The Northeast and the Midwest are the two biggest college hockey hubs in the US, and this year’s Frozen Four will give the puck world a chance to see which region reigns supreme.
Both of Thursday’s semifinal matchups at TD Garden feature a team from each of those hotbeds, with perennial powerhouses Boston University and North Dakota going head-to-head following a bout between relative newcomers Providence and Nebraska-Omaha. And it’s only made the atmosphere in Boston that much more exciting.
“I love the East‑West feel of the Frozen Four,” Providence coach Nate Leaman told reporters Wednesday. “That’s one thing that’s special about the tournament is when you get to play teams that you don’t see all year, teams that you kind of follow in the progress or are reading or maybe catch on an off night when you’re not playing, you catch them on TV a little bit. It helps you respect those teams and those coaches a lot more because you see the jobs that they’re doing.”
Omaha was on the same page as the Friars, echoing in a later interview that the East-West showdown lets these teams see what they’re made of compared to the rest of the country.
“Certainly it’s a good measuring stick,” Mavericks defenseman Brian O’Rourke said. “You want to measure yourself against teams all across the country, and being able to play against a Providence team that we haven’t played against yet will be a nice test.
“On the other side, programs like BU and North Dakota, those are obviously top programs in the country. You want to measure yourself against those guys.”
For college hockey fans, these regional matchups are the equivalent of an Original Six matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the players, it’s a dream come true.
“Brings a lot of tradition and culture to this game tomorrow night,” Terriers goaltender Matt O’Conner said, “and I think we’re all excited, growing up, dreaming about college hockey.”
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