Cornell has not faced off against any of the teams in their NCAAs region.

Brittney Chew | Sun Senior Photographer

Cornell has not faced off against any of the teams in their NCAAs region.

March 23, 2017

Previewing the Path Between Men’s Hockey and the Frozen Four

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Every year, 16 of the best hockey programs in the country are selected to compete in the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship looking to get a crack at a Frozen Four appearance and ultimately, a national championship. Cornell has made its first appearance since 2012, but a tough Northeast Regional stands in the way of Cornell’s first Frozen Four appearance since 2003. Here is a look at the field that surrounds the Red in the Northeast Region.

No. 1 seed Minnesota

Minnesota (23-11-3, 14-5-1 Big Ten) comes into the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the region. The team is making its 37th all-time appearance in the tournament, a new NCAA record, and is the favorite to make it to the Frozen Four.

Since the Big Ten began sponsoring hockey in the 2013-14 season — the most recent time Minnesota made the Frozen Four — the Golden Gophers has swept all four of the regular season titles. Adding on to its two straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles before joining the Big Ten, Minnesota is the first team in NCAA history to win six-straight regular-season conference championships.

The Golden Gophers rely on its high-powered offense — led by sophomores Tyler Sheehy with 53 points and Justin Kloos with 43 points — en route to scoring 139 total goals this season and averaging 3.8 goals a game.

At the same time, defense is a concern for Minnesota, as it has given up 101 goals and an average of 2.7 per game.

Despite winning the regular season title, the Golden Gophers came up just short in the Big Ten Tournament, dropping a double-overtime game to Penn St., 4-3, to give the Nittany Lions their first Big Ten postseason title. Sophomore goalie Eric Schierhorn had a career night with 59 saves, but a power-play goal at the 13:33 mark of the second overtime decided the game, which was the longest in conference history.

No. 4 seed Notre Dame

For the second straight year, Notre Dame (21-11-5, 12-6-4) has received a bid to the NCAA Tournament, making it the team’s ninth in history and the eighth under head coach Jeff Jackson since his tenure started in 2006.

The Fighting Irish have made the Frozen Four twice under Jackson, in 2008 and 2011, and boast a 7-6-2 regular season record against this year’s field.

After being on the bubble for quite some time, a late-season push by the team proved to be enough for a ticket to Manchester. Notre Dame won five of its final eight games, including victories over Providence and Boston University, both of which are also included in this year’s tournament.

Notre Dame is home to one of the best goalies in the country in junior Cal Petersen. Petersen has recorded a .928 save percentage, and has only missed 29 minutes of action all year. The team is also home to Hobey Baker Award candidate junior forward Anders Bjork, who has 47 points this season.

The Irish dropped a 5-1 game against UMass Lowell — also selected to the Northeast Regional — in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament. If the cards play out correctly, Notre Dame could have a chance at revenge against the River Hawks for a spot in this year’s Frozen Four.

History Between Minnesota and Notre Dame

While the Golden Gophers and the Fighting Irish have not seen each other during this year’s regular season, the teams will face off six straight years thanks to this weekend’s matchup. The teams will also be more familiar with each other moving forward, as Notre Dame will be joining the Big Ten in the 2017-18 season.

Notre Dame’s first ever tournament appearance came against Minnesota in the first round of the 2004 tournament. Minnesota sent the Fighting Irish home with a 5-2 victory, and the Golden Gophers hold a 27-15-3 record against Notre Dame.

No. 2 Seed UMass Lowell

Less than an hour drive to Manchester for UMass Lowell (26-10-3, 14-7-1), the River Hawks will have the closest thing to home ice advantage in the Northeast field.

After defeating Notre Dame in the semifinals, UMass Lowell defeated Boston College, 4-3, on its way to the Hockey East Tournament Championship for the third time in five years. It completed a sweep of both the regular season and postseason titles. With an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Lowell is one of five schools to claim a spot in the tournament in at least five of the past six years.

The trip is the River Hawks’ 13th to a national tournament, and its eighth as a Division I program. Since the current format was instituted in 2003, Lowell has won all of its first round games, but has only made the Frozen Four once in 2013.

That year, Lowell was also in the Northeast Regional playing in Manchester. The team defeated Wisconsin, 6-1, in the first round, then went on to shut out New Hampshire on its way to the Frozen Four.

The River Hawks are led by two 50-point scorers, senior Joe Gambardella and junior C.J. Smith, who was named the Hockey East Championship MVP after scoring two goals and tacking on two assists in the championship game.

In addition to a strong offensive, Lowell has a worthy netminder in freshman Tyler Wall. Wall has recorded 25 wins, the second highest total in the nation, and the most ever by a Lowell freshman during the team’s time in Division I.

History Between Cornell and UMass Lowell

This will only be the second meeting between the two squads in history. The only other time the teams faced off was at the Florida College Classic during the 2007-08 season, where the River Hawks defeated the Red 3-2 on its way to the Harkness Cup.

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With this regional being host to the lowest No. 1 seed and the highest No. 4 seed in the tournament, and the firepower of this group as a whole, look for this regional to provide the closest matchups and the most excitement as the teams vie for a spot in the Frozen Four.

One thought on “Previewing the Path Between Men’s Hockey and the Frozen Four

  1. Pingback: Live Blog: Men’s Hockey vs. UMass Lowell in NCAAs – Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun | Quick & Fast Sports News

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