2017 Frozen Four Championship – A View From Center Ice

DU’s Tanner Jaillet and UMD’s Hunter Miska square off in the Frozen Four Championship (Photo Prout)

2017 Frozen Four Championship – April 8, 2017 | United Center, Chicago, IL

Saturday, April 8 –  7:00 PM CT (National Championship)

TV: Frozen Four Championship on ESPN

How They Got Here:

  • #1 Denver University defeated Michigan Tech 5-2, Penn State 6-2 and Notre Dame 6-1
  • #2 Minnesota-Duluth defeated Ohio State 3-2 (ot), Boston University 3-2 (ot) and Harvard 2-1

Team Profiles

Denver University Pioneers (32-7-4 | 18-3-3 NCHC – 1st) Pairwise: #1

Record vs Pairwise Top 16 : 11-6-2

Last 15 Games: 14-1-0

Perhaps the most balanced team in college hockey, the Pioneers entered the championship game with a 16-1-0 record in their last 17 games. They are the lone returning team from the 2015-16 Frozen Four and are looking to capture their eighth national championship.This team can beat you with their offense and they can shut you down with their defense.

Team Statistics (National Stats):

  • Defense #1 – 1.81 GPGA
  • Offense #8 – 3.47 GPG
  • Power Play #8 – 21.51%
  • Penalty Kill #17 – 84.1%

The Pioneers present several of the most explosive forwards in the NCHC in Florida Panther’s 1st round draft choice Henrik Borgstrom (22-21-43), 2nd round San Jose Sharks draftee Dylan Gambrell (13-28-41) and 5th round Anaheim Ducks draft choice Troy Terry (22-21-43). As if that wasn’t enough, the Pioneers then throw a second wave of productive offensive players in Jarid Lukosevicius (13-16-29), Matt Marcinew (10-12-22) and Liam Finlay (8-11-19). First-year player, Borgstrom simply makes defenders look silly at times and is deadly on the power play with eight power play goals. Gambrell leads the team in assists with 28 and is +23. Troy Terry has 4 game-winning goals and is +28.

Defensively, the Pioneers are college hockey’s top ranked defensive team accomplished with one of college hockey’s top goaltenders in Tanner Jaillet and a dedication to strong team defensive play. Jaillet has an outstanding record of 27-5-4 and has not been beaten in back to back games all season. His goals against is currently a stingy 1.83 ranking him 4th in college hockey and his save percentage is .928 good for 9th. Hobey Baker winner, Will Butcher (7-30-37 +27), Adam Plant (3-10-13 +14) and NCHC All-Rookie team selection Michael Davies (3-12-15 +29) lead a defense that is tops in the conference.

Individual Honors  

  • Will Butcher – Hobey Baker Winner, NCHC All-Conference 1st Team, NCHC Player of the Year, NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, West All.American First Team
  • Henrik Borgstrom – NCHC All-Rookie Team, NCHC All-Conference 2nd Team, NCHC Rookie of the Year, West All-American First Team
  • Dylan Gambrell – NCHC All-Conference 2nd Team
  • Tanner Jaillet – NCHC All-Conference 1st Team, Mike Richter Award Winner, NCHC Goaltender of the Year, West All-American Second Team
  • Michael Davies – NCHC All-Rookie Team
  • Troy Terry – NCHC Honorable Mention All-Conference

 

University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (28-6-7 | 15-5-4 NCHC – 2nd) Pairwise #2

Record vs Pairwise Top 16: 14-4-2

Last 15 Games: 11-1-3

A veteran team, the Bulldogs roster includes 13 upperclassmen that bring depth and experience and it’s paid off in an outstanding season. Similar to the Denver Pioneers, the Bulldogs rely on a good mix of veteran players and youngsters at offense and a senior laden team on defense. The Bulldogs won the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff championship and have only lost one game in the last nineteen since January 14. They are looking to capture their second national title in the last six years.

