The first rounds of the NCAA tournament have come and gone. Norwich, Oswego, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Utica are the four teams that remain and will be fighting for a national championship this weekend.
Oswego was runner-up in the tournament last year, with a 4-1 loss to St. Norbert. Norwich also made the Frozen Four, losing to St. Norbert in the semifinal round. The Lakers and Cadets will face off in the 4 p.m. game on Friday.
On the other side of the bracket are two “rookie” teams in Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Utica. Neither team has made an appearance in the Frozen Four. They will compete in the 7:30 p.m. contest at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York.
Now let’s take a look at the journey in the first rounds of the tournament that earned these teams a spot in the Frozen Four.
Norwich was the first team to punch its ticket to the Frozen Four with a 4-0 shutout over Babson. The Cadets bypassed the first round and hosted Babson in the quarterfinals. Junior forward Chris Duszynski assisted on two goals en route to the win. Junior Chris Czarnota earned his third shutout of the season, as he turned away 14 Babson shots on net. Norwich will enter the weekend with a 24-3-1 overall record. This is the fourth consecutive Frozen Four appearance for the Cadets.
The Lakers have also made four consecutive appearances in the Frozen Four. They were the runner-up in the championship game last season in a 4-1 loss to St. Norbert. Oswego earned a bye through the first round and traveled to Adrian in the quarterfinal round. The Lakers got on the scoreboard first with a power-play goal for Chris Muise. Adrian scored two early goals in the second period, with Jon Whitelaw scoring the game-tying goal for Oswego with just 1:10 left of the second period. Sixty minutes wasn’t enough for these teams to get a winner. Paul Rodrigues scored the game-winning goal 13:32 into overtime, sending the Lakers to the Frozen Four.
In the opening round of the NCAA tournament the Blugolds, hosted St. John’s and earned a 4-2 win. Wisconsin-Eau Claire then traveled to St. Norbert to take on the reigning national champions. The Blugolds scored early in the first period. St. Norbert answered back midway through the first. Chris Heineman scored the game-winning power-play goal with 56 seconds left in the first. Kurt Weston added the empty-net goal, securing the Frozen Four appearance. This will be the first time the Blugolds have made it this far in the tournament, and its the second NCAA tournament appearance for the program.
Utica downed Bowdoin in a 4-2 victory in the semifinals to earn its first ever spot in the Frozen Four. After being down 2-0 in the first period the Pioneers, slowly but surely chipped away at Bowdoin for the win. Senior forward Evan Chlanda earned assists on three of the Pioneers goals, including the game-winning goal at the 15:36 mark of the third period. Although they were outshot 29-25, Utica’s goalie Nick Therrien turned away 27 goals, backstopping his team’s ticket to Lake Placid.