Semifinals: Thursday, April 7
5 p.m.: No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 1 Denver (ESPN2)
8:30 p.m.: No. 2 Minnesota vs. No. 1 Minnesota State (ESPNU)
National championship: Saturday, April 9
8 p.m.: TBD vs. TBD (ESPN2)
What happened in the 2021 Frozen Four?
UMass was the only school from the East at last year’s edition, played in front of a limited capacity crowd in Pittsburgh. It was the second straight Frozen Four appearance for the Minutemen, who knocked off the two-time defending champs in Minnesota-Duluth with a 3-2 overtime win in the semifinals.
St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota State 5-4 in overtime, but was no match for UMass in the title game, with the Minutemen rolling to a 5-0 win for the championship game.
Meet the teams in the Frozen Four
Here is a preview of all four teams vying for the national championship this weekend.
How they got here: The Big Ten champions were seeded atop the Allentown regional and took care of business by topping American International, 5-3, on March 25 before besting Quinnipiac, 7-4, on March 27. The Wolverines are 14-4-0 in road games and games at neutral sites this season and won a program-record 16 conference games.
Stars: Freshman defender Luke Hughes and sophomore forward Matty Beniers, who is from Hingham, were among the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Sophomore goalie Erik Portillo was named most outstanding player of the Allentown regional as well as the Big Ten Tournament.
Unsung heroes: Senior defender Nick Blankenburg has tallied 29 points this season with one goal in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s his leadership that has been integral for a young Wolverines team. Blankenburg is one of 16 Wolverines to earn All-Academic honors in the Big Ten.
The man in charge: Mel Pearson (196-149-44) needs one more victory to reach 100 wins as Wolverines head coach. A longtime assistant at Michigan Tech and Michigan, Pearson was the head coach at Michigan Tech from 2011-2017. In 2000, he won the Terry Flanagan award, which recognizes an assistant coach’s body of work. He is one of eight finalists for the Spencer Penrose Coach of the Year award, which will be announced on Wednesday.
Against Frozen Four teams: Michigan split a series with Minnesota in December then went 1-0-1 at Minnesota in January. The Wolverines topped the Golden Gophers, 4-3, in the Big Ten championship on March 19, and defeated Minnesota State, 3-2, early in the season.
Frozen Four history: The Wolverines are tied with Minnesota for the most NCAA Tournament appearances at 39. This is the 26th Frozen Four for the Wolverines, but only the second since 2011. The Wolverines are seeking their 10th national championship and first since 1998.
How they got here: Denver fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference semifinals, but the Pioneers still earned an at-large berth and the top seed in the Loveland regional after winning the NCHC regular-season title.
Denver got past fourth-seeded UMass Lowell, 3-2, on March 24, then exacted revenge by beating Minnesota-Duluth, 2-1, in the regional final to deny the Bulldogs a fifth straight Frozen Four appearance.
Stars: Carter Savoie scored the winner in the Pioneers’ 2-1 victory over Minnesota-Duluth, marking his fifth game-winning goal this season. Savoie was named to the Loveland regional All-Tournament Team along with Cole Guttman, who earned most outstanding player honors in the bracket. Junior forward Bobby Brink leads the country with 56 points and 42 assists on the season and is one of three Hat Trick finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which will be awarded on Friday.
Unsung heroes: Swedish goalie Magnus Chrona has only allowed six goals while helping Denver win five of its last six games. The junior has a .909 save percentage on the season and has made 40 stops over two starts in the NCAA Tournament. Mike Benning leads the Pioneers in plus/minus (plus-28) with four game-winning goals on the season.
The man in charge: A finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award, David Carle (55-34-12) led his team to an 18-6-0 record in the NCHC. The 32-year-old from Anchorage spent four years as an assistant for Denver before taking over as head coach in 2018, the year after Denver won its last national championship.
Against Frozen Four teams: Denver split six meetings with Minnesota-Duluth and a series with St. Cloud State, which made the Frozen Four in 2021. The Pioneers have not faced any of the Frozen Four teams in recent seasons.
Frozen Four history: Denver had made 12 consecutive postseason appearances before failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2021. The Pioneers are making their 17th national semifinals appearance and are seeking their ninth national title.
How they got here: The Golden Gophers earned an at-large berth and were seeded second in the Worcester regional, where they edged defending national champion and third-seeded UMass, 4-3, in an overtime thriller March 25. Minnesota blanked Western Michigan, 3-0, on March 27 to make it to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2014.
Stars: Big Ten Player of the Year Ben Meyers has tallied 95 points (39 goals, 56 assists) and produced 13 multi-point games in 101 career games with Minnesota. The 5-foot-11-inch junior forward is one of the three Hat Trick finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Gophers junior goalie Justen Close has posted three shutouts in six games and is 14-4-0 since taking over as the primary starter.
