The hit, which came late in the third period, was not penalized during the game, but the NCAA hockey committee reviewed the play and handed out the suspension. Trivigno has 13 goals and 15 assists this season.
By the numbers
5-29-2 Massachusetts' record in 2016-17, Carvel's first year in Amherst.
11-2 Minnesota Duluth's NCAA record over the past four years, with 11 of those 13 games decided by one goal and the margins in the other two only becoming larger with empty-net tallies in the third period.
2004, 2005 The last time a team won back-to-back NCAA titles, a feat accomplished by Denver. UMD will try to win its second consecutive title Saturday.
From the coaches
"That five-win season is still pretty fresh. The pain from that season has sunk in. The glory of this season hasn't sunk in yet.''
— Greg Carvel, on his first season at UMass
"Our group has been in a lot of tough games; they've been in big games. And they've learned how to win some of those games. … This group, sometimes I didn't know if it was there. But they've really proven it here when it's crunch time.''
—Minnesota Duluth's Scott Sandelin