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Saturday, April 20, 2024
Unfamiliar opponents await UW at Frozen Four

madore: The prolific Wisconsin offense had issues against Vermont?s Rob Madore. They will take on another solid goaltender, RIT?s Jared DeMichiel, Thursday.

Unfamiliar opponents await UW at Frozen Four

Wisconsin entered this year's NCAA Tournament having played six of the 15 other teams in the hunt for a national title. As the Badgers get ready for the Frozen Four this weekend in Detroit, however, the three teams standing between them an a national championship are unfamiliar to Wisconsin. Here is a look at the other three teams that will face off at Ford Field Thursday.

 

Rochester Institute of Technology

Three-fourths of this year's Frozen Four are college hockey bluebloods. Wisconsin, BC and Miami have history, two of the past four titles and a consistent presence on the postseason stage.

And then there's these guys.

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Hailing from a tech school with around 6,000 enrolled students, the RIT Tigers have only even been in Division I for five seasons (after making the leap from D-III). Their coaches can't offer athletic scholarships, their roster is loaded with older, experienced Canadians and a Finn and this is their first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

For first timers, however, they have more than held their own.

The Tigers upset No. 1 seed Denver 2-1, holding down one of the better offenses in the country. The next night their offense came to life, tagging New Hampshire's stellar goaltender Brian Foster with three goals in 90 seconds to blow open a 1-1 game.

Their gameplan starts with a strong defense centered around senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel. The Connecticut native is fourth in the country with a goals against average under 2.00.

The Tigers' offense is balanced (seven player with double-digit goals, 14 with 10-plus assists) and gets production from its blueliners (111 points from the top four). Playing a team as good as Wisconsin will be a tall order, but, as their last two games have shown, they are up to the challenge.

 

Miami (Ohio)

In a single-elimination hockey tournament, goaltending often makes and breaks seasons. While most teams are fortunate to find one reliable option between the pipes, the Miami RedHawks have the luxury of choosing between two bona fide starters.

One, sophomore Cody Reichard earned first-team CCHA honors and a spot among the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, posted five shutouts this season and compiled an 18-4-3 record on the season. The other, fellow sophomore Connor Knapp, kept pace, tallying four shutouts of his own en route to a 9-3-4 record.

The dynamic play in net has been a key to the RedHawks staying power at the top of the national rankings this year.  Miami won the CCHA by 20 points and outscored its conference opponents 100-39 on the year. The RedHawks have been pushed in the tournament, though, claiming a thrilling double-overtime win against Michigan after sneaking past Alabama-Huntsville by one goal in the opening round.

While a trio of 40-point scorers leads the offense, Badger fans will likely be most interested in freshman winger Reilly Smith. The younger brother of Wisconsin's Brendan Smith has posted eight goals and 20 points while appearing in every game for Miami this season.

 

Boston College

Think about it: in the Northeast Regional Final the Eagles scored nine goals, forced Yale to go through all three goaltenders and somehow did not blow out their Ivy League foes. Yeah, it wasn't easy to get back to the Frozen Four.

Head coach Jerry York's team will be looking to get to the title game for the fourth time in five seasons behind a prolific attack powered by their top unit, known as the production line. That trio of Cam Atkinson, Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney also fills the top three scoring spots for the team, with Atkinson tallying 27 goals.

From 2006-2008 the Eagles played in every championship tilt, but it took until the third to finally get that elusive title, prevailing 4-1 against Notre Dame. It was the third title York has claimed and the second he brought back to Chestnut Hill.

A key remaining piece of that title team is junior goaltender John Muse, who has yet to equal his freshman forum. After missing the tournament altogether last year, Muse registered a 2.54 GAA this year while splitting time with freshman Parker Milner.

The Eagles' next test comes in Miami (Ohio), the tournament's top seed. History, however, is on the side of Boston College, which knocked out the Red Hawks in each of their last three trips to the national tournament.

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