2009 Frozen Four preview

By DJ Powers

It’s down to the final four teams vying for the national championship: Bemidji State University, Boston University, Miami University and the University of Vermont.

Of the four participants, only Boston University has won a National Championship. Bemidji State has won six National Championships but all have come at either the D-II or D-III level.

This year’s Frozen Four takes place at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The semi-final games get underway on Thursday, April 9, with Game #1 beginning at 4pm EST and Game #2 beginning at 7pm ET. Both games will be carried live on ESPN2.

The winners of the semi-final games move on to the National Championship game on Saturday, April 11, which will be carried live on ESPN at 7pm ET.

Between the semi-final games and the National Championship game on Friday, April 10 is the Frozen Four Skills Challenge as well as the presentation of the Hobey Baker and Hockey Humanitarian Awards. The Hobey Baker Award presentation will be carried live on ESPNU at 7pm ET.

This year’s Frozen Four also features 23 prospects representing 15 NHL teams. All participating teams have at least one NHL prospect on their roster. Boston University has the most with 13, followed by Miami with five, Vermont with four and Bemidji State with one.

Below is a preview of the semi-final games.

Game #1: Bemidji State University vs. Miami University

This year marks the first time since the current 16-team NCAA Tournament format was established that two #4 seeds in the regionals have advanced to and go head-to-head in the Frozen Four. It also marks the first time that Bemidji State and Miami have played in the Frozen Four. In the case of Bemidji State however, this is their first trip to Frozen Four since moving up to the D-I level in the 1999-00 season. The two teams have never met in post-season play and the last meeting between the two teams took place back in the 2000-01 season with the RedHawks winning both meetings.

Bemidji State, who set an NCAA record for being the lowest seeded team to advance to the Frozen Four, comes in after stunning upsets over Notre Dame and Cornell respectively to win the Midwest Regional. Miami captured the West Regional crown after defeating Denver and Minnesota-Duluth respectively.

This semi-final match features six small, dynamic forwards that should be fun to watch in Bemidji State’s Tyler Scofield, Matt Read and Matt Francis; and Miami’s Carter Camper, Pat Cannone and Andy Miele.

The Scofield-Read-Francis line wreaked havoc on the CHA prior to the NCAA Tournament and did the same to the Beavers opponents in the Midwest Regional. The trio has combined to post 36 percent of Bemidji State’s scoring coming into the Frozen Four. Scofield leads all remaining players in NCAA tournament scoring with six points (four goals, two assists) in two games. Read, an All-CHA First Team selection, leads Bemidji State with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 38 games.

While the three aforementioned RedHawks players do not play on the same line, all center excellent lines. The Hirschfeld-Camper-Wingels line was the most successful in the West Regional posting four combined points. Camper, an All-CCHA First Team selection, leads Miami with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 38 games. He is also among the nation’s leaders in power play goals with 12.

The Beavers utilized their speed quite effectively against two of the nation’s top defensive teams in the Midwest Regional. However, facing Miami’s speed that goes along with their stingy defense may prove the biggest hurdle facing Bemidji State. Another aspect that works in Miami’s favor is their overall size. Nine players on the RedHawks roster are 6’2 or taller with sophomore forward Justin Vaive (ANA) and senior defenseman Michael Findorff both topping out at 6’6.

Miami’s greatest challenges may lie in not only trying to slow down (and wear down) the confident Beavers, but also to get pucks by sophomore Matt Dalton. Dalton allowed just two goals in the Midwest Regional and stopped a combined 59 of 61 shots he faced.

Game #2: University of Vermont vs. Boston University

The second semi-final game of the Frozen Four has two teams with a lot of history between going head-to-head as top overall seeded Boston University takes on the surprising University of Vermont Catamounts.

The Terriers return to the Frozen Four after a 12-year absence (since 1997). They’ll be seeking to win their fifth National Championship and first since 1995. The Catamounts make just their second Frozen Four appearance and first since 1996. They will be seeking their first National Championship. Despite the long history that both teams have had in previous meetings as both ECAC and Hockey East members, the two have never met in the Frozen Four or in the NCAA Tournament prior to this year. The two teams have met three times this season with Vermont winning the regular season three-game series 2-1. The last meeting took place at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on Nov. 22.

Boston University comes into the Frozen Four after soundly beating Ohio State and narrowly defeating New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional. Vermont comes in after defeating Yale before downing Air Force in the thrilling yet bizarre double-overtime final of the East Regional.

This game features two of the nation’s top players in Boston University’s Colin Wilson (NSH) and Vermont’s Viktor Stålberg (TOR). The two players, both All-Hockey East First Team selections and Hobey Baker top ten finalists, lead their respective teams in scoring. Stålberg has posted 45 points (24 goals, 21 assists) in 38 games for the Catamounts. Wilson has posted 52 points (15 goals, 37 assists) in 41 games for the Terriers. Wilson’s 52 points also leads all Frozen Four players in overall scoring as well.

One match-up to watch is the goaltending duel between freshmen Kieran Millan of Boston University and Rob Madore of Vermont. Both netminders have posted similar numbers coming into the Frozen Four. Millan, the Hockey East Rookie of the Year, allowed four total goals in the Northeast Regional, stopping a combined 49 of 53 shots he faced. Madore, the Hockey East Player of the Month back in February, allowed just three goals in the East Regional, stopping a combined 71 of 74 shots he faced.

The key for Vermont will be to slow down the Terriers offensive machine, which might be easier said than done. Boston University scored a combined ten goals in the East Regional and leads the nation with an offense that is averaging nearly four goals per game. To add to the daunting task is the fact that the Terriers have 11 players on their roster with 20 or more points coming into the Frozen Four.

For Boston University, the greatest challenge may lie in just being able to get as many shots to the net as possible. Vermont is one of the nation’s top shot-blocking teams, and it was an asset that they utilized quite effectively in the East Regional. The Catamounts are noted for their team defense and this was especially evident in the Regional, holding two top offensive teams to a combined three goals.