Boston University's Colin Wilson, Boston College's Nathan Gerbe and Wisconsin's Brian Elliott were all showstoppers during their teams' recent runs to the national championship. They were stars before the Frozen Four, and they became college hockey legends over the course of a three-night stretch during the season's final week.
BC, Miami, Wisconsin and RIT have comprised this year's Frozen field, and the teams will battle for the title next week in Detroit. Here are eight players who could make a significant impact on the national stage.
The freshman forward is huge for BC's standards. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he has the frame to muscle through players, but he also possesses an amazing skill set. Kreider, who won a gold medal a few months back with America's World Junior team, has 14 goals and seven assists — earth-shattering numbers by no means — but there's a good chance you'll say "Wow!" at least once every time you watch him play.
He might be the purest scorer heading to Detroit, and he adds a tremendous finishing ability to BC's top line with Brian Gibbons and Joe Whitney. The sophomore forward's 27 goals are tied for second in the nation, and he paced the Eagles' 9-7 victory against Yale with three goals and an assist. Atkinson falls in line with BC's typical forwards. He's on the short side, and he is fast as anything.
The senior forward basically epitomizes the RedHawks, who have a bunch of players who aren't overly big or fast, but they play good, smart hockey. He is the team's best playmaker, and he leads Miami with 18 goals and 45 points. Palmer's six game-winning goals are tied for third nationally and the most among everyone in the Frozen Four.
He is one of the most complete forwards in the country, both offensively and defensively, and the junior forward is a very good finisher. He's got 17 goals and 25 assists and adds some good punch to the team's top line.
The Hobey Baker favorite is the most well-rounded forward in the country, and he broke out this season after a subpar junior season. The senior forward is the best defensive center in the WCHA, and he is a monster on faceoffs. His 27 goals are tied for the second most in the nation, and he is tied for the national lead with 14 power-play goals. Just a very sound player.
Smith is the best blue liner in the field, and that is quite the accomplishment for a natural forward. A Hobey finalist, the junior leads all Division I defensemen with 15 goals, 32 assists and 47 points, and those numbers would probably spike if he was allowed to integrate a little more offense into the Wisconsin system. Smith does an excellent job running the point on the power play, and he is great at sending the puck toward the net from high in the zone.
Burt scored the eventual game-winner in RIT's shocking upset of top-seeded Denver in the first round of the tournament, and he added an assist against UNH. He leads the Tigers with 16 goals and 47 points. It's also a homecoming for the sophomore forward, who grew up in Detroit. He is also just the second African-American player to ever suit up for RIT.
He is probably the best all-around goalie in the Frozen Four. The senior is fourth in the nation with a 1.98 goals-against average, eighth with a .924 save percentage and fifth with a .743 winning percentage (27-9-1). DeMichiel was a major reason that RIT was the only team in the country that won both of its conference's regular-season and postseason championships, and he continued that play in the NCAA Tournament, turning aside 63 of 66 shots (.955) in upsets of Denver and New Hampshire.