Video: Union’s Hatch, Stevens after beating Boston College

PHILADELPHIA — Union’s Matt Hatch talks about watching from the locker room after his game misconduct penalty, and goaltender Colin Stevens talks about the final seconds of a 5-4 victory over Boston College on Thursday at the Frozen Four.

Line combinations for Minnesota vs. North Dakota

PHILADELPHIA — Here are the line combinations for the Frozen Four semifinal game between Minnesota and North Dakota:

Minnesota (27-6-6)

11 Sam Warning-7 Kyle Rau-24 Hudson Fasching
16 Nate Condon-25 Justin Kloos-13 Taylor Cammarata
14 Tom Serratore-22 Travis Boyd-17 Seth Ambroz
21 Connor Reilly-27 Gabe Guertler-19 Vinni Lettieri

2 Brady Skjei-12 Justin Holl
5 Mike Reilly-6 Jake Parenteau
10 Ben Marshall-20 Michael Brodzinski

32 Adam Wilcox
1 Michael Shibrowski

North Dakota (25-13-3)

9 Drake Caggiula-16 Mark MacMillan-15 Michael Parks
28 Stephane Pattyn-19 Rocco Grimaldi-27 Luke Johnson
21 Brendan O’Donnell-13 Connor Gaarder-11 Derek Rodwell
29 Bryn Chyzyk-17 Colten St. Clair-22 Andrew Panzarella

18 Dillon Simpson-24 Jordan Schmaltz
5 Nick Mattson-6 Paul LaDue
4 Keaton Thompson-2 Troy Stecher

31 Zane Gothberg
33 Clarke Saunders

Line combinations for Boston College vs. Union

PHILADELPHIA — Here are the line combinations for Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal game between Boston College and Union:

Boston College (28-7-4)

13 Johnny Gaudreau-24 Bill Arnold-12 Kevin Hayes
19 Ryan Fitzgerald-23 Patrick Brown-26 Austin Cangelosi
27 Quinn Smith-18 Michael Sit-9 Brendan Silk
21 Matthew Gaudreau-14 Adam Gilmour-11 Chris Calnan

7 Isaac MacLeod-6 Steve Santini
28 Scott Savage-5 Michael Matheson
3 Ian McCoshen-4 Teddy Doherty

30 Thatcher Demko
1 Brian Billett
29 Brad Barone

The Eagles have the same lineup as they used in the regional final against Massachusetts-Lowell.

Union (30-6-4)

9 Daniel Carr-21 Mike Vecchione-17 Daniel Ciampini
19 Matt Wilkins-12 Eli Lichtenwald-7 Michael Pontarelli
15 Matt Hatch-18 Max Novak-16 Kevin Sullivan
23 Cole Ikkala-11 Sam Coatta-8 Nick Cruice

22 Mat Bodie-24 Sebastien Gingras
14 Shayne Gostisbehere-2 Jeff Taylor
6 Charlie Vasaturo-28 Noah Henry

30 Colin Stevens
1 Alex Sakellaropoulos
31 Dillon Pieri

The Dutchmen have the same 21 players in the lineup as in the regional final against Providence, but right wingers Pontarelli and Cruice traded spots.

Our staff thoughts and picks on national semifinal games

PHILADELPHIA — Members of the USCHO staff give their thoughts and picks on Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal games:

Boston College vs. Union, 5 p.m. EDT, ESPN2

Drew Claussen, Big Ten Columnist: 2014 is an even number; that means Boston College is going to advance to the final. BC is just too good for Union and I believe the Eagles will win convincingly. Boston College 4-1

Jim Connelly, Hockey East Columnist: Union will limit BC’s top line but as that line consistently does, they’ll still break through for two of three goals to propel the Eagles. Boston College 4-3

Dave Hendrickson, Hockey East Columnist: In this battle between the top two offensive teams in the country, BC’s unstoppable first line and stellar special teams make the difference. Boston College 5-4

Chris Lerch, Atlantic Hockey Columnist: I picked Union to win it all so I’m sticking with that. The Dutchmen have had success in making teams play into their system. If they can do that against Boston College — and I think they can — Union will come out on top. Union 3-2

