Frozen Four Preview: Minnesota vs. Boston College

Go Gophers!
Minnesota has advanced to its first Frozen Four since 2005.

Go Gophers!
Minnesota has advanced to its first Frozen Four since 2005.
Go Gophers!

NCAA Frozen Four: Minnesota vs. Boston College

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Frozen Four Central 

Date: April 5 and 7, 2012
Time: April 5: 4:30 p.m. ET (Ferris State vs. Union) 8 p.m. ET (Minnesota vs.
Boston College); April 7: 7 p.m. ET (semifinal winners)
Location: Tampa Bay Times Forum (19,500)
Television: ESPN2 (Minnesota vs. Boston College)
Radio: 1500 ESPN (Minnesota games only)
Live Blog: GopherSports.com (Minnesota games only)
Twitter: @GoldenGopherHky, @GopherAthletics and @GoldenRd2Tampa
Facebook: Facebook.com/GoldenGopherHockey

Weekend Overview: Minnesota joins Boston College, Union and Ferris State in the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla. The Gophers are the lowest seed remaining in the tournament and face No. 1 seed and winner of 17 straight games Boston College in a national semifinal at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 5. On the other side of the bracket, Union and Ferris State will play the early game at 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. The semifinal winners will play for the NCAA title at 7 p.m. ET on April 7. All four teams remaining, Minnesota (WCHA), Boston College (Hockey East), Union (ECAC) and Ferris State (CCHA), won their regular-season league titles.  

In The Tournament: Minnesota is playing in its 33rd NCAA tournament and 20th Frozen Four. The Gophers, who beat Boston University (7-3) and North Dakota (5-2) to win the NCAA West Regional, are 52-33 all-time in the NCAA tournament. They are 19-16 in the Frozen Four. Minnesota has won five national championships. Don Lucia coached the Gophers to national titles in 2002 and 2003, while Herb Brooks led Minnesota to the NCAA title in 1974, 1976 and 1979. 

Facing Boston College: Minnesota and Boston College have played 27 times overall and the Gophers lead the series 14-11-2. Minnesota is 8-1-0 at home against Boston College and 5-9-2 on the road. They are 1-1-0 in neutral-site games, both of which were in the NCAA tournament (1954 and 2008). Nine of the 27 meetings between the two schools have come in the NCAA tournament (eight of those games were in Massachusetts) and Boston College is 5-4 in those games. The last NCAA and overall meeting between the two schools was March 28, 2008. Minnesota lost that day 5-2 in the NCAA Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. Boston College went on to win the NCAA title.

Facing Ferris State: Minnesota leads the overall series 3-1-1 with Ferris State. The teams have met once in the NCAA tournament with the Gophers prevailing 7-4 in the 2003 NCAA West Regional championship at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota went on to win the NCAA championship that year.

Facing Union: The Gophers have never played Union in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota is 2-1-0 all-time against Union, but lost 3-2 in overtime in last year's Mariucci Classic.

In The Polls: The 28-13-1 Gophers are ranked No. 2 in the latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll which came out on March 26. The most recent USCHO poll, which came out on March 19 prior to NCAA regional competition, has the Gophers at No. 6. Minnesota spent two weeks at No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll earlier this year and four combined weeks at No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The Gophers began the year No. 19 in the USCHO poll and were unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. They have been ranked in the top 10 in both polls since Oct. 17. 

Mariucci Classic Reunion: Three of the four teams from last year's Mariucci Classic have advanced to this year's Frozen Four. Minnesota, Union, and Ferris State all competed in the two-day tournament, which was won by Bemidji State. Playing without Nick Bjugstad (United States) and Erik Haula (Finland), who were at the World Junior Championship, the Gophers lost to Union 3-2 in overtime and tied Ferris State 2-2 the next night.

NCAA West Regional Recap: Minnesota beat Boston University (7-3) and North Dakota (5-2) in the NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. The Gophers beat North Dakota on March 25, which was five years to the day that North Dakota beat Minnesota 3-2 in overtime in the 2007 NCAA West Regional Final in Denver.

MacNaughton Cup Champions: With a 2-1 win against Wisconsin on March 3, the Gophers claimed sole possession of their 13th WCHA regular season championship and 12th MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota finished the regular season with a 20-8-0 WCHA record and 40 points, which was three points more than Minnesota Duluth (16-7-5 record). The Gophers won the title for the first time since 2006-07. Minnesota has now won three of the last seven MacNaughton Cups, as they also won the Cup in 2005-06 (20-5-3 WCHA record) and in 2006-07 (18-7-3 WCHA record).

All-WCHA Teams: Minnesota had four players named to an All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association team this season. Senior Kent Patterson and sophomore Nick Bjugstad were named to the All-WCHA First Team, while sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt was named to All-WCHA Second Team. Freshman Kyle Rau was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team. Patterson also won the WCHA Goaltending Champion title with a 2.06 goals-against average while playing 1659:41 in 28 league games. In addition, Minnesota placed 15 student-athletes on the 2011-12 All-WCHA Academic Team.

