With the NCAA basketball championships wrapping up on Monday night, the NCAA focus turns to Tampa Bay this weekend as the Frozen Four begins tomorrow. Although the hockey tournament doesn’t get as much fanfare as it’s basketball counterpart, it is still a fantastic, high drama event every year.
The Canucks will be well represented this year, with 2015 1st round pick Brock Boeser and 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko both participating.
Boeser and North Dakota will face the University of Denver in one semi-final, while Demko’s Boston College Eagles will face Quinnipac in the other. The winner of each game will meet in the championship game on Saturday.
Let’s take a look at the two Canucks prospects and their matchups.
In their third straight appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four, North Dakota will look to punch their ticket to the final game after being eliminated in the semi-finals for the past two seasons. North Dakota has not reached the championship game since 2005, and haven’t won the title since 2000.
They have been led by their first line which features freshman and Canucks prospect Brock Boeser. Playing with Chicago Blackhawks first round pick Nick Schmaltz and senior Drake Cagguila, Boeser has been terrific for North Dakota using his elite shot and offensive awareness to wreck havoc. Posting two lengthy seperate point streaks of 12 games and 9 games this season, Boeser also has points in 27 of his last 31 games.
It’s fair to say that Boeser has exceeded everyone’s expectations with his impressive freshman season with the Fighting Hawks. Although his great offensive numbers are what get noticed, he has also worked hard at rounding out his game and becoming a 200 foot player.
“He’s got that passion for the game, he’s got a huge compete, and the biggest compliment you can give to a player is that you’re a complete player, you’re a 200-foot player” North Dakota head coach Brad Berry told Vancity Buzz.
“He’s a very good offensive player, but what you don’t see is he’s one of our top plus-minus players and his play away from the puck, he plays so hard. It’s great to see players do that because in the NHL, all the top players are 200-foot players. We’re very privileged to have Brock here.”
North Dakota boasts a very impressive blueline, including Troy Stecher, who the Canucks reportedly have interest in. They have also received excellent goaltending throughout the entire season from Cam Johnson.
North Dakota defeated Northeastern and Michigan to get here, but will be in tough against the University of Denver.
Led by Langley, B.C. native Danton Heinen, Denver will look to suppress North Dakota’s first line and try to exploit their other lines. This may end being a high scoring game where the last goal wins, which bodes well for Boeser.
On the other side of the bracket is Thatcher Demko and the Boston College Eagles, who will look to shut down number one ranked Quinnipiac.
Boston College returns to the Frozen Four after falling in the regionals last season. They last won the national title in 2012, which was the last time it was hosted in Tampa Bay.
Demko has had a great season setting a new Boston College single season shutout record this season with 10, passing former Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider. The San Diego native also set career bests in goals against average, save percentage, minutes played, and wins. All of this led to Demko being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, awarded to the best player in collegiate hockey.
Boston College will be in tough, as Quinnipiac has only suffered three losses in their 41-game season. With eyes on the national title, Quinnipiac has been assertive in their dominance on their path to the Frozen Four, defeating Rochester Institute 4-0 and UMass-Lowell 4-1 in regionals.
NCAA hockey is a fantastic ride with swings in emotion and tense action throughout the entire 60-minute game. Canucks fans will have Boeser and Demko to keep an eye on, which is a refreshing change from years past where the Canucks system was void of high-end NCAA prospects.
Schedule and broadcast information:
Thursday, April 7th – Boston College vs. Quinnipiac at 2 PM PT on TSN 2
Thursday, April 7th – North Dakota vs. Denver at 5:30 PT on TSN 2
Saturday, April 9th – NCAA Frozen Four Championship Game at 5:00 PM PT on TSN 4