2019 Frozen Four Championship– April 13, 2019
KeyBank Center – Buffalo, NY
Saturday, April 13 – 7:00 PM CT (National Championship)
TV: Frozen Four Championship on ESPN
How They Got Here:
- #1 University of Minnesota-Duluth defeated Bowling Green 2-1 (ot), Quinnipiac 3-1 and Providence 4-1
- #2 University of Massachusetts defeated Harvard 4-0, Notre Dame 4-0 and Denver 4-3 (ot)
University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (28-11-2 | 14-9-1 NCHC – 2nd) Pairwise #2
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin 368-311-87 (9 NCAA’s)
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: 11-6-0
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 – 1.93 (4)
- Offense – 3.17 (11)
- Power Play – 21.7% (15)
- Penalty Kill – 85.3% (11)
- Penalties – 10.97 (27)
- 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 (31-9-0 | 18-6-0 Hockey East – 1st) Pairwise #4
Head Coach: Greg Carvel 125-121-19 (1st NCAA )
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: 9-4-0
Strength of Schedule – #23
Last 15 Games: 11-4-0
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 – 2.00 (6)
- Offense – 3.77 (3)
- Power Play – 29.3% (1)
- Penalty Kill – 87.2% (4)
- Penalties – 10.10 (42)
- 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
University of Minnesota Duluth vs University of Massachusetts
As I predicted earlier in the week, the Bulldogs and Minutemen will meet in the National Championship game. Despite having two goals disallowed and having to fight off a 5×3 advantage for Providence early in period three, “role” player Billy Exell scored the game-winning goal with 9:53 remaining in the game to send the Bulldogs to their third straight championship game. UMass on the other hand, on the heels of an effective power play appeared to have things well under control with a 3-1 first period lead vs Denver. However, a late push by Denver tied the game at 3-3 in period three sending the game to overtime. Marc Del Gaizo ended it for UMass with a goal at 15:38 of the extra session to send the Minutemen to their first ever NCAA championship game.
The Minutemen will have to be much more discliplined vs the Bulldogs than they were in the Denver game. UMass had game misconduct penalties issued to Niko Hildebrand and Mitchell Chaffee during the contest and a game disqualification to Bobby Trivigno in a post-game review. As a result, UMass will be without the feisty Trivigno who netted a goal vs Denver and 12 goals during the season. They will also need to get more mileage out of recently crowned Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar in this game. Makar did get an assist early vs Denver but seemed to disappear the second half of the game.
UMD on the other hand, despite having a strong penalty kill needs to be disciplined as well vs a UMass power play that ate up Denver in the first period Thursday and is ranked first in college hockey.
UMass plays much like St. Cloud State and the Bulldogs who faced the explosive Huskies 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.