2019 Frozen Four – A View From Center Ice

Hunter Shepard (Photo Prout)

2019 Frozen Four – April 11-13, 2019 

KeyBank Center – Buffalo, NY

Thursday, April 11 – 4:00 PM CT:  #1 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs vs  #4 Providence College Friars

Thursday, April 11 – 7:30 PM CT:  #2 University of Massachusetts Minutemen vs  #3 Denver University Pioneers

Saturday, April 13 –  7:00 PM CT (National Championship)

TV: Frozen Four Semi-Final games are on ESPN 2 and Championship on ESPN

How They Got Here:

  • #1 University of Minnesota-Duluth defeated Bowling Green 2-1 (ot) and Quinnipiac 3-1
  • #2 University of Massachusetts defeated Harvard 4-0 and Notre Dame 4-0
  • #3 Denver University defeated Ohio State 2-0 and American International 3-0
  • #4 Providence College defeated Minnesota State 6-3 and Cornell 4-0

Team Profiles

University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (27-11-2 | 14-9-1 NCHC – 2nd) Pairwise #2

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin  367-311-87 (9 NCAA’s)

Key Players:
Forwards : Parker Mackay, Justin Richards, Nick Swaney, Peter Kreiger, Riley Tufte
Defense: Scott Perunovich, Mikey Anderson, Dylan Samberg, Nick Wolff
Goaltender: Hunter Shepard

Record vs Pairwise Top 16: 10-6-0

Strength of Schedule – #1

Last 15 Games: 11-4-0

Obviously, the defending national champs return a lot of experience from last seasons Frozen Four. An extremely balanced team, they are not going to blow you away with their offense but seem to get the keys goals when needed. Arguably, the most important peg on this team is NCHC Goaltender of the Year Hunter Shepard who has guided this team through this years post season with a key confidence builder vs St. Cloud State in the Frozen Faceoff Championship and NCAA wins against Bowling Green and Quinnipiac. At forward, senior Parker MacKay has been a leader all season and a clutch player in the playoffs with two goals vs Bowling Green and another vs Quinnipiac. MacKay leads the team in scoring with 15-15-30. Other key forwards include Mick Swaney who has notched 15 goals this season and the other double-digit goal scorer Justin Richards with 10. Peter Krieger and Noah Cates offer additional offensive support and despite a disappointing season numbers wise, Riley Tufte can be an imposing forward and has seven power play goals.

Defensively, the Bulldogs feature one of the strongest units in college hockey with Scott Perunovich, Mikey Anderson, Dylan Samberg and Nick Wolfe who all contribute in different ways. Perunovich had an exemplary offensive season and can control the tempo of the game with his skating and puck skills. Anderson is another that supports the offense and is solid defensively with his +18 on the season. Both Samberg and Wolfe offer a physical presence but have also combined for 11 goals. The Bulldogs have the fourth best defense in college hockey and have won nine one-goal games this season.

The Bulldogs are battled tested with the college hockey’s most difficult strength of schedule and are adequately positioned to defend their national title. With experience and top goaltending there are not a lot of weaknesses on this squad. And, with a lineup flush with players that relish their contributions as role players, they have to be the favorite in this years Frozen Four.

Team Statistics (National Stats):

  • Defense – 1.95 (4 t)
  • Offense – 3.15 (11)
  • Power Play – 21.99% (14)
  • Penalty Kill – 85.71% (12)
  • Penalties – 10.97 (27)

Individual Honors

  • Scott Perunovich – NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, 1st Team All-NCHC
  • Hunter Shepard – NCHC Goaltender of the Year, 1st Team All-NCHC
  • Justin Richards – NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year, 2nd Team All-NCHC
  • Noah Cates – NCHC All-Rookie Team

University of Massachusetts (30-9-0 | 18-6-0 Hockey East – 1st) Pairwise #4

Head Coach: Greg Carvel 124-121-19 (1st NCAA )

Key Players:
Forwards: Jacob Pritchard, Mitchell Chaffee, John Leonard, Bobby Trivigno
Defense: Cale Makar, Mark Del Gaizo, Ty Farmer, Mario Ferraro
Goaltender: Filip Lindberg

Record vs Pairwise Top 16: 8-4-0

Strength of Schedule – #23

Last 15 Games: 11-5-0

Former St. Lawrence coach and ACHA Division I Coach of the Year, Greg Carvel has quickly turned the Minutemen into a national contender. With one of college hockey’s top offensive teams and the tournaments highest scoring margin of +1.80 they blew through their first two NCAA games with duplicate scores of 4-0 over Harvard and Notre Dame. With college hockey’s most publicized player and the Frozen Four’s only Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist in Cale Makar, UMass has the horses to be the other top-contender this weekend. However, you might want to enjoy Makar’s play as it’s likely the sophomore will bolt for the NHL once the tourney is over. Much like the Bulldogs, they are a very balanced team with the most effective special teams in the tourney and defensive statistics that rival all of the other participants.

