The NCAA Men’s Frozen Four will have a distinct American presence again with 83 of the 105 players on the rosters of Providence College, University of Denver, University of Minnesota Duluth and University of Massachusetts having developed their game within the United States prior to attending college.
The NCAA Men’s Frozen Four begins Thursday (April 11) at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, with reigning NCAA national champion Minnesota Duluth taking on Providence, followed by Denver facing Massachusetts. Thursday’s semifinals and Saturday’s title game will all be televised live on ESPN 2.
A total of 79 players competing in this year's Frozen Four have roots in USA Hockey junior hockeyleagues. Among them are 65 who spent time in the United States Hockey League, the only Tier I junior league in the United States; 29 who played in the Tier II North American Hockey Leagueand one who skated in the Tier III North American 3 Hockey League.
The 65 players with USHL ties are led by seven Clark Cup champions, eight Anderson Cup winners, and four USHL award winners. The last five USHL teams to capture the Clark Cup, significant of the league's playoff champion, have at least one player participating in this year's Frozen Four while four of the last five Anderson Cup-winning USHL teams will also be represented by at least one player. Among the USHL award-winners are three from last season, including the USHL Player of the Year in Muskegon's Anthony Del Gaizo (Massachusetts), USHL Forward of the Year in Jackson Cates (Minnesota Duluth) of the Waterloo Black Hawks and USHL Goaltender of the Year in Tri-City Storm's Filip Larsson (Denver). Additionally, Hayden Hawkey (Providence) of the Omaha Lancers also earned the USHL Goaltender of the Year honor in the 2013-14 season.
The 29 players with NAHL and NA3HL ties features 14 players who exclusively spent time in the Tier II and Tier III USA Hockey leagues. Billy Exell (Minnesota Duluth) is the lone NAHL Robertson Cup champion participating in this year's NCAA Frozen Four after helping the Minnesota Wilderness capture the league's playoff trophy in 2015. Additionally, two NAHL award winners will be skating in the Frozen Four, including the 2017 NAHL Forward of the Year in Amarillo's George Mika (Massachusetts) and 2016 NAHL Goaltender of the Year in Bismarck's Hunter Shepard(Minnesota Duluth).
Among the 73 American-born players competing in this year's Frozen Four are 37 who have skated in at least one USA Hockey Player Development Camp and seven players who have played in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game. USA Hockey's Player Development Camps are held annually every June and July to provide week-long training sessions for many of the best young hockey players in the United States, while the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game is an annual event that provides the best U.S. players eligible for next year's NHL Draft the opportunity to showcase their skills on a national stage.
A total of 17 players have represented the United States in international competition, including six who have done so in International Ice Hockey Federation play as members of a U.S. National Junior Team. Last January, Mikey Anderson (Minnesota Duluth) captained the 2019 U.S. entry, which included Providence's Jay O'Brien and fellow Minnesota Duluth teammates Noah Catesand Dylan Samberg to a silver medal finish. Last year, four Minnesota Duluth skaters -- Anderson, Samberg, Scott Perunovich and Riley Tufte -- helped the U.S. earn a bronze medal on home ice at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York.
In addition, a combined 14 players have skated for a U.S. select team in international competitions including the World Junior A Challenge (U.S. Junior Select Team), Hlinka Gretzky Cup(U.S. Under-18 Select Team) and Under-17 Five Nations Tournament (U.S. Under-17 Select Team). Collectively, those 14 players have helped the U.S. win four championships as well as a quartet of runner-up finishes.
Collectively, 21 states will be represented by players in the Frozen Four, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin. Leading the way is Minnesota with 18, followed by California and Massachusetts with 10 apiece.
All four coaching staffs in the Frozen Four include individuals that have played or coached for U.S. national teams and USA Hockey-associated leagues. Collectively, members of the Frozen Four staffs have served on 12 different U.S. national teams in IIHF competition, garnering a total of nine IIHF medals that include four gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals. Highlighting the medal-winning staff members are Scott Sandelin (Minnesota Duluth) and Nick Meldrum (Denver), who were part of Team USA's silver medal entry at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship last January.
Additionally, the Frozen Four coaching staffs includes USA Hockey's Minnesota District coach-in-chief in Christian Koelling (Minnesota Duluth) and two former USA Hockey National Team Development Program staff members in Ron Rolston (Providence) and Meldrum. Rolston's seven-year tenure (2004-11) as a head coach at the NTDP was highlighted by appearances in every championship game in both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship of teams he guided. Meldrum's two-year stint (2007-09) with the NTDP was spent as part of the staff of teams coached by Rolston. A number of the Frozen Four staff members have also spent time in USA Hockey's Player Development Camps, Festivals and coaching clinics.