College Hockey Shines in NHL’s Biggest Time

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By Chris Hennessy

As a fan of all things hockey, I consume college hockey as much as possible all season long, which culminated this past weekend in Buffalo, N.Y. with a Frozen Four full of exciting hockey and great prospects that will be vying for the Stanley Cup very soon.

The four semi finalists  were the University of Denver, Providence College, University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Massachusetts, and they played on Thursday night in two great semifinal games. Duluth won the first game over Providence 4-1. Considering Duluth was a one seed and PC a four, this was a very predictable result but nothing the Friars should hang their heads about. After a great tournament with a young core, they are poised to be back in this position soon. Then came the main event; the Denver/UMass game was talked about a lot over the 10-day layoff between games, and it lived up to the hype. A matchup of two supremely talented teams went to overtime, with the Minutemen winning the game 4-3. Defenseman Marc Del Gaizo scored the game winner for UMass, who is making its first appearance in the Frozen Four on the back of Hobey Baker Award winner defenseman Cale Makar. Makar is a Colorado Avalanche prospect and is expected to report to the team once his season is over. He is the school’s first Hobey Baker winner, a trophy given to the best college hockey player, like the Heisman. The magical season continued one more night for the Minutemen and Bulldogs, who met on Saturday night for a riveting championship game

UMD was the reigning champion after beating Notre Dame in the final game last year, and UMass was in its first championship game. This was evident early, as Duluth looked like the more talented and poised team, getting through the neutral zone with ease, and jumping out to a two-goal lead after two periods. Massachusetts gave themselves a lot of chances to close the gap, but goaltender Hunter Shepard stood tall for the Bulldogs. Duluth put the game away with a third goal with two minutes remaining.   

It was quite the season and tournament, leading up to a second consecutive National Championship for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. UMass went from the butt of many college hockey jokes to its first championship game on the shoulders of Makar, its captain and best player in the country, in a season-long feel good story. Throw in St. Cloud State University being upset in the first round as the number one overall seed for the second straight year, a lot of hitting, a lot of goals and great goaltending, and you get a sense of why the Frozen Four is so special.

Once again, the Frozen Four proved why it can be just as entertaining as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

College hockey is also capable of gathering attention and respect, even as the NHL Playoffs are in full swing. (Courtesy of Flickr)