A number of former Trail Smoke Eaters and BCHLers are ready to face off in the Frozen Four of the NCAA div. 1 hockey championship next week.
Former Smokie and Kimberley native Matt Wilkins and the Union University Dutchmen will make their second appearance in the Frozen Four. Joining the Dutchmen in the NCAA semifinals are Boston College, North Dakota, and the University of Minnesota.
Union cruised through the NCAA East Regional championship with a 5-2 victory over Vermont, and a 3-1 win over Providence in Sunday’s final. Providence had previously ousted Quinnipiac on Friday, leaving Trail native Travis St. Denis and Montrose twins Connor and Kellen Jones’ quest to return to the championship game unfulfilled.
Wilkins played in 37 games with the Smoke Eaters in 2009-10 scoring seven goals and 10 assists, before being traded in 2010-11 to the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League for Cullen Bradshaw, who would go on to play for the St. Norbert College Green Knights.
Wilkins, a sophomore forward, tallied six goals and 14 assists in 38 games with the Dutchmen this season.
The Minnesota Gophers, meanwhile, have brothers Ryan, Mike, and Connor Reilly former teammates of St. Denis’ on the 2012 RBC Cup winning Penticton Vees.
Another former Vee and Nelson native, Isaac MacLeod laces them up for the Boston College Eagles, which defeated Massachusettes-Lowell in the Northeast Regional final 4-3. MacLeod is a defenceman playing his senior year as assistant captain at BC and would like nothing better than to graduate a national champion.
North Dakota is stacked with former BCHLers including former Vernon Viper and Surrey Eagle Adam Tambellini son of Trail’s own Steve Tambellini. Wade Murphy and Troy Stecher, also former teammates of St. Denis on the RBC winning Vees, play for North Dakota.
In NCAA div. 3 hockey, the St. Norbert College Green Knights led by former Trail Smoke Eaters Cullen Bradshaw and Erik Cooper led the Knights to its third national championship in four years with a 3-1 victory over Wisconsin-Stevens Point last week. Bradshaw was the leading scorer on the team over the season with 15 goals and 27 assists in 32 games, while Cooper also was third top point-getter with 16 goals and 21 assists.
The Fozen Four NCAA semifinals go on Apr. 10 with Union taking on Boston College and North Dakota playing Minnesota. The final goes Apr. 12 in Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. ET.