Frozen Four. Those two words alone should be music to the ears of any hockey fan. The greatest spectacle college hockey has to offer is upon us and tonight at 5 p.m. ET, we’ll be treated to one of the great events in the game today. So basically, you probably don’t need a bunch of reasons to watch tonight. You’re already tuning in.
That’s not going to stop me for giving the many reasons the 2014 Frozen Four is worth watching for anyone that even remotely likes sports. There really are a lot of reasons to watch, so I had to pare this list down from 1,342 items to the best 15 reasons to tune in.
Both games from today will be on ESPN2 in the U.S. and guess what, Canada? You’re not left out this year. TSN2 picked up the Frozen Four, so you can see some great young Canadian players and some solid prospects for Canadian based teams.
Union meets Boston College at 5 p.m. ET, while Minnesota and North Dakota will clash at 8:30 p.m. The national championship game will air live on ESPN (and I believe TSN2) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
So let’s get to all the reasons you should be watching the Frozen Four starting tonight…
15. There are too many games in the NHL Thursday
Why choose among the 11 games in the National Hockey League Thursday night when almost all of the playoff spots are decided and three of the four division champs have already been decided? Sure, some seeding could be decided tonight and maybe St. Louis clinches the Central, but come on, you guys, you’ve been watching this stuff all year. You can take a break before the playoffs, you deserve it.
In the Frozen Four, there are only two games tonight and they’re not played at the same time. So sheath the remote, settle into the couch and watch what will probably be the two most entertaining hockey games of the 13 that will be on tonight.
14. Because I Said So
Look, dear reader, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. I appreciate that you’ve come all the way from wherever you are to read this little blog and I want to make sure you’re taken care of. I’m trying to do you a favor here. If you don’t watch these games tonight, well, you’re only punishing yourself. Depriving yourself of great hockey really doesn’t do you or anyone around you any good. Just take it from ol’ CP, you’re going to like the way you look sitting on your couch, eating some chips and dip with a tall beverage of the carbonated or alcoholic variety, I guarantee it.
13. Which coach’s steely gaze is more terrifying? Union’s Rick Bennett or North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol?
Though their teams will not play each other Thursday night, the potential exists for a Rick Bennett, Dave Hakstol staring contest in the national championship game Saturday. However, since both will be on television in quick succession Thursday, we have an important evaluation point.
Neither of these images are the scariest look you’ll see from these coaches because those images are not safe for work and/or your health.
Neither Hakstol nor Bennett are frequent smilers. They keep a pretty cold demeanor on the bench. Both have many penalty minutes in their past as players.
I’m not sure if I believe the rumors, but I heard Hakstol once stared right through a referee in the old WCHA. Right through him. Eyewitnesses claim they’ve never seen so much blood.
Meanwhile, Bennett nearly came to blows with RPI head coach Seth Appert earlier this year.
Both are excellent coaches, though. Just scary as all get out. Bennett was just named coach of the year yesterday as well. I’m sure that had nothing to do with voter intimidation.
12. Learn about all your favorite alumni in the NHL
Say, did you know Olympic hero T.J. Oshie played college hockey at the University of North Dakota? You would if you watched tonight’s game as I am sure the broadcast duo of John Buccigross and Barry Melrose will tell you about that sort of thing. Heck, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise went to UND, too! They’re Olympians also.
Don’t you just love pint-sized Nathan Gerbe of the Carolina Hurricanes and Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens? Of course you do and they went to Boston College.
What about Phil Kessel? You like lots of goals, right? Well Phil Kessel played a year at Minnesota and a whole bunch of other guys in the NHL, too, but none that scored as many goals this year.
And Union doesn’t have a lot of really notable guys in the NHL yet, so I can’t really expound on that one for the Dutchmen, but here’s alum Jeremy Welsh wearing a funny hat after scoring his first NHL goal with the Canucks this year.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) November 23, 2013
11. Adam Wilcox’s Ironman Mask
There are a lot of great masks in college hockey, but Adam Wilcox’s Ironman lid stands out. Works out that the Ironman color scheme is fairly close to that of the University of Minnesota. Screengrab via @cjzero.
10. Jerry York’s endearing Boston accent and grandfatherly niceness
No coach has won more games than Jerry York and few are as well liked as the Boston College bench boss. He has four national titles at BCand another while at Bowling Green and this is his 11th trip to the Frozen Four.
When you see his interview, you’ll probably want him to be your grandpa. No doubt he’ll read you fantastical bedtime stories and always sneak you a butterscotch behind your mom’s back. He might even pat you on the head and call you “Sport” which of course would be pronounced “Spawt” and mean that much more.
9. The wonderful rainbow of college hockey jerseys
If you’re going to the Frozen Four, a fun game is to count how many different schools adorn the bejerseyed fans at the game. Hopefully ESPN does one of those concourse shots before the game. I’d bet you could count 10 different school’s jerseys and probably 50 North Dakota variations in one shot.
The beautiful thing about college hockey and particularly the Frozen Four is that the fans are a tight-knit community. Many don’t care if their favorite school is there or not. The Frozen Four is annual tradition for many in the college hockey community. It makes the game more of an event that way.
8. Trick your children into watching with you!
Here’s a tip to all you moms and dads out there who may have had their televisions monopolized for the last month after a certain movie recently came out on Blu-ray. Gather the kids around the TV and tell them you can’t wait to watch Frozen with them tonight. I’m pretty sure they won’t be able to tell the difference and you technically won’t be lying. You’re watching a Frozen something. If all else fails, just start singing Let It Go really loud without taking your eyes off the TV. Should be like the same thing for the little ones. Nothing like quality time with the family.
