Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Today is the Frozen Four.
At 5PM ET, the puck will drop at TD Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, between the University of Michigan Wolverines and the University of Denver Pioneers in the first game of the 2022 NCAA Frozen Four. And this game means a lot to me.
If you’re not new here, you know Michigan is my college hockey team. I know that this team has what it takes to win this year. They were absolutely crushed following last season when they didn’t even get a chance to play in this tournament after two of their players tested positive for COVID. The team immediately had to just go home and it was heartbreaking. Especially for seniors like Cam York and Strauss Mann. These kids give their all for a chance at winning an NCAA Championship and they didn’t even get a chance to start.
This year, things are different. They have a chance, starting at 5PM ET to live another day. This is the University of Michigan’s 26th trip to the Frozen Four. The last time their school won the title was 1998, the year before I was born. I think this Wolverines team can be the one to end the drought. First things first, beating Denver.
The Pioneers have an incredible goaltender in swede Magnus Chrona. He’s 26-8-1 on the season with 6 shutouts. He does have a 2.16 GAA and a .909 save percentage. That means Michigan needs to break the seal early. Michigan is one of the most talented teams offensively. Matthew “Matty” Beniers, who was the team’s points leader and Big Ten scoring champ this year, has 43 points on the season, 20 goals and 23 assists in 36 games. Brendan Brisson is right below him with 42 points (21G 21A) in 37 games while Luke Hughes is close behind at 39 (17G 22A) in 40 games. All of them thrive under pressure and in different ways too. Beniers is a PPG master, he’s got 10 this season. Brisson is the guy you want to swoop in to get the lead seeing he has 6 GWGs this year.
Kent Johnson, a center and my favorite player, has really improved over this past season. He jumped in the 2021 NHL Draft up to 5th overall after putting up 27 points (9G 18A) in 26 games during his first season at college. Now, this season he kicked things up a notch and has put up 37 points (8G 29A) in 31 games played. Him and Thomas Bordeleau sit 4th and 5th respectively in point scoring on this team. Bordeleau has 36 points (11G 25A) in 36 games.
Their top scorers are one thing, regardless, this team just knows how to score. When Michigan was missing their top players who were at the Olympics, the remaining Wolverines did not disappoint. They won all their games and outscored 3 of their top opponents (Wisconsin, Michigan State, & Ohio State) a whopping 32-12. I don’t care who gets the scoring going, it’s just imperative that they don’t let Chrona get confident.
The offense will not be alone obviously. They have the backup of a loaded defense and talented goaltender. Luke Hughes has been buzzing in his first season, not just on the offense. He was the NCAA’s top-scoring defenseman, his phenomenal skating has been the talk of hockey Twitter. He’s laying bigger hits, getting more comfortable in his skin I’m not worried about him in the slightest. Same with Owen Power, the recent first overall pick of the 2021 NHL Draft. The 6’5″ defender has 32 points (3G 29A) in 32 games. He was a massive help in their last win against Quinnipiac, registering 4 assists. Nick Blankenburg and him block shots for breakfast, the both of them help keep the D alive. They’re the ones that keep Erik Portillo, the Wolverines’ goaltender and Sabres prospect, from stressing too much. The sophomore Portillo has been incredible this season. He’s started every game and recorded a 31-9-1 record, 3 of which were shutouts. He hosted a .926 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA. I was worried about Portillo filling Strauss Mann’s shoes after last season but he has truly done well. He has shown that he has what it takes for this team to rely upon him if needed. When they tend to need a lot.
Regardless, I think they’re ready for this game. They need to break that seal, keep Bobby Brink away from the net- literally. Keep him from scoring, please. They also need to keep the pressure on all game. They tend to get a little comfortable, especially with the lead, and they give up goals they don’t need to. They got to disrupt Denver constantly, never let them get brewing.
I believe in this team. I sincerely think they can do this and move on to Saturday. But for now, who cares about Saturday. Just win this one hockey game. They’ve done it 31 other times this season. Either way, go Blue! Follow me on Twitter to watch my meltdown.
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Featured Image: University of Michigan's Twitter