NCAA Hockey: Players to watch in 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa
TAMPA -- Plenty of high-level talent will grace the ice at Amalie Arena on Thursday night as the puck drops at the 2016 Frozen Four.
From the top lines in college hockey to a Hobey Baker finalist, here are the players to watch as Quinnipiac and Boston College face off at 5 p.m. ET and NCHC rivals Denver and North Dakota meet in the nightcap at 8:30 p.m.
Quinnipiac: Sam Anas
Sam Anas ranks among the active career point leaders in the Frozen Four field. The junior forward has accounted for 69 career goals and 132 points through three seasons at Quinnipiac. Anas is just the fifth Bobcats player in the Division I era to post 50 points in a season and led the ECAC in points with 24 goals and career-high 26 assists.
Anas is a dangerous power-play scorer for the Bobcats as the forward has collected 24 points off Quinnipiac's 45 power-play goals this season. While he has been playing through a shoulder injury he suffered in ECAC championship game, Anas should be ready to go Thursday night.
"It's exciting to play a team like Boston College, obviously, and we hope we'll have a good showing," Anas said. "I feel great that we're here in Tampa and really excited to get going and excited to get playing."
Boston College: Alex Tuch
From top to bottom, the depth of the Boston College forwards is arguably the most impressive of the Frozen Four teams. There is plenty of star-power in players such as Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi, but fans should watch out for Alex Tuch. The sophomore developed a knack for coming up in high-pressure situations in the second half of the season, scoring the Beanpot game winner and a pair of goals in the NCAA regional semifinal against Harvard.
"The first half of the year was very average for Alex, just wasn't involved in the game, wasn't on the puck, wasn't a physical presence," Eagles head coach Jerry York said. "And the last month, two months he's been outstanding for us. He's not circling. He's playing through people. He's just a very strong, powerful forward now for us, one of the reasons we're here."
Quinnipiac: Devon Toews
Going up against some of the top forwards in the country, Quinnipiac will look toward its strong defensmen corp, led by junior Devon Toews. Toews has played some of his best all-around hockey in the postseason. The junior added three assists in the NCAA tournament opener against RIT and came up with huge blocks in the win over UMass-Lowell. Toews also provides key offensive support for the Bobcats as Quinnipiac is 7-0-0 when Toews scores a goal and 13-1-2 when he assists on a goal. The defenseman holds a plus/minus rating of +30 and enters the Frozen Four with a tournament-best +7 rating among all players.
Boston College: Thatcher Demko
Quinnipiac's offense puts up an average of 34.9 shots per game and ranks fourth with 3.88 goals per game. But Thatcher Demko could be the difference maker for Boston College. Demko boasts the second-highest .936 save percentage and picked up a 27-7-4 record this season for Boston College. The junior also posted a school single-season record 10 shutouts.
His goals against average continues to improve year-after-year with Demko earning a 1.85 GAA in 2015-16. The junior goaltender is up for the Mike Richter Award and is also the lone Hobey Baker Award finalist in the Frozen Four field.
Denver's "Pacific Rim" line
The talk of Denver's season has been the impressive play of its "Pacific Rim" line, which consists of junior Trevor Moore, freshman Dylan Gambrell and leading scorer Danton Heinen. All three players grew up on the west coast and have produced consistent results this season.
Denver's top-line ranked in the top three in conference scoring from Jan. 1 until March 20, combining for 94 points during that stretch. The trio haven't stopped in the NCAA postseason and combined for 12 points in the 7-2 and 6-3 thrashings of Boston University and Ferris State to advance to the Frozen Four.
"I think at the beginning of the year we weren't doing the little things right, I think, being on the right side of the puck and winning our battles," Heinen said, who enters the Frozen Four on a 18-point streak. "But now that the season has gone on, I feel Coach Monty has really stressed that with our line, and I feel like we've done a better job of that lately, and it seems to lead to more offense. So I think that's been the key."
North Dakota's "CBS" line
North Dakota breezed through Northeastern in the opener and eventually Michigan in the regional final, thanks to the outstanding play from the CBS line.
Drake Caggiula has caused plenty of trouble for the Pioneers as he has collected 16 points in his 16 career games against Denver, including six goals. The junior forward enters the Frozen Four on a career-best 11 game point streak.
Brock Boeser's 54 points are a NCHC freshman record and ranks fifth in the nation among all players. Rounding out the CBS line, Nick Schmaltz leads UND with 34 assists, the most by a player in a single-season since T.J. Oshie in 2006-07.
It is the first time since 2011-12 that a trio of UND players have each surprassed 40 points in a season. The "CBS" line also claims the best plus/minus rating in all of college hockey, with Caggiula earning a school-record +41 rating.