Makar, a defenseman, is the teams offensive leader but they have six other players with goals in the double digits including Jacob Pritchard (16), John Leonard (15) and Mitchell Chafee (16). First-year forward Bobby Trivigno tends to get under the skin of the opponents and has 12 goals. This team has good depth, a lineup that can be explosive offensively and  a power play hovering around 30%.

On defense, they are solid as well, just like every team in this Frozen Four. Allowing less than 2 goals per game gives the Minutemen a level of comfort as they produce close to 4 goals per game. It’s been a tale of two seasons at goaltender with Matt Murray getting most of the starts early in the season and when he faltered Finn Filip Lindberg took the assignment in March. He’s been outstanding compiling some crazy stats – .939 SV% and 1.43 GAA. With Makar, Hockey East All-Rookie team member Mark DelGaizo, Ty Farmer and Hockey East Third Team All-Star Mario Ferraro they’ve been pretty darn good at the blue line as well.

Even though UMass has a strength of schedule far inferior to UMD and Denver, their winning percentage against the final 16 NCAA teams is the best of the Frozen Four finalists. They are as prepared as anyone to take a run at this thing.

Team Statistics (National Stats):

  • Defense – 1.97 (6)
  • Offense – 3.77 (3)
  • Power Play – 28.17% (2)
  • Penalty Kill – 87.50% (4)
  • Penalties – 10.10 (42)

Individual Honors

  • Greg Carvel – AHCA – Men’s Division I Coach of the Year , Hockey East Coach of the Year
  • Cale Makar – Hockey East Player of the Year, Hockey East First Team All-Star
  • John Leonard- Hockey East 2nd Team All-Star
  • Jacob Pritchard – Hockey East 2nd Team All-Star
  • Marc Del Gaizo – Hockey East 3rd Team All-Star, Hockey East All-Rookie Team
  • Mario Ferraro – Hockey East 3rd Team All-Star

Denver University (24-11-5 | 11-10-3 NCHC – 4th) Pairwise #8

Head Coach; David Carle 24-11-5 (1st NCAA)

Key Players:
Forwards: Liam Finlay, Emilio Petersen, Jarid Lukosevicius, Cole Guttman, Brett Stapley
Defense: Ian Mitchell, Michael Davies, Lester Lancaster, Griffin Mendel
Goaltender: Filip Larsson

Record vs Top 16 Pairwise: 5-5-1

Strength of Schedule – #6

Last 15 Games: 9-5-1

Denver had huge losses to their offense after last season, lost their coach and finished fourth in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in 2018-19. Only .500 against the NCAA final 16 they also had the lowest winning percentage in the last 15 contests of these four teams. Yet, here they are with a rookie head coach in their 12th consecutive NCAA tourney and third Frozen Four in four years. In contrast to other seasons, they are not doing it with offense (ranked 28th in college hockey) or special teams (48th on the PP) and (21st on the PK) but rather stingy defense and superb goaltending.

It’s been a collaborative effort between the two goaltenders, Devin Cooley and Swede Filip Larsson who have split the teams minutes. And, they’ve both been outstanding with Cooley’s 1.85 GAA and .934 SV% and Larsson’s 1.87 and .935 SV%. The system is defense first and granted a little dry to watch but certainly effective and what they’ve been forced to do this season. There is experience back at the blue line and they rely heavily on Michael Davies, Ian Mitchell, Lester Lancaster and Griffin Mendel. Ranked 7th nationally on defense, their scheme has worked. However with the lowest scoring margin of the four teams – less than a goal {+.82) it just may not be enough to carry them.

On offense, they have some exciting young players in Cole Guttman (12-11-23), Emilio Pettersen (6-24-30) and Brett Stapely (5-14-19) and experience with Jared Lukosevicius (19-10-29) and Liam Finlay (16-20-3) but after those forwards things fall off quickly.

Denver will try to keep the games tight in this Frozen Four and it’ll be interesting to see if they can do that in their first game vs UMass.

Team Statistics (National Stats)

  • Defense – 1.98 (7)
  • Offense – 2.80 (28)
  • Power Play – 15% (48)
  • Penalty Kill – 83.22% (21)
  • Penalties – 10.05 (42)

Individual Honors

  • Ian Mitchell – 2nd Team All-NCHC
  • Filip Larsson – NCHC All-Rookie Team

Providence College (24-11-6 | 14-7-3 Hockey East – 2nd t) Pairwise #14

Head Coach Nate Leaman 314-227-73 (7 NCAA’s)

Key Players:
Forwards: Josh Wilkins, Jack Dugan, Brandon Duhaime, Scott Conway, Kasper Bjorkqvist
Defense: Jacob Bryson, Spense Young, Vincent Desharnais, Michael Callahan
Goaltender: Hayden Hawkey

Record vs Top 16 Pairwise: 10-9-1

Strength of Schedule: #26

Last 15 Games: 10-4-1

The most unlikely of the four teams to earn their way into the Frozen Four, the Providence Friars were close to the bubble after losing twice to Boston College in the Hockey East playoffs. But, once in the tournament, have hit their stride with a comeback win over Minnesota State and a dominating performance in dusting Cornell 4-0. It’s not that the expectations weren’t there for the 2014-15 National Champions it’s just that the consistency has not been there this season. However, much like the UMD Bulldogs, Providence coach Nate Leaman has a knack for coaxing the most out of his teams during NCAA play. There’s few overall weaknesses on this squad and like all the others in the final four allow less than two goals per game.