7. PEP BANDS
You guys remember the Hartford Whalers and Brass Bonanza, right? Well we got lots of brass in college hockey and woodwinds and percussion and something that has become unique to college hockey. Pep bands are pretty great.
Sorry again, Union. YouTube’s got nothin’.
6. Prospects Upon Prospects
There will be 40 drafted prospects taking the ice in Philadelphia this weekend including first-round selections Kevin Hayes (CHI) and Michael Matheson (FLA) from Boston College, Brady Skjei (NYR) of Minnesota, and North Dakota’s Jordan Schmaltz (STL).
Union only has one drafted player in Shayne Gostibehere, who oddly enough will be playing in the rink he hopes to soon call home as a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick. The skilled defenseman was probably the best blueliner in all of college hockey this year and was a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist.
Meanwhile, players that were mid- to late-round picks that have developed into top prospects are quite plentiful. Hudson Fasching (BUF) and Adam Wilcox (TBL) have rocketed up in professional stock at Minnesota, while the same can be said for BC’s Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) and Bill Arnold (CGY) and Dillon Simpson (EDM) of North Dakota.
The Frozen Four also represents a good chance to get a look at some undrafted players that could be signed as free agents like Union’s Daniel Carr
The Frozen Four has been packed with drama over the years thanks to so many thrilling finishes throughout its history. So many dramatic OT games as well.
Minnesota has an exciting finish in its history as they won the national title on home ice in 2002. They scored the tying goal with less than a minute to play. Then Grant Potulny, now an assistant coach for the Gophers, beat Maine with his OT goal from the slot:
And who could forget (sorry, Miami fans if you did manage to forget) Boston University’s dramatic comeback and OT winner in the 2009 national championship? Miami had a 3-1 lead with a minute to go in the game. BU scored twice with the net empty to tie and scored an awfully fluky game-winning goal by Colby Cohen. It’s one of the most heart-wrenching finishes to a hockey game I’ve seen, but it is one of the Frozen Four’s greatest moments.
This is the kind of stuff we seem to get a lot at the Frozen Four and it’s fun as hell.
4. The Johnny Hockey Show
There have been better players in college hockey’s history, but few have been as entertaining as Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau. The diminutive junior forward leads the country in goals (35), assists (42) and points (77) and will undoubtedly win the Hobey Baker Award Friday night.
He has the kind of game that makes people pay attention because odds are he is going to make a play that you’ve never seen before. With magic stickhandling and a quick shot, it doesn’t take much for him to put the puck in the net.
Putting him on a big stage is where he seems to shine brightest as he did in the 2011 USHL Clark Cup Finals, the 2012 national championship game and the 2013 World Juniors. This kid shows up in big games. Here’s his goal from the 2012 final…
I’m pretty sure we’ll see Gaudreau go pro after this season, so this could be the last glimpse of one of the college game’s great talents at this level.
3. There Will Be Goals
Boston College and Union are two of the most explosive offensive teams in the country. They get contributions from throughout their lineup, including the blue line and they typically score a lot of goals.
With these two clubs on the same ice, it should make for a very fast game. I don’t know if it will be a goal bonanza in the game, but there will be entertaining ice hockey played. That I can guarantee.
BC scored 160 goals this year with 47 percent of them coming from the trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold. They’ve been impossible to shut down all season with points in pretty much every game.
Union has a talented group up front led by senior Daniel Carr and two of the finest offensive defensemen in the country in Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Goalies Colin Sullivan for Union and BC’s Thatcher Demko are going to get a workout.
2. The Rivalry
Minnesota and North Dakota hate each other. Hate. And this is the kind of hate that goes back a long, long ways. The Gophers lead the all-time series 137-129-15, but the teams are even at neutral sites at 8-8-0.
Realignment separated them and for the first time in decades, the two clubs did not play each other this year. Losing that series was one of realignment’s greatest casualties, but the Hockey Gods said, “No. This is happening. It’s going to happen someplace big and a lot of people are going to watch it.
The two clubs have met a total of four times at the NCAA tournament and have split those meetings. Minnesota most recently ended North Dakota’s season at the NCAA regional in 2012 with a 5-2 win.
This game is going to be a battle, no question. Seeing two of college hockey’s historically great programs going at it on the biggest stage is going to be a real treat.
1. It’s Fun.
It’s been a wild year in college hockey with realignment really shaking things up and programs getting moved to different conference and some of the traditions being lost. The Frozen Four really isn’t any different. It’s the same as it ever was and with the teams involved it should be as great as it ever was.
You’ve got the three best teams in the country in Boston College, Minnesota and Union, with North Dakota playing some really great hockey to get to this point after a slow start to the season. All four teams are going to bring everything they have to the ice.
It has been incredibly rare to see a team no-show at the Frozen Four. You’re getting some of the best effort, best talent and some of the most exciting hockey you’ll see all season at any level.
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs looming, this is such a great appetizer. There’s so much line and this championship meaning so much to these players. They’re going to put together some incredible hockey games.
If you’ve never seen college hockey before, this is the perfect time to start. It’s not the NHL, but it’s a great product with a lot of things you can’t get out of an NHL game. So, as I’ve said time and time again, watch. You won’t regret it.