Previewing and Predicting the Frozen Four

Previewing and Predicting the Frozen Four

By JD Biagioni

Boston College came up just short of a magical run to the Hockey East championship, meaning the Eagles will be watching the Frozen Four from home again this year. In an odd year in college hockey, multiple teams, chief among them Arizona State and American International, advanced to the national tournament for the very first time, while traditional powers like BC, BU, and Minnesota missed out on the tournament all together. Three of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament have never won a national title before, bringing a new flavor to the tournament. Will a year of surprises continue into the tournament? Let’s find out. 

East Region:

  • I have to ride the hot hand here. The Huskies have already won two trophies this season: the Beanpot and the Hockey East. Northeastern hasn’t missed a beat after losing its entire top line (Nolan Stevens, Dylan Sikura, and Adam Gaudette) from last season to the NHL. One of the main reasons for success this season has been the emergence of goaltender Cayden Primeau who finished the season second in the nation with a .936 save percentage. Wins over St. Cloud State and UMass already appear on the resume for the Huskies. Rolling into the tournament on an 11-1 stretch doesn’t hurt either. Minnesota State, the top seed in the region, is a great defensive team but hasn’t been able to take the next step after making it to the tournament over the last few seasons. Providence will have the home crowd behind it, but the slip-up to end the season against Boston College in the first round of the Hockey East tournament is concerning. Cornell, Northeastern’s first round opponent, is a potential sleeper in the field of 16. They’re a hard-working team that can grind out wins, something that’ll serve them well in a de-facto one-game series. Still, though, the Huskies are my pick in the East. 
  • Region predictions:
    • Northeastern over Cornell
    • Minnesota State over Providence
    • Northeastern over Minnesota State

Midwest Region:

  • Quinnipiac has been one of the more pleasant surprises in college hockey this season. The Bobcats went unranked in the preseason but finished as one of the best all-around teams in the nation. They are a top-five team in the nation both offensively and defensively. Junior goaltender Andrew Shortridge leads the nation in both goals against average and save percentage, posting a ridiculous 1.51 GAA and .941 save percentage. Senior defenseman Chase Priskie anchors the back line and should join the Washington Capitals once Quinnipiac’s tournament run is over. The x-factor for the Bobcats will be the play of Odeen Tufto who blossomed this season as one of the nation’s best goal-scorers. Tufto has one point in his last five games but was producing at a clip of 1.32 points-per game before that stretch. Quinnipiac’s region includes newcomer and first round opponent, Arizona State, defending national champion Minnesota Duluth, and wild card Bowling Green. QU should dispatch of Arizona State in the first round, and Bowling Green has a sneaky good shot of knocking off the defending champs, giving Quinnipiac a favorable matchup in the regional finals. 
  • Region predictions:
    • Quinnipiac over Arizona State
    • Bowling Green over Minnesota Duluth
    • Quinnipiac over Bowling Green

Northeast Region:

  • Yes, UMass got blanked by Boston College in the Hockey East Semifinals. But that shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Minutemen are one of the best teams in the nation. Led by sophomore sensation and Hobey Baker Cale Makar, the Minutemen recorded a program-best 28. UMass finished third in the nation in scoring offense and and had three of the top 20 point-getters in the nation, led by Makar’s 46 points, the third most by a defenseman. And the defense wasn’t bad either, finishing tenth in the nation. Where UMass really excels is on the power play; the Minutemen finished with 39 power play goals, tied with Bowling Green for the most in the nation. The region doesn’t present too difficult of a path, but the first round game against Harvard isn’t one the Minutemen should take lightly. The Crimson excel in the same areas as the Minutemen. Adam Fox is one of those two defensemen with more points than Makar, and Harvard was the only team with a better power play success rate than UMass. Also, the Minutemen went 17-1 at the Mullins Center, but only a combined 11-8 in non-home games. There are certainly red flags, and this is the region I feel least comfortable picking, but no team other than the Minutemen really stands out to me in the Northeast.
  • Region predictions:
    • UMass over Harvard
    • Clarkson over Notre Dame
    • UMass over Clarkson

West Region:

  • It’s been St. Cloud State and everyone else this season. The Huskies rode the nation’s second-best offense (4.08 GPG) to a 30-5-3 record. Patrick Newell, Blake Lizotte, and Robby Jackson all finished with over 1.10 points per game. Ryan Poehling, SCSU’s playmaking center and future Montreal Canadien, was injured in the NCHC semifinals but has been cleared to play against American International in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ohio State-Denver winner won’t make for an easy second round matchup, but the Huskies have been so good (their dominance of BC back in October is still burned in my mind) that I can’t pick against them. 
  • Region predictions:
    • St. Cloud State over AIC
    • Ohio State over Denver
    • St. Cloud State over Ohio State

Frozen Four:

St. Cloud State vs. UMass

The pick: UMass is a very good team, but St. Cloud is just on another level. Give me the Huskies. 

Northeastern vs. Quinnipiac

The pick: The hot goalie (Primeau) beats the top goalie (Shortridge). Give me the other Huskies.

Finals:

St. Cloud State vs. Northeastern

The pick: Hockey, more than any other sport, is prone to upsets. But the favorite keeps on rolling. St. Cloud State hoists its first national championship in Buffalo.