Just Wins: The Gophers are 28-13-1 this year. The 28 wins are the most for Minnesota since it went 31-10-3 in 2006-07. The Gophers were 20-8-0 in the WCHA this year. The 20 WCHA wins are the most that the Gophers have had since they went 20-5-3 in 2005-06. The Gophers did not tie a single WCHA game this year. It was the first time since the 1997-98 season (12-16-0 in the WCHA) that Minnesota did not tie a WCHA game. The last time that Minnesota tied only one game all season was the 2004-05 season (team went 28-15-1 that year).

Saturday Night Success: Minnesota is 16-3-1 on Saturdays this year. The Gophers went 13-1-0 in WCHA regular-season games on Saturdays. Minnesota's last Saturday loss was its only Saturday WCHA loss, a 4-3 defeat in Denver on Feb. 11. The Gophers will play their first Thursday game of the year when they meet Boston College in the national semifinals on April 5. 

Home Ice: The Gophers went 17-6-0 at Mariucci Arena this season and closed the year by winning seven of their last eight home games. It is the first time that the Gophers won 17 home games since they went 17-4-1 in the 2005-06 season. The most games that Minnesota has won in one season at the current Mariucci Arena is 18 (happened in 1995-96, 2000-01 and 2001-02).

Four With 40: Erik Haula leads Minnesota with 48 points (20g-28a) in 42 games this year. His 48 points are the most by a Gopher since the 2005-06 season when Phil Kessel had 51 points in 39 games. Kyle Rau, who recorded the first four-point (1g-3a) game of his career against Boston University, has 43 points (18g-25a) this year. Nick Bjugstad has 42 points (25g-17a) this season and became the first Gopher to score 25 goals in one season since Ryan Potulny had 38 in 2005-06. Nate Schmidt has 41 points (3g-38a) this year. His 38 assists are the six most ever by a Gopher blueliner in a single season. Haula, Rau, Bjugstad and Schmidt give the Gophers four 40-point scorers for the first time since the 2002-03 season when Thomas Vanek (62 points), Troy Riddle (52), Keith Ballard (41), and Matt Koalska (40) all hit 40 points.

Seven With 30: Minnesota has seven players--Erik Haula, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Nate Schmidt, Jake Hansen, Zach Budish and Nate Condon--who have scored at least 30 points this season. It is the first time since the 2001-02 season that the Gophers have had seven players reach 30 points. That year John Pohl, Jeff Taffe, Jordan Leopold, Troy Riddle, Paul Martin, Grant Potulny and Matt Koalska all had at least 30 points.

Streaking: Kyle Rau has nine points, including two goals, in his last four games. Erik Haula has 10 goals and 10 assists in his last 15 games. Nate Schmidt has one goal and 14 assists in his last 14 games and is on a six-game point streak.

Goaltending Update: Senior goaltender Kent Patterson has started 63 straight games for Minnesota, a streak that began on Dec. 4, 2010 at Minnesota State. During his streak, Patterson played a consecutive 3414:13 before giving way to sophomore netminder Michael Shibrowski (five saves) in the third period against Wisconsin on March 2. Patterson was also replaced in the third period on March 10 against Alaska Anchorage by senior Jake Kremer for the final 44 seconds of the game. Kremer, who has served as the team's third goaltender for the last four years, did not face a shot. The last time Minnesota used three goalies during one season was 2006-07. That year, Alex Kangas played 1966:45, while Jeff Frazee played 797:58 and Brent Solei played 59:53.

More Patterson: Kent Patterson's career save percentage is .914 and his goals-against average is 2.40 (both would stand as program records right now). This year, he has played in 42 games (third all-time in a single season) and has played 2496:14 (second all-time in a single season). He has a 2.24 goals-against average (third all-time in a single season) and a .911 save percentage (tied for eighth all-time in a single season). He has made 947 saves (eighth all-time in a single season) and his seven shutouts this year is a program record.

Close Encounters: The Gophers are 28-13-1 on the season. Of their 13 defeats, nine have been by one goal (including two in overtime). Minnesota's other four setbacks were by two and three goals, respectively. The Gophers lost 3-1 at Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and 5-3 at Denver on Feb. 11. They also lost 4-1 to Wisconsin on March 2 and 6-3 to North Dakota on March 16. Minnesota has played in 20 one-goal games this year and is 11-9-0 in those games (have won seven of its last eight one-goal games). The 20 one-goal games is a season record (previous was 18 games during the 2006-07 season).

Potent Offense, Stingy Defense: Minnesota will bring the nation's most potent offense to Tampa, as the Gophers lead the country with 154 goals and are averaging a nation-best 3.67 goals-per-game. The 154 goals are the most that Minnesota has scored since it tallied 161 goals in 44 games during the 2006-07 season. The Gophers are tied for eighth in the country in team defense, allowing only 2.21 goals-per-game. However, that is the highest of the four teams in the Frozen Four. Union leads the nation at 1.80, while Boston College is second at 2.07 and Ferris State is tied for fifth at 2.17.

First And Third: Minnesota has dominated the first and third periods this season. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents 44-21 in the first period this year and 55-25 in the third period. Overall, Minnesota has scored 154 goals this season and given up 93.