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Prospect Corner: 2018 NCAA Frozen Four Preview

The best teams in college hockey face off for the NCAA title starting today.

2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Kicking off today at multiple regional sites is the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four, one of the best hockey events of the year. This year’s tournament should provide high theatre given the parity that has reigned during the regular season.

For your look at the bracket, take a look here.


  • March 23rd-25th - Regionals (various regional sites)
  • April 5th - Semi-Finals (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.)
  • April 7th - Championship (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul)

West Region (Sioux Falls, S.D.)

  • 1 seed - St. Cloud State 25-8-6
  • 2 seed - Minnesota State 29-9-1
  • 3 seed - Minnesota-Duluth 21-16-3
  • 4 seed - Air Force 22-14-5

The Breakdown

This year, the West Region is stocked full of teams from Minnesota who will battle it out to make the Frozen Four in their own back yard. (Sorry, Air Force.) St. Cloud State enters the tournament as the overall #1 seed after being the top team in the USCHO Top 20 pool for a chunk of the season. The Huskies won the NCHC regular season title, but were edged out by Denver in the conference tournament final.

Joining them in the West Regional are Minnesota State, who despite being the best team in the WCHA dropped their conference final to Michigan Tech; Minnesota-Duluth, who finished third in a stacked NCHC; and Air Force, the always dangerous Atlantic champions.

It’s unfortunate for fans of Minnesota hockey that only one of their three teams will have a shot at playing at Xcel Energy Center once the semi-finals begin, but it should be a hell of a regional in Sioux Falls.

Player to Watch

United States v Czech Republic: Bronze Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Ryan Poehling - St. Cloud State

The first-round selection of the Montreal Canadiens in 2017 is a do-everything player for the Huskies who has had a solid sophomore season. As far as potential NHLers down the road, he’s the player to be on the lookout for in this region.

Canes Related

Outside of rooting interests in the Canes locker room, there’s nothing to see here in terms of Canes prospects. However, St. Cloud defenseman Jimmy Schuldt will be one of the most sought-after college free agents this summer should he choose to make the jump to the professional ranks.

The pick: St. Cloud State

Midwest Region (Allentown, Pa.)

  • 1 seed - Ohio State 24-9-5
  • 2 seed - Denver 22-9-8
  • 3 seed - Penn State 18-14-5
  • 4 seed - Princeton 19-12-4

The Breakdown

Ohio State, who was the regular season and tournament runner up in the Big Ten, gets a rough draw with Denver as their number two seed. Add that to the fact that the tournament is being played in Penn State’s back yard, and it will be a tough road to Saint Paul for the Buckeyes.

Denver will be looking to defend their national title from a year ago and will fall back on the experience from their run in 2017 as well as the talented pair of Troy Terry and Henrik Borgstrom. Penn State actually had a strong record against the Buckeyes in Big Ten play this season, winning twice and taking their conference rivals to overtime once in four games.

Princeton is the talk of the college hockey community after going from a seven seed in the ECAC conference tournament, to conference champions after defeating Union, Cornell and Clarkson on the way to a NCAA tournament bid. They will be hard-pressed to continue their Cinderella run, but have proven that anything is possible.

Player to Watch

2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Henrik Borgstrom – Denver

One of the most electric players in college hockey was drafted at the end of the first round in 2016 by the Florida Panthers. If there was a re-draft, there’s no doubt that the offensively dynamic Borgstrom would be taken much higher.

Canes Related

Although not a prospect in the organization, the Canes do have some connection to this region, with local goaltender Sean Romeo carrying the load for Ohio State. A former Jr. Hurricanes standout, Romeo has been a huge part of the Buckeyes earning a top regional seed. In 34 games this season, Romeo boasts a 2.09 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

The pick: Denver

Northeast Region (Worcester, Mass.)

  • 1 seed - Cornell 25-5-2
  • 2 seed - Michigan 20-14-3
  • 3 seed - Northeastern 23-9-5
  • 4 seed - Boston University 21-13-4

The Breakdown

Of the four teams in this region, most would be surprised to know that only the four-seed Boston University won their conference tournament, which is the reason they earned an invite. Cornell was terrific all year, leading the NCAA’s in winning percentage (.812) and allowing just 49 goals in 32 games. Second-seeded Michigan bounces back with a NCAA tournament berth after missing out on the party a year ago. Northeastern boasts the top line in college hockey with Adam Gaudette (VAN), Dylan Sikura (CHI) and Nolan Stevens (STL), and in a short tournament like this, sometimes top-end skill can be the difference maker.

Player to Watch

2016 Beanpot Tournament - Consolation Game Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Adam Gaudette – Northeastern

As many college hockey players do, Gaudette started his career as a under the radar fifth-round selection of the Vancouver Canucks but has developed himself into a relevant NHL prospect. Look for him to take the next step to professional hockey quickly, as he won’t need to spend much time in the Canucks system after he turns pro.

Canes Related

Two Canes prospects in this region are 2016 draftee Matt Filipe (Northeastern) and 2017 draftee Luke Martin (Michigan). Their teams will meet up Saturday at 4:30PM on ESPNews if any Canes fans want to tune in.

The pick: Northeastern

East Region (Bridgeport, Conn.)

  • 1 seed - Notre Dame 25-9-2
  • 2 seed - Providence 23-11-4
  • 3 seed - Clarkson 23-10-6
  • 4 seed - Michigan Tech 22-16-5

The Breakdown

Notre Dame dominated the early part of the NCAA season, with a 16-game win streak that lasted from October 27th-January 19th. It’s truly remarkable for a college hockey team that endures multiple back-to-backs and grueling travel schedules. The Fighting Irish have gone 6-6-1 since their streak ended, but their performance in the Big Ten tournament could mean they are back on track.

Providence, Clarkson and Michigan Tech all worked their way into the conference championship games of their respective conferences, despite none being the top seed. All three teams have had solid patches of the 2017-18 season and will look to continue momentum into the postseason.

Player to Watch

2017 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships - Semifinals

Cale Morris - Notre Dame

A big question for this season was how the Fighting Irish were going to replace top goaltender Cal Petersen coming off a great year last year. Cale Morris has stepped in and not missed a beat with a 1.92 goals against average and a .946 save percentage.

Canes Related

Another local product, Josh Wilkins is one of Providence’s top three scorers. The sophomore forward has 30 points in 38 games on the season and leads the Friars with five game winners.

The pick: Notre Dame