Nate Owen, ECAC Hockey Columnist: The Dutchmen have a stout and active defensive unit, and I think that’s going to be the difference. Union 4-2

Matthew Semisch, NCHC Columnist: Union will have learned a few lessons from its first Frozen Four a couple years ago in Tampa and will give BC some issues, but I’m having difficulty seeing the Dutchmen contain Gaudreau, Hayes and Co. when the Eagles head into Union’s own end of the ice. Boston College 5-2

Paula C. Weston, Big Ten Columnist: The two top offenses meet in the early semifinal game, but I’m predicting a lower-scoring game based on their top-10 defenses. It’s an even year, so I’m going with BC. Boston College 2-1

Minnesota vs. North Dakota, 8:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN2

Drew Claussen: Like many other games between these teams, I assume this one will be close. It’ll be all about which goaltender plays better, and I think Adam Wilcox is ready to shine on a big stage. Minnesota 3-2

Jim Connelly: One of college hockey’s best rivalries will need overtime in this tight-checking matchup. North Dakota 3-2 (OT)

Dave Hendrickson: Minnesota’s stifling defense ends North Dakota’s Cinderella run, but not without a struggle. Minnesota 3-2

Chris Lerch: You can’t ask for a more entertaining matchup. North Dakota, the last team in the tournament, is trying to accomplish what Yale did last year and carry the momentum it had in the regionals into the Frozen Four. But the Gophers looked so dominant in St. Paul and are the more talented team. I’m picking skill over momentum and going with the Gophers. Minnesota 3-1

Nate Owen: Lots of big names on both sides, but I think this will come down to the goaltenders, where Minnesota has a slight edge with Adam Wilcox. Minnesota 3-2

Matthew Semisch: The Gophers are 3-1-1 in their last five games against UND, and Minnesota’s the better team on paper in this matchup. However, I’ve really liked the grit UND showed in the Midwest Regional despite being the underdog against both Wisconsin and Ferris State, and I think UND’s good for at least one more upset. North Dakota 2-1

Paula C. Weston: While I liked what I saw from North Dakota in Cincinnati, I think Minnesota’s speed will be the difference in this game. Minnesota 3-2

Pennsylvania showing brotherly love for college hockey

PHILADELPHIA — There are now three Division I men’s ice hockey programs in Pennsylvania: Mercyhurst, Penn State and Robert Morris. The D-I team closest to Philadelphia is Penn State, roughly 200 miles away; Robert Morris, near Pittsburgh, is 300 miles to the west, and Mercyhurst (Erie, Pa.) is another 100 miles farther away than that.

Even with no college hockey presence in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has recently proven its ability to embrace the sport at the college level.

“I was just talking to [Vermont coach] Kevin Sneddon,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, “and he mentioned that Penn State played Vermont here and they had 17,000 people, but certainly I grew up watching plenty of pro hockey to know how big and how passionate the Flyer fans are.”

Lucia himself has a connection to the local NHL franchise. “Actually, I was drafted by the Flyers back in 1978,” said Lucia, “but like any good man, you have to know your limitations, so I got into coaching instead.”

The addition of the Penn State program at the start of the 2012-13 season forced the Big Ten to form a league of its own, a move that helped to shake up divisional alignment through much of college hockey. That development, however, is something that Lucia sees as positive for the sport as a whole, not just for the six teams that play in the Big Ten league.

“Any time you can add a brand school like Penn State, it’s good for college hockey,” said Lucia. “One of the things that’s unique about our sport is that we have Division I, Division II and Division III institutions. You see it here. Union is a Division III institution, but what makes our sport so great is that they all can compete on an equal footing. That doesn’t happen, really, in any other sport at the NCAA level.”

Lucia said that there were reservations that resulted from the realignment that created two new conferences and drastically changed the makeup of a third.

“Some different conferences were formed and there’s a lot of angst,” said Lucia, “but I think this year proved that the WCHA that remained was a very good conference, a very competitive conference with like schools. The new NCHC is an outstanding conference with for the most part Division I and I-AA institutions.

“I think we found out that everybody’s going to be OK.”

