The NCAA decided its finalists in the Frozen Four championship on the weekend with a colourful mix of usual contenders and upstart newbies.
One side of the Frozen Four bracket features teams that have combined for 12 national championships and 43 Frozen Four appearances. On the other side, the national championships column is empty and Frozen Four experience is slight.
Boston University will play North Dakota in a semifinal matchup of two of the most accomplished programs in college hockey history.
Providence and University of Nebraska-Omaha are matched in the other semi, with the Providence Friars making their first Frozen Four appearance in 30 years and the UNO Mavericks their first ever.
Omaha beat Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), with former Trail Smoke Eater Garrett McMullen, 4-0 on Sunday to win a spot in the final four. The unranked RIT Tigers had just competed the upset of the tournament by knocking out the number-1 ranked Minnesota State 2-1 Saturday.
An unlikely 17th ranked Providence team beat number-4 Miami 7-5 Saturday and then sixth ranked Denver 4-1 on Sunday to advance to the dance, while number-3 North Dakota dispatched St. Cloud State 4-1, and number-2 Boston University beat Minnesota-Duluth 3-2.
The BU Terriers and UND are both No. 1 seeds; Providence emerged from the East Regional as a No. 4 seed, while University of Nebraska-Omaha was the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.
North Dakota leads the field with 48 NCAA tournament wins and seven national titles but hasn’t won since 2000 despite seven Frozen Four appearances since. This is UND’s 21st time in the national semifinals overall.
Boston University won the 2009 national championship, its fifth, and is making its 22nd Frozen Four appearance. That’s third behind Michigan and Boston College.
Providence has made it to three Frozen Fours in the past, but the most recent was in 1985 when goaltender Chris Terreri led the Friars to the national title game, where they fell to Rensselaer.
Omaha was 0-for-2 in NCAA appearances before this weekend’s West Regional, but coach Dean Blais is a Frozen Four veteran, having led North Dakota to titles in 1997 and 2000 and a runner-up finish in 2001.
The quest for the Frozen Four began last Friday with 16 teams playing. Trail native Travis St. Denis and the Quinnipiac Bobcats were in the mix but lost to North Dakota 4-1 in the NCAA West Regional semifinal Friday night.
The Michigan Tech Huskies with former Smoke Eater, Brent Baltus, and Dane Birks, son of Bill Birks the Smokies coach from 2011-13, were bounced from the tournament in a 3-2 loss to St. Cloud State on Friday.
In all, 72 former BCHL players laced up for hockey’s version of the Sweet 16.