Thursday, April 7, 2011
Today is the first day of the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four which will take place in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Xcel Engery Center, normally the home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
The first game today will take place at 4 PM Central on ESPN2 when the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) takes on The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish out of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The Bulldogs advanced to the Frozen Four by shutting out Union 2-0 and then #1 ranked Yale 5-3 while the Fighting Irish advanced by defeating Merrimack 4-3 in overtime and New Hampshire 2-1.
Duluth enters the Frozen Four with a record of 24-10-6. They finished 4th in the WCHA with 35 points, just 2 back of Denver in 2nd place. They are led by Jack Connolly's 58 points, followed by Justin Fontaine at 22 goals and 55 points and Mike Connolly, who totaled 53 points and led the team with 27 goals. Junior Kenny Reiter got both the wins in the East Regional and led the team with a 14-7-5 record.
UMD's program dates back to 1930 and they joined the WCHA in 1965 and have won the conference championship 11 times, including six in a row from 1956 to 1961 with the most recent in 1993. They have won the conference tournament three times.
They have never won the national championship, but have made it to the Frozen Four four times, 1984, 1985, 2004 and now 2011. Their appearance in 1984 ended with a historic 4 overtime loss to Bowling Green, while 1985 was another heartbreaker, a 3 overtime loss in the Semifinals.
Four Bulldogs players have won the Hobey Baker Award, Tom Kurvers (1984), Bill Watson (1985), Chris Marinucci (1994) and Junior Lessard (2004). In addition to the four Hobey Baker winners, the best known UMD alumni is NHL star Brett Hull.
Notre Dame enters the Frozen Four with a record of 25-13-5. They finished 2nd in the CCHA with 59 points, just 2 back of Michigan in first. They are led by freshmen T. J. Tynan's 53 points, followed by Anders Lee with a team leading 22 goals and 44 points. Sophomore Mike Johnson is the number one goaltender and posted a 20-9-4 record.
Notre Dame moved to Division I hockey in 1968 and they joined the WCHA in 1971. Ten years later they joined the CCHA, where they played for 2 years. After a year at the club level, they returned to Division I as an independent before rejoining the CCHA in 1992. They have won the conference championship twice in 2007 and 2009, as well as the conference tournament in both of those years.
They have never won the national championship, but have made it to the Frozen Four twice, in 2008 and again this year.
Today's second game pits the University of Michigan Wolverines of the CCHA against the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux from the WCHA at 7:30 PM, also on ESPN2. The Wolverines advanced to the Frozen Four by outlasting Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 in overtime before getting past Colorado College 2-1 while the Fighting Sioux stormed their regional by destroying Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 6-0 prior to thumping WCHA rival Denver, who they required double overtime to beat in St. Paul in the WCHA tournament eight days earlier, by a resounding 6-1.
Michigan enters the Frozen Four with a record of 28-10-4. They finished 1st in the CCHA with 61 points. They are led by Carl Hagelin's 18 goals and 48 points, followed by Louie Caporusso at 30 points. Senior Shawn Hunwick led the team in goal with a 21-8-4 record.
Michigan's program dates back to 1922 and they joined the CCHA in 1981 and have won the conference championships 21 times and 9 conference tournaments.
They have won the national championship 9 times, most recently in 1996 and 1998.
North Dakota enters the Frozen Four with a record of 32-8-3 record and look like the favorites going in. They finished 1st in the WCHA with 43 points. They are led by Hobey Baker finalist Matt Frattin's 36 goals and 60 points, followed by Corban Knight at 44 points and Jason Gregoire, who totaled 43 points, one of five Fighting Sioux with 40 or more. Sophomore Aaron Dell led the team in goal with a stellar 30-6-2 record.
UND's program dates back to 1929 and they joined the WCHA's forerunner in 1951 and have won the conference championship 15 times and the conference tournament nine times.
They have won the national championship 7 times, most recently in 2000. Like nearby Duluth, North Dakota is expected to have plenty of support on hand in St. Paul.
Two Fighting Sioux players have won the Hobey Baker Award, Tony Hrkac (1987) and Ryan Duncan (2007). Frattin is expected to be named this year's winner of the award tomorrow night at 6 PM in St. Paul. Cam Atkinson of Boston College and Andy Miele of Miami University of Ohio are the other two finalists.
In addition to the four Hobey Baker winners, the best known UND alumni are Ed Belfour, Jason Blake, Dave Christian, T. J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Drew Stafford and Jonathan Toews.
The winners of today's games will meet on Saturday evening at 6:00 PM on ESPN.
St. Paul first hosted the Frozen Four in 1989 and again in 1991 and 1994 in the old St. Paul Civic Center. The Xcel Energy Center, built on the site of the Civic Center, has hosted one previous Frozen Four in 2002.
Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 University of North Dakota Ed Belfour jersey. North Dakota captured the national championship in 1987, Belfour's only season with UND before turning professional despite not being drafted.
He would take the NHL by storm, winning the Jennings, Calder and Vezina trophies during his rookie season of 1990-91. He would play in five NHL All-Star Games, earn three more Jennings Trophies, another Vezina and a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999.
Fighting Sioux jerseys of this era are enormously popular for their take on the iconic Chicago Blackhawks jerseys, with only the red changed to green and the "C" in the secondary logo switched to an "S".
Here is a music video tribute to the 1987 North Dakota Fighting Sioux, featuring perhaps the worst performance of the most annoying song ever written, but the rare footage of the team in action is worth the audio punishment. No points will be deducted for watching with the sound off.