Unsung heroes: Junior defender Jackson LaCombe set career highs with 17 assists and four goals last season, and responded with three goals and 27 assists this year. The 6-foot-2-inch Minnesota native tallied two assists in the Big Ten final against Michigan and has blocked 12 shots over the Gophers’ last three games.
The man in charge: Head coach Bob Motzko (360-241-60) has been named a finalist for Penrose Award for the second time in four seasons with the Golden Gophers. After several stops as an assistant, Motzko coached St. Cloud State from 2005-18 before taking over at Minnesota, where he owns an 84-49-11 record and has led the Gophers to their most wins (26) since the 2013-14 season.
Against Frozen Four teams: Minnesota split four games with Michigan this season and fell to the Wolverines in the Big Ten championship. The Gophers fell to Minnesota State, 4-0, in the Loveland regional last March to miss out on a Frozen Four trip.
Frozen Four history: This is the 22nd Frozen Four for Minnesota out of 39 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Gophers have won five national titles, with the most recent coming in 2003.
Minnesota State (37-5-0)
How they got here: The Mavericks have won 17 straight, including a 2-1 overtime win over Bemidji State on March 19 to win the Central Collegiate Hockey Association title and earn an automatic tournament bid. The top seed in the Albany regional, Minnesota State bested Harvard, 4-3, on March 24 and earned a 1-0 win over Notre Dame on March 26. Minnesota State opened its season with consecutive wins over UMass, and went 20-1-0 at home.
Stars: Dryden McKay rounds out the Hat Trick finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. The senior goalie from Illinois entered the season with a sparkling 75-15-4 record and 1.53 goals against average. McKay owns a .934 save percentage and 1.28 goals against average this season. Junior forward Nathan Smith leads the Mavericks with 50 points (19 goals, 31 assists) on the season with Ryan Sandelin logging a team-high 21 goals.
Unsung heroes: Senior defender Jack McNeely is tied for the team lead with a plus-36 rating. He has recorded two goals with 14 assists and has 50 blocked shots on the season. Senior Wyatt Aamodt leads the team with 54 blocked shots.
The man in charge: Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings (236-90-24) spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant at Minnesota before assisting at Nebraska-Omaha for three years. The former defender at St. Cloud State took over at Minnesota State in 2012 and led the Mavericks to five NCAA Tournament appearances in seven years before they broke through with a Frozen Four appearance in 2021.
Against Frozen Four teams: Minnesota State topped Minnesota, 4-0, to make the Frozen Four last season for the first time in program history. The Mavericks fell, 3-2, to Michigan on Oct. 16 this season.
Frozen Four history: After the program’s first Frozen Four appearance last year, the Mavericks are in the semifinals again. The school is seeking its first national title.
Last time Boston hosted the Frozen Four
Boston has hosted the Frozen Four at TD Garden three times. Here’s a rundown:
The Frozen Four returned to Boston for the first time since 1974, with Boston College and New Hampshire representing Hockey East. They were joined by Michigan and Ohio State at what was then called the FleetCenter.
Michigan and BC met in the championship game, with the Wolverines prevailing in overtime, 3-2. Michigan has not won the title since.
Once again, a pair of Hockey East teams, BC and Maine, reached the FleetCenter, with Denver and Minnesota-Duluth joining in.
Jimmy Howard made 40 saves as the Black Bears upset BC, 2-1 in the semifinals, but Maine would fall short in the title game against Denver, 1-0. Trailing by a goal late, Maine had a 5-on-3, then pulled Howard for an extra skater for a 6-on-3, but failed to score.
Two more Hockey East teams advanced to what was now the TD Garden, with Boston University and Providence joined by North Dakota and Omaha. BU and Providence prevailed to set up an all Hockey East championship. The day before the title game, BU freshman Jack Eichel was named the Hobey Baker winner.
The Terriers appeared poised to win the national title, leading 3-2 in the third, but Providence struck for a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes to take the title.
Events for fans
There will not be a FanFest this year, but practices at TD Garden for all four teams will be open to fans on Wednesday. The times are:
Denver: 11 a.m. to noon
Michigan: 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.
Minnesota State: 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Minnesota: 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The Hobey Baker presentation will be held Friday at Encore Boston Harbor Resort and is open to the public. The program will begin at 4:45 p.m.
Read more about the Frozen Four
Minnesota State is back in the Frozen Four, looking to finish the job
Loaded Michigan men’s hockey roster includes a Hingham native and a Bruins draft pick
Denver coach David Carle’s journey started with heartbreak, but he’s back on the brink of glory
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism