This year's Frozen Four is set. Michigan, North Dakota, Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth will play to determine the 2011 National Champion in St. Paul. Building on the great work over at The Daily Gopher, SB Nation's Minnesota Gophers blog, here's a look at this year's Frozen Four field compared to Boston College hockey.
The Daily Gopher's angle was to try to figure out why Minnesota hockey, a traditionally strong program, hasn't been to the Frozen Four since 2005 and hasn't made the last three tournaments. (It also doesn't help when two rivals are participating in the Frozen Four in your own backyard). I'm taking a slightly different angle. To see where BC will stack up next season to these four programs.
North Dakota: 16
Boston College: 11
Notre Dame: 10
York has done a really good job of raising the profile of the program, getting more players drafted, and holding onto them longer than other programs. I know it seems like guys are jumping left and right, but there have only been a handful of underclassmen that have jumped to the pros -- Atkinson (2011), Jimmy Hayes (2011), Nick Petrecki (2009), Nathan Gerbe (2008), Cory Schneider (2007), Patrick Eaves (2005). Other programs have been hit much harder by early departures. Both North Dakota and Michigan have a lot of drafted players on their rosters, which will make it interesting to see who from those programs make the early jump to the pros. Duluth lags behind BC and the three other Frozen Four programs in terms of drafted players.
North Dakota: 7
Notre Dame: 5
Boston College: 3
Certainly, NCAA Tournament experience is a factor in postseason success, but so is senior leadership. While we just bid farewell to one of the most successful senior classes in school history, the class of John Muse, Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney is relatively small in comparison to programs like North Dakota or Michigan. North Dakota loses a lot next season. Guys like Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone and Chay Genoway -- four of the Sioux's top six scorers. However, when you throw in the early departures of Atkinson, Jimmy Hayes and Chris Kreider (?), BC loses just as much firepower as some of these other programs.
Notre Dame: 11
North Dakota: 5
Boston College: 4
Amazing to see that Notre Dame found its way to the Frozen Four with 11 freshman contributors. Two of those 11 freshmen are some of the leading scorers for the Irish. ND's 11 freshman is one more than the number of freshmen BC had on its roster on last year's Championship team. In contrast, the combination of high number of drafted players, lots of seniors and a few freshmen probably is bad news for Michigan and North Dakota's title chances next season. This is the year to win it all for two programs hungry to break their 10+ year title droughts.
Boston College: 12
North Dakota: 2
Notre Dame: 1
As much as the Big Ten would try to convince you otherwise, Indiana is not a college hockey hotbed. Nor is North Dakota. Notre Dame recruits players from all over the country, while North Dakota relies heavily on Canadian-born players (see below). Massachusetts, on the other hand, is a college hockey hotbed and York has been killing it on the recruiting trail over the past few years. Half of this year's roster hails from Massachusetts. If you include the other New England states, that's 16 of BC's 24 players who hail from Massachusetts, Maine or Connecticut. Minnesota-Duluth relies on a significant number of players from Minnesota, while a little under half of the Wolverine's roster hails from Michigan.
North Dakota: 13
Notre Dame: 4
Boston College: 1
Grand Forks, North Dakota is a little over an hour from the Canadian border, and the Sioux have long relied on Canadian-born players to fill its roster. York rarely recruits international players, and this year's lone Canadian on the roster is Nelson, British Columbia's Isaac MacLeod. Funny how WCHA teams run 1-2 in terms of the number of non-US players, followed by the two CCHA clubs, then BC.
So I know BC loses a lot this year with Muse, Gibbons and Joe Whitney (plus Cam Atkinson and Jimmy Hayes), but I don't think the forecast should call for doom and gloom next season. Programs like Michigan and North Dakota will lose just as many, if not more players, and are likely to take a step back. Same for teams in Hockey East like Merrimack (with an average roster age of 22.04) and seven seniors. New Hampshire loses six seniors and its top three scorers in Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone. Maine's Gustav Nyquist signed with the Red Wings. Boston University should be formidable next season with a roster of young, talented players, but the same can be said for BC.
The great thing about BC hockey under York is that we don't rebuild. We reload. I'm cautiously optimistic that the Eagles won't skip a beat next season and will again be among the nation's best hockey programs.