The Stanley Cup Playoffs may be just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to get into playoff mode.
College hockey’s scaled-down version of March Madness, the Frozen Four, is set to start Friday as 16 teams from across the United States will battle it out to find a national champion in Philadelphia on April 12.
The Frozen Four differs from March Madness in that, once the semifinalists are established, they have nearly two weeks to prepare for each other before playing.
This tournament can also serve as a launching pad for future NHL players. The 2014 Frozen Four tournament includes 93 prospects whose rights are spread across 27 NHL teams.
North Dakota leads the way with 15 NHL prospects, followed closely by the top-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers with 14. Robert Morris University and Ferris State are the only two teams in the tournament without an NHL prospect.
In terms of NHL representation, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida Panthers are tied at the top with eight prospects apiece in the tournament, followed by the six prospects representing both the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings. The Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, and Toronto Maple Leafs are the only three NHL teams not to be represented in the tournament.
Recent Frozen Four most outstanding players who went on to success in the NHL include Brendan Morrison (1996, Michigan), Marty Turco (1998, Michigan), Thomas Vanek (2003, Minnesota), Justin Abdelkader (2007, Michigan State), Nathan Gerbe (2008, Boston College), and J.T. Brown (2011, Minnesota-Duluth).
Of course, the Frozen Four will always be a team event, and we’re guaranteed a new champion as last year’s winner, Yale University, didn’t qualify for the tournament this year.
However, there are plenty of teams in the tournament with championship pedigree, with five of this year’s tournament participants combining for 30 national championships. Boston College has had the most success as of late, winning every second year since 2008.
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the first-round games.