Minnesota glad to have solid foundation in goaltender Wilcox

PHILADELPHIA — From the start of the 2013-14 season, Minnesota coach Don Lucia cautioned that this year’s Golden Gophers squad was different from what fans had seen previously.

“When the year was beginning, we knew we obviously had to replace a lot of talent, including three defensemen,” said Lucia. “We knew Kyle [Rau] was going to have to move from wing to center. So we had a lot of question marks on how the puzzle was going to be pieced together.”

There was no question, however, about who would man the Minnesota net. Sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox returned to follow up an outstanding rookie year with a season that earned him Big Ten player and goaltender of the year honors. His performance (1.89 GAA, .934 save percentage) helped the young Gophers team as it matured.

“It was great knowing that we had a solid foundation to build off of,” said senior co-captain Nate Condon. “We do have a young team, so it’s hard for guys to step in and play right away. I think maybe that helped some of our freshmen defensemen really get in the hang of things, maybe some of the older guys finding new roles on the team.”

“I think the biggest thing about having Adam in net,” said senior co-captain Kyle Rau, “is he lets everyone relax a little bit. If you make a mistake, you know Adam’s going to bail you out nine times out of 10, so it helps everybody play loose, especially the younger guys.”

Lucia called Wilcox’s presence in net “comforting,” and said that the sophomore helped as the underclassmen learned their defensive game.

“What Adam allowed us to do and what I think most about Adam as a goaltender is he makes the big save at a critical point of a game,” said Lucia. “If it’s tied in the third, he makes a big save to keep it tied to allow us to get the game winner. If we’re ahead by a goal, he makes a critical save with five minutes to go to allow us to win a game.

“I think that, more than anything else, is what Adam has been able to do for this team and the consistency. I look at Adam and he probably had one game he was a little bit off, and that was a UMD game back in November.”

That was Minnesota’s 6-2 loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Nov. 24, a game in which Wilcox surrendered five goals.

“Other than that,” said Lucia, “for the most part, he’s going to give up one or two goals a night. If we get to three goals, most nights we’re going to win.”

Short-term focus a key component of North Dakota’s Frozen Four run

13 32 124058 Short term focus a key component of North Dakotas Frozen Four run

North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol leads his team through practice Wednesday in Philadelphia (photo: Jim Rosvold).

PHILADELPHIA — North Dakota has made quite the habit during coach Dave Hakstol’s tenure of starting seasons slowly before turning things around through the second half.

It’s been that way this season, too — UND went 9-7-2 in the 2013 half of the season before storming back to go 16-6-1 after the holiday break.

UND’s NCAA tournament hopes this season went from just about nonexistent early on to promising to touch-and-go through the NCHC playoffs. Finally, it became the last team into the NCAAs after Wisconsin came from behind in the Big Ten playoff final to avoid an upset against Ohio State that would’ve seen UND’s season end with its 5-0 NCHC playoff third-place game victory over Western Michigan on March 22 in Minneapolis.

IN the last 28 games, UND is 21-6-1. In that same time frame, only Union, a fellow participant at this year’s Frozen Four, has piled up more wins (24).

This has been a much better second half for UND than it had last year, marking something of an aberration for the team in Hakstol’s decade-long time as the bench boss at his alma mater.

UND’s 2012-13 season marked the first time since the 2004-05 campaign where the team actually did better in the first half than it did in the second.

In the first half of last season, UND went 10-5-3 (.639) before Christmas and just 12-7-4 (.609) afterward. That was in the team’s final season in the WCHA, a league that’s not as strong top-to-bottom as UND’s new league, the NCHC, proved itself to be in its inaugural season.

So, what’s been the difference between what UND’s done in the past few months compared to what happened in the second half of last season? Hakstol said it’s largely been down to the collective mind-set in his team’s dressing room.

“I’ll attribute some of our success here just to the guys in our locker room really sticking with a mentality and a mind-set, sticking together and having a real good short-term focus,” Hakstol said. “When we’ve had some bumps in the road, we’ve been able to put them behind us really quickly [and] learn from them.

“When we’ve had some small successes that we’ve had, we’ve been able to keep our feet on the ground and not get too far ahead of ourselves. I think we’ve got a real good understanding of what we are as a team, and I think that’s a real strength of this team.”

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