After a week off following the four NCAA regional tournaments, college hockey will crown its national champion this week in Buffalo, N.Y., with Thursday’s semifinals between Providence and Minnesota Duluth (4 p.m.) and Denver and Massachusetts (7:30 p.m.) and the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Here is a look at the key player for each team at the Frozen Four:
Josh Wilkins, junior forward, Providence
* The 5-11, 180-pounder was the most outstanding player in the NCAA East Regional, scoring two goals and assisting on one in the Friars’ 6-3 first-round upset of top-seeded Minnesota State, then adding a goal and an assist in the 4-0 blanking of Cornell in the regional final. Wilkins, 21, is tied for seventh nationally with 45 points on 19 goals and 26 assists. He also has seven power-play goals, tied for best on the team. Wilkins, who played for Austin of the NAHL in 2014-15 and Sioux City of the USHL in 2015-16, has 47 goals and 60 assists in 118 career games for the Friars. The Raleigh, N.C., native was not drafted by an NHL team.
Hunter Shepard, junior goalie, Minnesota Duluth
* If you’re looking for a clutch tournament goalie, look no further than Shepard. He led the Bulldogs to last year’s national championship by winning four consecutive one-goal games that started with a 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota State in the West Regional first round and followed with 2-1 victories over Air Force, Ohio State and Notre Dame. This year, he allowed only two goals total in NCAA Midwest Regional triumphs over Bowling Green in overtime and Quinnipiac. The Cohasset, Minn., native is a finalist for the Mike Richter Award given to the nation’s nest goalie. Shepard has started all 40 games for Minnesota Duluth and has a 27-11-2 record with a 1.82 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and six shutouts. Shepard, 23, was not drafted by an NHL team.
Jarid Lukosevicius, senior forward, Denver
* The Squamish, British Columbia, native burst in the scene in the 2017 NCAA championship game by scoring all three Pioneers goals in a 3-2 victory over Minnesota Duluth. Since then, he’s kept up the scoring pace, potting 21 goals last year and adding a team-high 19 this season. Lukosevicius isn’t afraid to shoot, with his 130 shots on goal leading the team by 23. He also has seven game-winning goals this season and a program-record 16 for his career. Lukosevicius, 24, went undrafted by NHL teams.
Cale Makar, sophomore defenseman, Massachusetts
* The Minutemen are playing in their first Frozen Four, and Makar is a big reason why. The No. 4 overall draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2017 ranks third nationally in scoring with 48 points on 16 goals and 32 assists and has an eye-popping plus-32 rating. Makar, 6-2 and 192 pounds, is one of the Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists and is considered by many in college hockey circles to be the likely winner. The 20-year-old Calgary, Alberta, native is expected to sign with the Avalanche after the Frozen Four, and he could make his NHL debut in the playoffs.