Depth, experience and goaltending are the ticket to success in the NCAA tourney and Providence possesses all three. Ruled by upperclassmen, seven of the top eight scorers are either junior or seniors. The only exception is first-year forward Jack Dugan with 10-29-39 and made the Hockey East All-Rookie team. He’s paired with Josh Wilkins (19-26-45) and Kasper Bjorkqvist (17-12-29) on a very dangerous and productive line. Wilkins was a Hockey East First Team All-Star.

Defensively, senior Vincent Deshanais is the leader. He doesn’t produce much offensively but is +24 and the steadying influence to the rest of the key performers including  junior Jacob Bryson (4-23-27 +18) and Spenser Young (8-13-21 +20.

In goal. Hayden Hawkey has logged 97% of the minutes this season and has been extremely reliable with a .919 SV% and 1.90 GAA. His eight shutouts are impressive. He’s been a three-year starter and has proven his ability to lead. He may be the biggest single factor for the Friars this weekend.

Team Statistics (National Stats)

  • Defense – 1.95 (4 t)
  • Offense – 3.22 (9)
  • Power Play – 22.16% (13)
  • Penalty Kill – 86.83% (5)
  • Penalties – 10.44 (34)

Individual Honors 

  • Josh Wilkins – Hockey East First Team All-Star
  • Jacob Bryson – Hockey East 2nd Team All-Star
  • Brandon Duhaime – Hockey East Third Team All-Star
  • Haydon Hawkey – Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star
  • Jack Dugan – Hockey East All-Rookie Team
  • Vincent Desharnais – Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman

The Games

Semi-Finals:

University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs vs  Providence College

This should be a heckuva game. Both teams have no problem playing a grind it out game but have players that can bury the puck if given the opportunity. The Friers were impressive in their comeback win over Minnesota State – a team that can play the defensive game. Both teams are solid defensively and generally take few penalties. That could give either side the edge particularly Providence who scored five power play goals in the regional round of the tourney. The Bulldogs have the tourney experience on their side and will play any way the game dictates. Both squads have clutch performers in Parker MacKay for the Bulldogs and Josh Wilkins for Providence. I give the Bulldogs and Hunter Shepard the edge in goal. Hawkey will have to be on top of his game if Providence is to prevail. I have a sneaky suspicion Riley Tufte will excel in this game. He’s best battling in the slot in a physical game and if it becomes that type of game look for Tufte to be a key factor. If it turns into a special teams battle expect Wilkins, Conway and Bjorkqvist to be key players for Providence.

Prediction:  Both teams allow less than two goals per game on the average. As long as the Bulldogs stay out of penalty trouble Hunter Shepard’s goaltending will lead the Bulldogs to a two-goal (EN) win. 

University of Massachusetts vs Denver University

Denver needs to keep this game tight if they are to win. They can do it as long as their goaltender Filip Larsson gives them another strong effort in goal. They’ll play a frustrating style of hockey vs the Minutemen and unless they can make the proper adjustments and dictate the flow of the game it’ll give the Pioneers the advantage. UMass is the most explosive offensively in the Frozen Four and if they tag Larsson early and get a multiple point lead my confidence in Denver’s ability to get a comeback win is diminished. Unfortunately for Denver, I think the UMass offense will rule in this one. Denver’s low scoring margin doesn’t allow them much room for mistakes against a team like Massachusetts that will capitalize on any mistake made.

Prediction:  Denver has to play a mistake-free game in my opinion. If they don’t the UMass power play and offense is too strong to overcome. I see a 3-1 win for the Minutemen in this game.  

Predicted Championship Game

University of Minnesota Duluth vs University of Massachusetts

Should this be the championship game, it should be a dandy. UMass plays much like St. Cloud State and the Bulldogs who faced SCSU five times during the season have shown they can cope with that. UMD has the experience. enough scoring and the best goaltending in the tourney in Hunter Shepard. It’ll be an entertaining matchup and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one go to overtime. Experience, goaltending and the ability to squeeze the most out of their role players gives the Bulldogs the edge in my opinion.

Prediction: I’ll predict an overtime game with another national championship for the Bulldogs. UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard is the MVP of the Frozen Four. 

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