Team Statistics (National Stats):

  • Defense #8 – 2.24 GPGA
  • Offense #10 – 3.37 GPG
  • Power Play #21 – 19.78%
  • Penalty Kill #41 – 80.9%

At forward, the senior leadership is very apparent with Alex Iafallo (20-30-50 +22) and Dominic Toninato (16-13-29 +26) the heart and soul of the offense. Both log a lot of ice time, play with passion and energy and are productive offensively and reliable defensively. They’ve set an example for youngsters Joey Anderson (12-24-36) and Adam Johnson (18-19-37) who are both top four scorers on the squad. Scoring close to three and a half goals per game, the Bulldogs leverage their strong offense with a stout defense as a formula for their success. Add to the mix, upperclassmen Kyle Osterberg (12-11-23) and Karson Kuhlman (6-16-22) and you have two reliable forwards that can score in the clutch. Finally, first-year forward and NHL first round draft pick Riley Tufte is starting to show his potential. After a tough first half of the season he has 15 points since January 6th.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have one of the most experienced units in college hockey with five seniors on the blue line. Senior defensemen, Carson Soucy (+8), Willie Raskob (+11), Dan Molenaar (+14),  Brendan Kotyk (+20) and Nick Wolff (+15) provide the forwards with the comfort of knowing the back-side is covered opening up opportunities for the offense. Add to that the offensive skills of sophomore Neal Pionk (7-26-33 +24) and you have a very well-rounded mix of defensemen. First-year goaltender, Hunter Miska has exceeded expectations and has single handily won a number of games for the Bulldogs. His five shutouts rank him 4th in the country and his 27-4-5 record one of the top winning percentages in college hockey. His .921 SV% ranks him 17th and goals against of 2.17 17th nationally.

Individual Honors     

  • Hunter Miska – NCHC All-Conference 2nd Team, Mike Richter Award Finalist
  • Joey Anderson – NCHC All-Rookie Team
  • Alex Iafallo – NCHC All-Conference 1st Team, West All-American First Team
  • Neal Pionk – NCHC All Conference 2nd Team
  • Dom Toninato – NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year

Championship Game

University of Minnesota-Duluth vs University of Denver

In a feather in the hat for the NCHC  the Bulldogs and Pioneers faceoff in the Frozen Four championship game. These two teams spent the majority of the season ranked in the #1 and #2 position in the polls and finished the season as the top two Pairwise teams providing further legitimacy to the process used in college hockey to seed teams for the NCAA tourney. There are no secrets between these two NCHC conference members and it’s going to be an intense contest.The squads faced each other in a single conference series this season in Denver with the Pioneers earning a 4-3 win in game one and the Bulldogs rebounding for a 3-1 win in the rematch. Expect nothing other than another close game between these teams blessed with experience and depth. By contrast, the Pioneers will rely on experienced goaltender Tanner Jaillet to backstop their chances for a national title while the Bulldogs put their confidence in first-year goaltender Hunter Miska. Both can get the job done and both will make the big save when needed.

Both teams have numerous game breakers at forward and a high level of talent at the blue line. Obviously, Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell will lead Denvers offensive charge as will Iafallo, Anderson and Toninato for Duluth. However, the game may be decided by a second tier of players that includes Staub, Janssen. Lukosevicius and Finlay for the Pioneers and Osterberg, Johnson, Kuhlman and Tufte for the Bulldogs. Finally, on the blue line, Will Butcher for DU and Neal Pionk for UMD are two of the best and can dictate the results of a game.

In the previous series between these two not a single power play goal was scored in 10 attempts. Attempted shots favored UMD 120 to 109 and the Bulldogs were manhandled quite well in face-offs 68-47 by the Pioneers. The Bulldogs need to be much better in that department and have to limit their time in the penalty box. I’m not predicting an overtime game in this one but nevertheless it will be close. Flip a coin in this one. But, if forced to make a choice and if it’s a close game I tip my hand to the Bulldogs. Their seniors came back with one mission in mind this season and that was to bring another national championship to Duluth. Prediction: UMD in a one-goal win over Denver.     

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