Minnesota defenseman Justin Holl hadn’t scored a goal all season, partly due to his role as a shutdown blueliner for the nation’s top-ranked team. And there he was in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal game, killing a penalty against North Dakota’s most dangerous players, with regulation time winding down in a 1-1 tie. After Minnesota center Kyle Rau (a 2011 draft pick by Florida) won a defensive-zone draw, the puck was cleared quickly, and the Golden Gophers headed up the ice on an odd-man rush with 6 seconds left in the third period. Holl passed to Rau, whose shot was blocked, the puck ricocheting off Holl’s skate to his stick. With less than a second left, Holl quickly launched a seeing-eye shot from just inside the left faceoff dot, which beat UND netminder Zane Gothberg (2010, BOS) at the far post.
|Senior defensemen Justin Holl (left) has been an integral part of top-ranked Minnesota's run to the Frozen Four, while senior forward Kevin Hayes has put up 63 points so far this season, second-most in the nation. (Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics and John Quackenbos/Boston College)|
Five Blackhawks prospects will vie for college hockey’s ultimate prize—the NCAA championship—at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on April 10 and 12. Here’s a look at who’s involved and their road to Philly:
(1) Minnesota vs. (14) North Dakota
How they got there: Minnesota trounced Robert Morris 7-1 in the first round, then blanked St. Cloud State 4-0 to emerge from the West Region. North Dakota upset BIG10 champion Wisconsin 5-2 in the first round before squeaking past Ferris State 2-1 in double overtime to book their berth to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008.
History: Minnesota and North Dakota will rekindle one of college hockey’s best rivalries from the old WCHA, although the two teams have moved on through realignment, joining the BIG10 and NCHC, respectively. The Golden Gophers ended UND’s title hopes two years in a row (2011, 2012), and they hold a 138-130-15 edge in the all-time series. North Dakota began the season with a 4-7-2 record with just one win on home ice, but finished with a 21-6-1 run, including a 10-game streak without a loss from Nov. 30-Jan. 24. These two teams also feature two of the top six goalies in the nation: Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox (25-5-6 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage) and North Dakota’s Zane Gothberg (20-9-3 with a 1.99 GAA and .926 SV%).
Holl has played a vital role on Minnesota’s blue line in his senior season, going back to his natural position after splitting his junior campaign between defense and forward. Holl has 12 assists in 37 games so far for the Gophers and ranks second among active roster players with 140 games played over four seasons. UND freshman Johnson has impressed in his first campaign, posting 21 points (8G, 13A) in 41 games so far; his 103 shots on net rank second on the team. Mattson recorded career highs in assists (18) and points (22) this season, sharing second among team defensemen. Additionally, the junior blueliner earned the NCAA Elite 89 Award, which honors the championship competitor with the highest level of academic achievement (Mattson has a 3.966 cumulative GPA).
Game broadcast: April 10, 7:30 p.m. CDT, ESPN2
(2) Boston College vs. (3) Union
How they got there: Union cruised past the University of Vermont 5-2 in the first round and defeated Providence 3-1 to reach the Frozen Four for just the second time in school history. Boston College posted a 6-2 win over Denver in the first round of the Northeast bracket, then defeated Hockey East foe UMass-Lowell 4-3 in the regional final.
History: Union’s 5-1 win over BC in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament might still be fresh in the Eagles’ memories; the two teams didn’t play during the 2013-14 regular season, so Thursday afternoon’s semifinal will serve as a revenge match. The Dutchmen enter the contest with a 15-game unbeaten streak and boast one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, anchored by defenseman Shayne Gotisbehere and netminder Colin Stevens, who ranks second in the nation with 26 wins and six shutouts. They’ll be thoroughly challenged by the seemingly unstoppable BC offense, keyed by the most prolific line in college hockey (192 points combined), which features two of this year’s Hobey Baker finalists, among them Chicago prospect Kevin Hayes.
Hayes’ senior season has been eye-opening, as Chicago’s 2010 first-round pick has compiled 63 points (27G, 36A) in 39 games so far this season, including seven points (3G, 4A) in the first two games of the NCAA tournament. Moving from center to wing has helped his game, as he’s been a beast along the walls and behind the opponent’s net, creating space for linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. Calnan was eased into his first season with the Eagles, playing a depth role and compiling 12 points (4G, 8A) in 36 games, fifth-best among team freshmen.
