If you feel like you’ve seen Michigan, Notre Dame and North Dakota in the Frozen Four somewhere before, that’s because you have.
The Wolverines, the Fighting Irish and the Fighting Sioux are all back in the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008, when they joined eventual NCAA Champion Boston College at Pepsi Arena in Denver, Colo. For 15 players who played in that tournament as freshmen, their trip to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul is another opportunity at the championship that BC skated off with.
“It’s an honor to be in another Frozen Four,” Michigan senior forward Louie Caporusso said. “It was a great experience being there freshman year. I think we took a lot from that year. We’re very happy to be back there again.”
For North Dakota senior Chay Genoway, who returned to Grand Forks for a fifth year after being sidelined for all but nine games of the 2009-10 season, next week brings his third Frozen Four, and the first where the Fighting Sioux will not play Boston College. The Eagles eliminated North Dakota in the semifinals in 2006, 2007 and 2008, although Genoway isn’t particularly interested in the teams that won’t be there in St. Paul
“We really try not to think about who we’re playing too much,” Genoway said. “We’re obviously going to do our homework on who we’re playing, and that’s Michigan. We’ll do our preparation for them like they always do, but at the end of the day, we’re going to focus on what we’ve got to do. That’s the way we’ve been doing it all year.”
Minnesota-Duluth, meanwhile, is making its first Frozen Four appearance since 2004, but head coach Scott Sandelin isn’t especially concerned about a lack of tournament experience on his squad. Instead, he’s more excited about the opportunity to bring a national championship to Duluth for the first time in program history.
“They know that they’re looking forward to not just getting there and hopefully playing two games,” Sandelin said, “but having a chance to win a national championship, which hasn’t been done here.”
Need to Know
• For the second time in four years, St. Norbert is the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Champion. The Green Knights defeated Adrian on Saturday 4-3 in the 2011 NCAA Championship game at Ridder Arena on the campus of Minnesota. The Bulldogs, playing in their first NCAA Championship contest, were game, answering every St. Norbert goal with a score of their own, but when three-time first team All-American defenseman Nick Tabisz scored on a power play with 4:34 remaining in the second period, Adrian had no answer. The Green Knights held Adrian to five shots in the third period, all of which were stopped by All-American goaltender B.J. O’Brien, clinching their first championship since 2008.
• Michigan State filled its coaching vacancy last week with an unexpected name: CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos. A Michigan State alum who played center for the Spartans from 1981 to 1985 and served as an assistant coach during the 1990-91 season, Anastos was named as the head coach last Wednesday. Anastos ends a 13-year tenure as commissioner of the CCHA.
• Hamline senior defenseman Chris Berenguer was named the 2011 winner of the Sid Watson Award as the top player in Division III. Berenguer is a three-time first team All-American, and beat out St. Norbert’s B.J. O’Brien for the honor. Berenguer scored 13 goals and added 19 assists for a Pipers team that won the MIAC regular-season and playoff titles. The Pipers reached the MIAC in three of Berenguer’s four years at Hamline, finally advancing to the NCAA Division III tournament in his senior year before falling to eventual NCAA champion St. Norbert.
• St. Norbert goaltender B.J. O’Brien was named Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Division III Championship for the second time in his four year career. O’Brien was named Most Outstanding Player last year as well after making 90 of 95 saves in a 4-3 win against Oswego and a 2-1 double overtime loss to Norwich, but will have much happier memories of this honor, which came after he stopped 39 of 41 shots in a 3-2 win against Norwich and 18 of 31 shots in a 4-3 win against Adrian in the championship game.
• The finalists for the 2011 Spencer Penrose Award, given to the Division I Coach of the Year, have been named. The group, which includes the recipients of the five conference Coach of the Year winners and the coaches of the four Frozen Four teams, consists of Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol, Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais, Michigan head coach Red Berenson, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, Union head coach Nate Leaman, Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl and Boston College head coach Jerry York.
• Castleton State sophomore forward Josh Harris was named the winner of the 11th annual Joe Concannon Award, which honors the top American-born Division III player in New England, in an equivalent to the Walter Brown Award in Division I. Harris, from Torrance, Calif., led Division III in points per game with 16 goals and 34 assists in 27 games.
• As the only team in the Frozen Four to have also won its conference championship, North Dakota enters the Frozen Four on the longest winning streak in the nation. The Fighting Sioux have not lost since January 28 at Colorado College, a span of 15 consecutive games without a loss.