The NCAA Frozen Four tournament stage is set with a pair of all too familiar faces, (Michigan, Boston College) one dominant team (Quinnipiac) and one mile-high Cinderella (Denver). Every team brings something unique to the championship round that could win them the NCAA title or send them home empty handed. All will be revealed later today, when the semifinals start in Tampa Bay.

Let’s get right into it.


 

Quinnipiac

Why they will win
The number one overall seed returns to the Frozen Four for the first time since their debut in 2013, when they were shutout by Yale. Since that heartbreaking loss, the Bobcats have been one of the most dominant teams in the NCAA, posting a 108-33-22 record and two regular season ECAC Hockey titles. That’s really good, especially considering some of the teams that they play on a consistent basis including Nashville’s public enemy number two’s team, Harvard.

The Bobcats are as deep as they are talented, with 10 players boasting 20 or more points on the season and one of the most electrifying players in college hockey, junior Sam Anas. Having Toews on your team doesn’t hurt either. No, not that Toews. Devon Toews (no relation) is a fourth round pick of the New York Islanders and has developed nicely at Quinnipiac, posting 67 points in 106 games as a defenseman. Toews leads a formidable group of blue liners who like to carry the puck up ice.

Quinnipiac is arguably the best special teams squad in the country, with a top five ranked power play (27.44%) and the nation’s third ranked PK (89.3%). Special teams could make or break a team during tournament time.

Why they will lose
It’s really hard not to like a team like Quinnipiac. Despite being the number one seed, they are still viewed by many in the media as being an underdog because of the established hockey powerhouses they will face in the final dance.

The biggest question is if Anas is fully healthy, as he wasn’t at full strength during the regionals. There is also very little familiarity between Boston College and Quinnipiac, with this meeting being the first time they have ever faced off against each other.

If Quinnipiac doesn’t get enough time on the PP, I could see them struggling. Outside of that, I think they have a very good chance of being the NCAA champ.


 

Boston College

Why they will win
Equally deep as Quinnipiac, Boston College is a formidable combination of grit and scoring with 11 players with 20 or more points and a ranking of fifth in penalty minutes. Last time the Eagles were in Tampa for the Frozen Four, they hoisted their fifth national championship in program history. These are familiar waters for head coach Jerry York, who has guided Boston College to 12 Frozen Four appearances in his 22 seasons as head coach. Experience is definitely on BC’s side.

Boston College also has Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist Thatcher Demko, who posted 10 shutouts in 38 games for the Eagles. That’s pretty dang stingy by any standard.
Similar to Quinnipiac, Boston College features a lethal offense (3.85 Goals per game) and a soul-crushing defense (1.98 goals against).

Why they will lose

This may seem like nitpicking, especially for a team with the fourth ranked PK, but Boston College tends to take a lot of penalties, which could be a factor against Quinnipiac or Michigan. They also tend to score a lot of shorthanded goals, so take that with a grain of salt.

There really aren’t a whole lot of weaknesses to BC, but I think their hardest draw is going to be Quinnipiac, who they have to get by in order to reach the title game. I am secretly hoping for a BC, North Dakota final because of how strong a rivalry these teams have.


 

North Dakota

Why they will win
Big shout out to a former colleague and friend, Joe Gieringer for a great summary of North Dakota’s recent title woes and how they hope their third time is a charm for this year’s roster. I made the mistake of riding the hot hand and picking against North Dakota in my earlier predictions, a mistake I am not going repeat.

North Dakota is led by a solid mix of grizzled (well, as grizzled as anyone can be in their early twenties) veterans and skilled rookies. The CBS line (Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz) have combined for a total of 143 points in 109 games this season. That’s a lot of fire power coming from just three guys. Their goaltending situation is also rock solid with sophomore Cam Johnson between the pipes, rocking a .934 save percentage and 1.668 goals against average.

The Fighting Hawks (which still feels weird to say) are as stingy as they come on defense, only allowing 1.86 goals per game while scoring at a healthy clip of 3.64 goals per game. That’s a winning formula if there ever was one.

This team will be hungry for a win, especially for their juniors and seniors. It’s now or never, boys.

Why they will lose
Similar to Boston College and Quinnipiac, North Dakota doesn’t really have a whole lot of pain points. They are deep, talented and play a heavy game. The only weakness I see in them is the pressure they will have on them to deliver a national title after? so many heartbreaks in recent memory.


 

Denver

Why they will win
The only remaining Cinderella of the tournament, Denver shocked experts by defeating the heavily favorited Boston University and Ferris State by a combined score of 13-5 to advance to their first Frozen Four since 2005. Similar to North Dakota, the Pioneers top line of Danton Heinen, Dylan Gambrell and Trevor Moore is one of the best in the country, combining for 139 points on the year. They also have a formidable blue line lead by upper classmen Will Butcher and Nolan Zajac.

Denver was one of the best teams in the second half of the season, with only two regulation losses since December 12. If they can keep that fire going, they may have a chance to make some noise and win their first title since 2005.

Why they will lose
I worry about how top heavy they are, with only five players with double digit goals on the year. If their top line is shutdown, I could see them really struggling to find any offense. They are going to have to rely heavily on sophomore netminder Tanner Jaillet to carry them down the stretch if the offense goes dry. Jaillet is a fine goalie, but he hasn’t proven himself to be as good as the other three in the Frozen Four.


 

Your NCAA champion is…

I’ve been downright terrible at predicting this tournament season, so I am sure whoever I pick will end up writing me some hate mail about how I jinxed their chances. So congratulation Boston College, you get the Rydburg curse.