After six-plus months of college hockey, the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four championship game will be decided by the top two teams in the country.
Top-seeded Minnesota defeated Boston University 6-2 in Thursday’s first semifinal at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, and No. 2 seed Quinnipiac dumped Michigan 5-2 in the nightcap, setting up a powerhouse title clash for Saturday night.
Minnesota, in the championship game for the first time since 2014, is chasing the sixth national title in program history and first since going back-to-back in 2002 and 2003. Quinnipiac is in search of its first-ever Division I men’s hockey national championship.
Saturday’s national title game is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+. It will also be streamed live in Canada on TSN+. Westwood One will provide the radio broadcast.
The Kids Are All Right
Boston University and Minnesota were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes. Then the Golden Gophers’ vaunted freshman class came through yet again, with two of their rookie skaters each potting a pair of goals in rapid succession.
One of them was perhaps to be expected. The other? Not so much.
Hobey Baker Award finalist Logan Cooley (Pittsburgh, Pa.), the fifth overall pick by Arizona in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, sealed the win with a pair of empty-net tallies 58 seconds apart in the game’s final minutes.
But it was less-heralded, undrafted teammate Luke Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn.) who single-handedly swung the game in favor of Minnesota earlier in the frame.
First, the defenseman snapped the 2-2 tie with a quick power-play snipe from the top of the left circle just 100 seconds into the frame. Less than two minutes later, and from nearly the exact same spot, Mittelstadt again beat BU goalie Drew Commesso (Norwell, Mass./CHI) to the glove side, giving the Gophers a two-goal cushion.
“When you start practice at the start of the year, some of the good ones you just go, ‘There’s a good one,’ and [Mittelstadt] had it right from the start,” said Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko. “He’s really been great from the first day that he stepped on the ice with us.”
The goals were the fourth and fifth of the season for Mittelstadt, listed as Minnesota’s seventh defenseman on the team’s line chart. It was his first multi-goal game.
“We had guys in front of the net all night,” said Mittelstadt. “I think if we just keep firing the puck, good things will happen.”
Mittelstadt’s first tally was one of three on the power play for Minnesota, which finished 3-for-7 with the man advantage. Junior defenseman Mike Koster (Chaska, Minn./TOR) and sophomore forward Rhett Pitlick (Plymouth, Minn./MTL) provided the others.
The Terriers received their goals from senior forwards Sam Stevens (Montreal, Que.) and Jay O’Brien (Hingham, Mass./PHI). Commesso made 28 saves while Minnesota counterpart Justen Close (Kindersley, Saskatchewan) stopped 29 of 31 shots.
No two players in this year’s Frozen Four field have played in more collegiate games than Quinnipiac graduate students Ethan de Jong (North Vancouver, British Columbia) and Zach Metsa (Delafield, Wis.).
Perhaps it’s only fitting that those two players sealed the Bobcats’ 5-2 semifinal win over Michigan.
Metsa, playing in career game No. 176, threw a puck from the half-wall that handcuffed Michigan goalie Erik Portillo (Gothenburg, Sweden) and gave QU a 4-2 cushion with seven minutes left in the third period. De Jong, in his 183rd career game, iced the victory with an empty netter 5:15 later.
The Bobcats will now play in their third title game in the last 10 years in search of the program’s first national championship.
“I thought we were outstanding tonight,” said QU head coach Rand Pecknold. “Michigan, I mean, they’re excellent. Just a ton of talent. We had a lot to handle there, but we found a way. Our culture was on display tonight.”
Sophomore forward Jacob Quillan (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) scored twice in the opening frame to stake QU to a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. He also set up Sam Lipkin’s (Philadelphia, Pa./ARI) game-winner 1:24 into the third.
“At the start of this tournament, we told ourselves to focus on one thing at a time. Today was Michigan,” said Quillan. “Tomorrow we’ll start focusing on Minnesota and take it one step at a time from there.”
Freshman sensation Adam Fantilli (Nobleton, Ontario) scored his 30th goal of the year for Michigan, tying him with Western Michigan’s Jason Polin for the national lead. Sophomore defenseman Seamus Casey, a native of nearby Fort Myers, also scored for the Wolverines.
Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play. Michigan outshot Quinnipiac 31-30.
- Cooley extended his point streak to 16 games, the longest active streak in the nation, and became the first Minnesota freshman with 60 points since Thomas Vanek had 62 in 2002-03.
- With Fantilli matching Polin with his nation’s-best 30th goal, college hockey has a pair of 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2015-16 when Michigan’s Kyle Connor (35) and Tyler Motte (32) did it.
- Thursday marked the first time three different players (Cooley, Mittelstadt, Quillan) scored 2-plus goals on semifinal Thursday since 2008 in Denver. That year, Boston College’s Nathan Gerbe scored a hat trick against North Dakota, while Michigan’s Chad Kolarik and Notre Dame’s Calle Ridderwall each scored twice in their matchup.
- Thursday’s sellout-crowd of 19,119 was the largest attendance for a men’s Frozen Four game since the 2017 national title game in Chicago drew 19,783.
College Hockey News: Mittelstadt’s two goals carries Minnesota to national title game
College Hockey News: Quinnipiac takes out Michigan, will play Minnesota in title game
EP Rinkside: Quinnipiac keeps it simple in win over Michigan
EP Rinkside: Minnesota cruises past undisciplined BU
FloHockey: Minnesota to meet Quinnipiac for national championship
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Freshman Mittelstadt's scoring spurt lifts U past Boston U in Frozen Four
New Haven Register: Quinnipiac defeats Michigan, plays for Frozen Four title Saturday
The Rink Live: Playoff hockey, in Florida, provides Gophers a chance to weather storms and create them
The Rink Live: Quinnipiac does not spend much time enjoying win, looks ahead to Minnesota
USCHO: ‘Strongest D corps’ provides a boost for Minnesota’s Frozen Four semifinal win
USCHO: Quinnipiac uses bank shots, strong forecheck to down Michigan in Frozen Four
USCHO: Quinnipiac’s puck management effective in derailing Michigan’s offense
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