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Frozen Four: Your new favorite team

By Peter Odney, 04/01/24, 4:15PM CDT


With zero Minnesota teams competing in this year's Frozen Four, here's a handy guide to find the best bandwagon for you.

Boston College (33-5-1)

Root for the Eagles if…you love highly skilled teams and the Globo Gym Purple Cobras

Boston College enters this year's Frozen Four with the best record in the field, the national tournament's No. 1 overall ranking, and the type of confidence only bestowed upon those so young and so talented. 

The Eagles have a pair of Hobey Baker finalists in Will Smith (23 goals, 46 assists, 69 points) and Cutter Gauthier (37-27-64), who leads the country in goals. But the one player who drives this team seemingly more than any other is Ryan Leonard (31-28-59), the Boston-area product who epitomizes the Eagles' we're-better-than-you-and-we-know-it style of play. 

That's not a knock on Leonard - he's earned his swagger by making plays like he did against Michigan Tech, where he intercepted a centering pass on the backcheck, carried the puck nearly 200 feet into the Huskies' zone, and took the initial shot on goal before banging on a rebound. BC's confidence as a team is an asset. 

Throw into the electric trio of Smith, Gauthier and Leonard Gabe Perrault (18-39-57), and you could have four players with 60-plus points should the Eagles defeat Michigan in the semifinals. 

BC could also be the team for you if you have a soft spot for goaltenders who moonlight as a Postseason Jesus. Jacob Fowler's performance for Youngstown in last season's USHL Clark Cup playoffs is the stuff of legend around the league, and with 49 saves in his previous two games, the Melbourne, Fla. native could be in for another big-stage run between the pipes.

Last note - the Eagles have been called for three major penalties in their last four games. Most recently, it was Perrault who was shown the gate after referees determined Perrault committed a hit-to-the-head against Michigan Tech egregious enough for a five-minute Tech power play and ejection for Perrault. Avoiding the box for extended periods of time will be critical for BC in St. Paul.  

Cutter Gauthier, Boston College (photo from 2016)

Michigan (23-14-3)

Root for the Wolverines if…you love college hockey recruiting and shop at Whole Foods

Full disclosure: I used to be a Whole Foods truther. Then I bought a house and realized that white eggs taste the same as the brown ones from free-range, vegetarian chickens. 

Brand names abound on the Michigan roster, including NHL Draft first-rounders Rutger McGroarty (Winnipeg) and Frank Nazar III (Chicago) and high draft picks Seamus Casey, Nick Moldenhauer, and Gavin Brindley. These players have been known commodities since their youth hockey days as part of a talented group of 2004-born players who dot the rosters of the Brick Invitational, North American Hockey Showcase, and World Selects Invite tournament teams. 

The 2004s are a fun example of hockey's long journey, with McGroarty and Nazar facing former Detroit HoneyBaked teammate Cutter Gauthier in St. Paul and Brindley dueling with former Southeast Elite netminder Jacob Fowler.

If you're itching for a salt-of-the-earth player wearing the maize and blue to root for, look no further than T.J. Hughes. The undrafted Hughes recorded 36 points as a freshman last season for the Wolverines after exploding for 66 goals and 127 points in his third season with the AJHL's Brooks Bandits, the same team that propelled Cale Makar to UMass and then the Colorado Avalanche. This season, Hughes is third on the team in assists (29) and is fourth in total points (48).  

Rutger McGroarty, Michigan (photo from 2019)

Denver (30-9-3)

Root for the Pioneers if…you love geography 

Denver is North America's team for the Frozen Four. Not America's team, because to insinuate that the Pioneers represent just one country on the continent would be a grave omission of the team's roster's cosmopolitan makeup.

Insinuate. Omission. Cosmopolitan. Jot those down for future use.  

The Pioneers feature players from St. Louis (McKade Webster and Jack Caruso) to Saskatchewan (Boston Buckberger and Paxton Geisel) and Quebec (Tristan Lemyre) to California. The Golden State pipeline to Denver includes Garrett Brown, Sam Harris, Alex Weirmair, plus Shai and Zeev Buium.

Illinois native Jack Devine leads the team in scoring with 27 goals and 56 points, followed by Zeev Buium (11-38-49) and Minnesotan Tristan Broz (15-24-39). The Pioneers have been without stud center Massimo Rizzo since early February due to a lower-body injury, but Head Coach David Carle and Co., as they seem to do every year, have found players to fill the void. 

Finnish forward Mikko Matikka has four goals and five points in Denver's last four games, and could be relied upon should Devine be bottled up by the Terriers. 

Jared Wright (right), Denver (photo from 2015)

Boston University (28-9-2)

Root for the Terriers if…you love superstars and don't know any of the other teams in the field 

Macklin Celebrini. Macklin Celebrini. Macklin Celebrini. 

You get a prize if you can name a player not named "Celebrini" or "Hutson" on this BU team. The prize is that you can impress your friends and family by throwing out "Ryan Greene" or "Jeremy Wilmer." The next birthday party you attend, blow everyone away by casually dropping that Cade Webber leads BU with 133 blocked shots, nearly double the next-highest total of 75 (Case McCarthy). Mentioning the factoid will make you much more interesting than someone who flew to the moon or invented a Neuralink competitor. 

Yes, the Terriers are led by the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in this year's NHL Draft in Celebrini, a Vancouver native with 32 goals and 64 points this season and could be in line for the Hobey Baker Award. Montreal draft pick Lane Hutson is second among Terriers in scoring with 15 goals and 49 points from the blueline, while Greene (12-24-36) and Quinn Hutson (18-18-36) provide supplemental scoring. Celebrini is must-see television, and the Frozen Four is only made better by having its stars on the biggest stage. 

Should the Terriers defeat the Pioneers, the national title game will be another youth hockey reunion. Lane Hutson was a member of the Detroit HoneyBaked 2004s before departing for the North Jersey Avalanche, giving him former teammates from both Michigan (McGroarty and Nazar III) and Boston College (Gauthier). 

Macklin Celebrini, Boston University

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