Final Frozen Four Matchups
Denver vs Michigan
It should come as no surprise that Michigan is favored to advance to the Frozen Four title game, considering the high-end talent on the team.
Defenseman Owen Power, center Matty Beniers, defenseman Luke Hughes and center Kent Johnson were taken within the top-five picks in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Brendan Bisson, John Beecher and Mackie Samoskevich were also former first-round picks and Thomas Bordeleau went in the second round in 2020. Beecher is a former first-round pick of the Boston Bruins, so this could be a dress rehearsal for him playing in the home rink of the team that owns his NHL rights.
Erik Portillo, a third-round pick in 2019, has thrived in his first season as the Wolverines’ top goalie.
Speaking of future NHL players, Denver features Bobby Brink, who leads the team with 42 assists and 56 points. The 2019 second-round selection figures to be a key piece of the Philadelphia Flyers’ rebuild.
Carter Savoie and Cole Guttman are looking like steals as former fourth- and sixth-round selections while defenseman Michael Benning, who has 14 goals and 20 assists in 39 games, was taken in the fourth round by Florida in 2020.
The total of the game is 6½ according to the college hockey Final Frozen Four betting lines compared to just five in the other semifinal, so that tells you everything you need to know about the offensive talent on display in the first semifinal.
Minnesota vs Minnesota State
With two teams from the same state playing to reach the national championship game, this could get just a tad bit intense.
Five of Minnesota’s top scorers, including Ben Meyers, are Minnesota natives. Fifteen of the top 18 point producers come from Minnesota. We’re not exactly sure how Arizona’s Matthew Knies, Chaz Lucius of Lawrence, Kan., and California-born defenseman Ryan Johnson broke the Minnesota stranglehold on this team.
Justen Close and former Carolina draft pick Jack LaFontaine have shared the goaltending duties.
Minnesota State (formerly Mankato State) doesn’t have the championship pedigree of the other teams in the semifinals, but it is hard to overlook a 37-5 record or goalie Dryden McKay’s 1.28 goals-against average and 10 shutouts. McKay has had a GAA under 2.00 in each of his four seasons at Minnesota State, with 34 shutouts among his 112 career wins.
Minnesota State has ventured outside the State of Hockey to build this roster. Leading scorer and Winnipeg Jets draft pick Nathan Smith is from Tampa, Julian Napravnik comes in from Germany while top defenseman Jake Livingstone is from British Columbia.
Setting the Stage
The Michigan vs Denver matchup in the Frozen Four is set for 5 p.m ET in Boston and will air on ESPN2. It will be followed by the Minnesota-Minnesota State showdown at 8:30 p.m at TD Garden. That semifinal will be televised on ESPNU.
The departure of all the New England schools shouldn’t impact the atmosphere as these four schools will pack the home of the NHL’s Boston Bruins
Michigan has won a record nine national titles but none since 1998. Denver is tied for second with eight championships, the most recent one coming in 2017, while the last of Minnesota’s five titles was in 2003.
Minnesota State’s only national title came in 1980 at the Division II level. The Mavericks have made eight NCAA appearances since making the jump to Division I and this is their second consecutive Frozen Four.
The championship game is set for Saturday. This is the ninth time that the Frozen Four was held in Boston. The last time was in 2015 when Providence defeated Boston University in the title game.
One question is how quickly will the stars in the Final Four make the jump to the NHL as many of the players taken high in the 2021 draft could be playing in the NHL right now if they chose a different route.