The Frozen Four begins Thursday April 6, when Denver takes on Notre Dame and Harvard faces Minnesota-Duluth. Teams will battle it out at the United Center in Chicago for a chance to play for the national championship on Saturday, April 8.

Before the excitement begins, here’s a list of ten important things to know before puck drop.

1. Welcome to Chicago

This year marks the first time the Frozen Four has been held in Chicago. A growing hockey town with a loyal Blackhawks fan base, Chicago will welcome thousands of college fans from all over this upcoming week. Last year’s Frozen Four was held in Tampa (yes, a bit warmer). From 1948-57 games were played in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Ice Palace. The Frozen Four was then played at various cities and arenas across the country. Chicago is the 26th different city that has hosted the Frozen Four.

2. The most Frozen Four experience

The top-seeded Denver Pioneers are coming in with the most Frozen Four appearances with 14. Next up is Harvard with 12, Minnesota-Duluth with four and Notre Dame with two.

3. There’s some history between Jim Montgomery and Jeff Jackson

One interesting storyline heading into the Frozen Four is the relationship between Denver head coach Jim Montgomery and Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. Montgomery began his coaching career at Notre Dame in 2005-06, serving as a volunteer coach with the Fighting Irish. Jackson said that Montgomery has a special place in his heart, and Montgomery has also spoken about the impact the Notre Dame program had on his career. 

"I think I was very lucky and fortunate that during the first year of my career I was able to work for and under Jeff Jackson and the entire staff that is there,” Montgomery said.

RELATED: What the coaches are saying before Frozen Four

4. Who’s on the call?

ESPN’s lead hockey play-by-play commentator John Buccigross will team up with lead hockey analyst Barry Melrose and reporter Quint Kessenich to call the Frozen Four for the fifth consecutive year.

5. It’s awards season

Yes, that’s correct. The three finalists for the Hobey Baker have been named, as Zach Aston-Reese of Northeastern, Will Butcher of Denver and Mike Vecchione of Union were given the Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist honors. Criteria for the award includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements. The winner will be announced Friday, April 7, 2017 from the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier in Chicago. Read more about the finalists here.

In its fourth year, the Mike Richter Award, which honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey, will be awarded on Friday as well. The five finalists include three of the goaltenders who will see action on Thursday. Michael Bitzer of Bemidji, Tanner Jaillet of Denver, Hunter Miska  of Minnesota Duluth, Cal Petersen of Notre Dame and Charles Williams of Canisius are all up for the honors.

6. Keep an eye on Cal Peterson

“To me as a college hockey coach, he is the total package of doing things the right way,” were the words coach Jackson said in the week leading up to the Frozen Four.

Besides for the high praises from his coach, Petersen is 52 saves away from 3000 for his career. Thursday marks his 90th straight start of his career, the fourth-longest streak in Division I history.

Peterson also serves as the team captain, something you don’t always see at the goalie position. Read more about that here.

Frozen Four: Bracket | Scores

7. The scouting report?

Coach Jackson on what makes Denver a strong defensive team

“Well, [Pioneers goalie Tanner] Jaillet has certainly improved, I think he really started to take over the No. 1 job when we saw him last year on New Year’s. I thought they played against us well. ... The thing is, they certainly got some dynamic forwards, but I think the key to their team is their defensive core, they’re great skaters, they don’t give up much space, they have good defensive sticks.

Biggest concerns about Notre Dame from coach Montgomery

"I really can’t give you much besides Andre Bjork and Cal Petersen are the two biggest factors I am looking at."

Thoughts on facing Harvard’s team from coach Scott Sandelin

"They are a team that can score. They are also strong defensively, have a very talented group of forwards. Their goaltending is solid as well. Just watching I was very impressed but the way they played and certainly a very deserving team to be there with the season they have had."

Harvard coach Ted Donato on Minnesota- Duluth

They have a great balance, great goaltending, they have a good mix of size and skill. They just go about their business winning hockey games.

RELATED: AHCA Coach of the Year finalists announced 

8. Harvard’s family affair

There is a father-son duo when it comes to the Harvard hockey team, with the son of coach Donato, Ryan, a strong force a successful Crimson line. Ryan has recored 21 goals so far this season. Ted won the 1989 NCAA title with Harvard and took home the most outstanding player honors - can Ryan keep it in the family?

9. What’s that thing on the ref’s head?

Fans checking out the action from the United Center or from their televisions at home may notice a small camera attached to a referee’s helmet. ESPN’s telecasts will feature a Ref Cam for the first time, allowing viewers to experience the game through the eyes of the referee.

10. If you’re in town, here’s what you should know

ESPN will host a Frozen Four and #CawlidgeHawkey fan gathering on Friday, April 7, (7:15 p.m. CT) at Kitty O’Sheas inside the Hilton Chicago with John Buccigross and Barry Melrose. The one-hour session (7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.) with ESPN’s Frozen Four commentators is free of charge to the public and will feature a Q&A session, picture and autograph opportunities along with numerous giveaways. Click here for more details on the about the Frozen Four.


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