Broadcast: April 10, 4 p.m. CDT, ESPN2
|(Greg Hamil/Rockford IceHogs)|
1st Star: D Adam Clendening, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 2GP, 2G
Clendening extended his point streak to three games with two goals in Rockford’s weekend set at Abbotsford last week. Clendening netted his 11th of the season in Friday’s 6-3 loss, then scored again on Saturday in a 5-3 loss. Clendening continues to lead the IceHogs with 44 assists and 56 points in his second AHL campaign.
|(John Quackenbos/Boston College)|
1st Star: C/RW Kevin Hayes, Boston College (H-EAST)
The Line: 2GP, 3G, 4A, +7 plus/minus rating
Hayes helped key Boston College’s dominant run through the Northeast regional bracket last weekend, tallying three goals and four assists as the Eagles outscored their opponents 10-5. Chicago’s 2010 first-round pick scored twice and added two helpers in a 6-2 win over Denver on Saturday, then posted a team-high three points (1G, 2A) the next night in a 4-3 win over Hockey East rival UMass-Lowell. BC will face ECAC champion Union in the Frozen Four semifinal on April 10 in Philadelphia.
|(Photo courtesy Miami University Athletics)|
1st Star: C Anthony Louis, Miami University of Ohio (NCHC)
The Line: 2GP, 3G
In an underdog surprise, the eight-seeded Miami RedHawks eliminated North Dakota with a 3-0 win to reach the first-ever NCHC title game, then put up a good fight against Denver before losing 4-3 in the tournament final. Louis tallied in Friday’s 3-0 blanking over UND, then netted two more goals the next night in a losing effort. The Winfield, Ill., native ended his freshman campaign with 25 points (12G, 13A) in 36 games, ranking fifth on the team.
|(John Mersits/University of Notre Dame)|
1st Star: D Stephen Johns, Notre Dame (H-EAST)
The Line: 3GP, 3G, 1A
Johns’ offensive explosion paced Notre Dame’s upset of top-seeded Boston College in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East tournament, as the Irish emerged victorious from the three-game set in Boston last weekend. The 2010 second-round pick posted a season high with two goals and an assist in a 7-2 win in Game 1 on Friday, then opened the scoring for Notre Dame in Sunday’s 4-2 victory that clinched a spot in the tournament final.
|(Terry Wilson/OHL Images)|
1st Star: C/RW Ryan Hartman, Plymouth (OHL)
The Line: 3GP, 2G, 1A
The Whalers clinched the eighth seed in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference after winning two of three games last week. Hartman tallied in both wins and added an assist on March 9 against Saginaw. The 2013 first-round draft pick paces the team with 26 assists and shares the team lead with 51 points, despite playing just 50 games this season.
|(Terry WIlson/OHL Images)|
1st Star: C/RW Ryan Hartman, Plymouth (OHL)
The Line: 3GP, 1G, 4A, +3 plus/minus rating
Chicago’s 2013 first-round pick collected points in each of his three games last week to help the Whalers win two of their outings. Hartman picked up helpers on the opening goal as well as the game-winning tally in a 4-2 win over Kitchener on Tuesday. He assisted on Plymouth’s only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to Barrie on Friday, then posted the game-winning goal and an assist the next night in a 5-0 win over Windsor. Hartman leads the Whalers with 25 assists and ranks second with 48 points in just 47 games this season.
|(Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)|
1st Star: C Brandon Pirri, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 2GP, 2G, 1A
Pirri extended his point streak to six games and goal streak to three contests with two goals and an assist for the IceHogs over the weekend. The 2009 draft pick opened the scoring in Friday’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Wolves before assisting on the game-winning goal by Garret Ross; the next night, Pirri netted the game-winner in a 4-1 win over Milwaukee. Pirri was named the MVP of the AHL All-Star Game on Feb. 13 after posting three points (2G, 1A) in the combined league roster’s 7-2 win over Sweden’s Farjestad BK.
|(Greg Hamil/Rockford IceHogs)|
1st Star: LW Jeremy Morin, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 3GP, 4G, 2A, +4 plus/minus, first career hat trick
Rockford stretched their victorious streak to a season-long four games with three wins last week, and Morin led the way offensively with his first career hat trick and an assist on Feb. 8 in a 8-3 rout of the Iowa Wild. He added another goal the next night in a 5-4 overtime win against Utica and now leads the team with 15 tallies in just 35 games this season. Morin’s 71 career AHL goals also constitute a franchise record, passing Preston Mizzi’s 69, set during Rockford’s UHL days.