Inside the Frozen Four
TD Garden, Boston
Semifinals: Thursday • Final: Saturday (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
Despite a quarter of the NCAA tournament field hailing from Minnesota, the final weekend of college hockey will be played without any of the state’s four qualifying teams. Instead, two teams built heavily on Minnesota talent — Omaha and North Dakota — will compete for a national championship in Boston against two Hockey East members: Providence and Boston University.
Providence (24-13-2) vs. Omaha (20-12-6) 4 p.m., ESPN2
Inside the matchup: Providence, one of the last teams into the NCAA tournament, benefited from a great draw in the East Regional in their back yard. The Friars are riding the success of goaltender Jon Gillies, a two-time Mike Richter Award (nation’s top goaltender) nominee. The Friars’ offense has been just as good, scoring 11 goals in the East Regional against Miami (Ohio) and Denver. Omaha got hot at the right time after finishing the regular season and first round of the NCHC playoffs with a 3-6-3 record. Omaha, however, had been one of the top teams in college hockey throughout the season and a healthy roster showcased its talent in the Midwest Regional. The Mavericks have eight Minnesotans on their roster and are coached by International Falls native and former Gophers standout Dean Blais.
No. 3 Boston University (27-7-5) vs. No. 2 North Dakota (29-9-3) • 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Inside the matchup: Boston University might have the best player in college hockey, Jack Eichel. The freshmancenter leads the nation in scoring with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and is the favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award, honoring the country’s top player. Eichel is paired with the nation’s second-leading scorer, Evan Rodrigues (61 points). The Northeast Regional champion will be difficult to beat if the Terriers’ top two skaters are playing their best in front of a hometown crowd. North Dakota goalie and Thief River Falls, Minn., native Zane McIntyre could be enough to shut down BU’s top talent. McIntyre is a Hobey Baker and Mike Richter Award finalist. He gave up only one goal in each of the West Regional victories and could be North Dakota’s ticket to its first national title since 2000.