College Hockey Update:  Well it’s here; one of the best, best events in sports kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, April 6th, at 3:00pm Pacific Time, in Chicago, when #3 Minnesota-Duluth faces #2 Harvard in the first Frozen Four semifinal game, followed at 6:30pm Pacific Time by #1 Denver facing #12 Notre Dame in the second semifinal game.  Both of these games will be on ESPN2, if you are near a TV at either/both of those times.

Depending on how you look at it, you could say this year there are three teams that have been in the tournament a lot lately, and only one that hasn’t; or you could say there are three teams that bring somewhat fresh blood to the tournament, and only one doesn’t.  Let’s take the positive approach, the one that is good for the sport of college hockey, and say three bring new blood.  Harvard does indeed have an NCAA Championship, but it was back in 1989, 28 years ago; they have not been in a Frozen Four since 1994, 23 years ago; and until this year they hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2004, 13 years ago — fresh blood to the scene.  Notre Dame has indeed been in the tournament a bunch — nine times just since 2004; but they’ve never won an NCAA Championship, and this is their third time in the Frozen Four (they made it to the championship game in 2008) — fresh blood to the scene, good for the sport.

Minnesota-Duluth recently won their first and only NCAA Championship, in 2011.  They have been to the NCAA Tournament eleven times, six since 2009; they have been to the Frozen Four four times, making the final game in 1984, and winning it all in 2011 — fresh blood.  These three teams offer relatively fresh blood as potential NCAA Champions, while Harvard is really super fresh blood as a Frozen Four contestant, and even as an NCAA Tournament contestant.  Then there is Denver, with seven NCAA Championships, 16 Frozen Four appearances, and 28 NCAA Tournament appearances, ten of which are the last ten in row — snooooozer,  All four teams are excellent, ending the season ranked at #1, #2, #3, and #12.  While Notre Dame may not be as highly ranked as the other three, they ended the season with a very strong February.

Harvard senior forward Sean Malone, of West Seneca, NY, is third on his team in goals scored, with 18, and is third in assists, with 24.

Harvard senior forward Sean Malone, West Seneca, NY, is 3rd on his team in goals, with 18, and is 3rd in assists, with 24.

This is Harvard’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row, but only their third in the last eleven seasons.  This season they are 28-5-2, have won sixteen in a row, and are unbeaten in their last eighteen games; they have not lost a game since January 17th.  Six players are in double digits in goals scored:  Ryan Donato with 21; Tyler Moy with 21; Sean Malone with 18; Luke Esposito with 16; Alexander Kerfoot with 16; and Lewis Zerter-Gossage with 11.  Goalie Merrick “The California Kid” Madsen has a 2.11 GAA and saves percentage of .922.  The team has a nation-leading average of 4.14 goals per game this season.  Will their current sixteen game winning streak continue?

Minnesota-Duluth senior forward Kyle Osterberg, of Lakeville, MN, is foiurth on his team in goals scored, with 12, and is tied for sixth in assists, with 12.

Minnesota-Duluth senior forward Kyle Osterberg, of Lakeville, Minnesota, is foiurth on his team in goals scored, with twelve, and is tied for sixth on his team in assists, with twelve.

Minnesota-Duluth has become sort of a regular in the NCAA Tournament recently with this their sixth appearance since 2009.  This season the team is 27-6-7, has won seven in a row, and has only one loss since January 13th; they went 15-1-3 during that stretch, including their current seven game winning streak and another five game winning streak.  They were ranked #1 for three stretches of the season; The first half of November; A stretch from late November to early January; and the first three weeks of February.  Five players are in double digits in goals scored:  Alex Iafallo with 19; Adam Johnson with 18; Dominic Toninato with 16; Kyle Osterberg with 12; and Joey Anderson with 11.  Goalie Hunter Miska has a 2.21 GAA, and a saves percentage of .919.  Will they be able to close out this deal, as they did when they beat Miami, Western Michigan, and North Dakota, to win the NCHC Tournament?

Notre Dame junior forward Anders Bjork, of Mequon, WI, (shown here scoring a goal against Minnesota in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament) is tied for first on his team in goals scored, with 21, and is first in assists, with 31.

Notre Dame junior forward Anders Bjork, of Mequon, Wisconsin, (shown here scoring a goal against Minnesota in the first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament) is tied for first on his team in goals scored, with 21, and is first in assists, with 31.

Notre Dame has become sort of a regular in the NCAA Tournament with this their ninth appearance since 2004.  This season the team is 23-11-5; of course they’ve won their last two games, and are 9-2-2 in their last 13 outings.  Their top scorers are Anders Bjiork and Andrew Ogelvie, with 21 goals apiece; Jake Evans with 13; Cam Morrison with 11; and Jordan Gross and Dylan Malmquist with ten apiece.  Goalie Cal Peterson has a 2.13 GAA and a saves percentage of .929.  Will they get over the hump, something they couldn’t do in the Hockey East Tournament?

Denver sophomore forward Dylan Gambrell, of Burney Lake, WA, is fourth on his team in goals scored, with 11, and is second in assists, with 28.

Denver sophomore forward Dylan Gambrell, Burney Lake, WA, is 4th on team in goals, with 11, and 2nd in assists, with 28.

Denver.  Snore, snore, snore.  Denver is a real regular in the NCAA Tournament; this is their second consecutive Frozen Four appearance, and they even won two NCAA Championships back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.  These guys are 31-7-4, and are 16-1 in their last seventeen games, including a thirteen game winning streak.  They have six players in double digits in goals scored, same as Harvard and Notre Dame:  Troy Terry has 22; Henrik Borgstrom has 21; Jared Lukosevicius has 13; Dylan Gambrell has 11; and Matt Marcinew and Colin Straub have ten apiece.  Goalie Tanner Jaillet has an amazing 1.89 GAA, and a saves percentage of .928.  Can they avoid the fall they took in the semifinals of the NCHC Tournament?

This will all end before we want it to; for those who can get near a TV, it promises to be great viewing.  The icing on the cake will be the NCAA Championship game on Saturday, April 8th, at 5:00PM Pacific Time, scheduled for ESPN.

So get your viewing all set up, along with your pizza, polish sausage, or if you are at one of those snobby parties in Minnesota, basted brooke trout in a beurre blanc sauce.  But make sure your beer is cold (or your Irish Coffee hot).

And yes, from all the emails and calls, everyone wants to win the pool. This thing sure ping pongs from year to year.  We will all know who the winner is, soon enough.

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned, and go Terriers, go College Hockey!

— Tom