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NCHC Frozen Faceoff preview: Semifinals feature matchups between teams that have played one another 4 times

Top-seeded Denver will play Colorado College and St. Cloud State will play North Dakota on Friday

Western Michigan vs. Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota Duluth and Western Michigan players on the ice during introductions before the championship game of the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jim Rosvold / The NCHC

There is no lack of game video for the opponent for the four teams at this year's NCHC Frozen Faceoff at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

In the semifinals, Denver has played Colorado College four times in the regular season and St. Cloud State has played North Dakota four times.

The Pioneers and Tigers kick off the semifinals with a 4 p.m. game on Friday. The Huskies and Fighting Hawks play at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The winners play for the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. All games will be on CBS Sports Network.

Here is a capsule look at the semifinals matchups:

Denver vs. Colorado College

The first four meetings, Denver has won all four by scores of 2-0, 4-1, 2-1, 4-2. Denver is the defending national champion and the NCHC regular season champion. Colorado College is making its second trip to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff (2019).



Overall record: 30-8
Overall statistical leaders: Sophomore forward Massimo Rizzo (17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points), So. F Carter Mazur (22-15-37), Sr. F Casey Dornbach (13-21-34), Jr. D Mike Benning (13-21-34), Fr. F Aidan Thompson (10-22-32).
Goaltenders: Sr. Magnus Chrona (22-7, 2.22 goals-against average, .914 save percentage), So. Matt Davis (8-1, 1.80, .923).
Statistical leaders vs. Colorado College this season: Thompson (1-3-4), So. F Carter King (1-2-3), D Shai Buium (1-2-3). Chrona (45-46 saves, .978), Davis (46-49, .939).
Power play vs. Colorado College this season (overall): 4-for-17, 23.5% (27.2%).
Penalty kill vs. Colorado College this season (overall): 13-for-15, 86.7% (78.1%).

Coach's quote: "We have experience with not a full lineup and that's helped some of the young people be able to jump right in and contribute," said David Carle, who has seven freshmen and nine sophomores on the roster. "We got healthy for a long stretch and I give my staff credit for that ... The injury bug has caught us the last two weeks of the year again and those (younger) players have been prepared and can step right in and contribute. I think we've handled the adversity well.

"The temptation when you're trying to repeat is to say that everything is going to be OK and we'll just turn it on at the end. I think it's really important to feel the lows of the season. Getting swept at UMass and getting swept at St. Cloud (State) hurt ... We've responded from all those moments with winning streaks and with playing well the next weekend."

Player's quote: "I think we take a lot of pride in our defensive game," said Denver defenseman Justin Lee, whose team is fifth in the nation in goals against (2.2 per game) and eighth in shots against (25.3 pg). "We have a lot of returning guys back on the back end this year. The depth there is nice and the chemistry we built in years prior has been great as well."

PairWise Ranking: No. 3.

Colorado College

Overall record: 12-21-3
Overall statistical leaders: Jr. F Hunter McCown (20-7-27), Fr. F Noah Laba (11-10-21), So. F Stanley Cooley (6-14-20), Gr. D Bryan Yoon (1-14-15), Fr. F Ryan Beck (2-11-13), Jr. D Nicklas Andrews (2-11-13).
Goaltenders: Fr. Kaidan Mbereko (8-15-2, 2.36, .925), Sr. Matt Vernon (4-6-1, 2.57, .905).
Statistical leaders vs. Denver this season: McCown (2-0-2), Jr. F Logan Will (0-2-2). Mbereko (77-83, .928), Vernon (35-39, .897).
Power play vs. Denver this season (overall): 2-for-15, 13.3% (20.6%).
Penalty kill vs. Denver this season (overall): 13-for-17, 76.5% (81.2%).


Coach's quote: "I felt like I was taking crazy pills in the last couple of weeks because I've been very fortunate to be around a lot of winning teams ... and there are certain characteristics that just stand out and I truly feel like we have a lot of those," said Kris Mayotte, who is in his second season with the Tigers. "Our toughness and ability to face adversity — we've done it all year and, at no point in the second half has it been easy for us.

"We've been so close in so many nights," whose team has played in 17 games decided by two goals or less. "It literally has been gut punch after gut punch. We sat there at the end of the (regular season) and said, 'How are we only a 10-win team?' We're one of the best defensive teams in the NCHC. We're one of the best penalty kills in the NCHC. We have one of the best goalies in the NCHC."

Player's quote: "I think the biggest thing that we've talked about is playing the body," Tigers defenseman Bryan Yoon said of a key to playing against Denver. "We feel like they don't really like it too much and we feel like it helps our game, our transition and create scoring opportunities for us. Our foundation is to play solid defense in front of (goalie) Kaidan (Mbereko). I think the last couple of weeks, we've done a good job of that and had success."

PairWise Ranking: No. 36.

SCSU vs. North Dakota

The first four meetings, SCSU has two wins (7-2, 6-3 at SCSU), UND has one win (4-3, OT, at UND) and there was one tie (2-2, SCSU shootout win, at UND). Like Denver, the Huskies are nearly a lock to make the NCAA tournament, while the Fighting Hawks likely need to win the championship to advance.

North Dakota

Overall record: 18-14-6
Overall statistical leaders: Fr. F Jackson Blake (16-25-41), Jr. F Riese Gaber (20-17-37), Gr. D Chris Jandric (4-29-33), Sr. F Judd Caulfield (9-9-18), Jr. D Tyler Kleven (8-10-18).
Goaltenders: Gr. Drew DeRidder (13-8-4, 2.52, .901), So. Jakob Hellsten (5-5-2, 2.72, .875).
Statistical leaders vs. SCSU this season: Blake (1-4-5), Jandric (0-5-5), Gaber (4-0-4), Sr. F Gain Hain (1-3-4). DeRidder (53-65, .815), Hellsten (19-24, .792).
Power play vs. SCSU this season (overall): 5-for-15, 33.3% (27.2%).
Penalty kill vs. SCSU this season (overall): 9-for-16, 56.3% (83.9%).

Coach's quote: "Right now, we're playing our best hockey and that's probably the most important thing to how we got here," said Brad Berry, whose team is 9-4-2 in its last 15 games. "We firmly believe that our group grew throughout the season through some challenges and different situations. But I think it made us stronger and I think it's shown in our last 10 games in how we're playing. We've got to keep earning the opportunity to play the next game."


Player's quote: "It's been a tough year on everyone," said UND junior forward Riese Gaber, whose team was below .500 in mid-February. "I think (the coaching staff) does a great job of staying positive and keep embracing the grind. We have a lot of great leadership from our coaches and I think that says a lot about our group. It's a huge reason why we're here right now."

PairWise Ranking: No. 18.


Overall record: 22-12-3
Overall statistical leaders: Sr. F Jami Krannila (19-18-37), Gr. F Grant Cruikshank (21-11-32), Sr. F Zach Okabe (16-16-32), Jr. F Veeti Miettinen (10-21-31), Sr. D Dylan Anhorn (5-20-25).
Goaltenders: Sr. Jaxon Castor (11-7-1, 2.19, .918), Jr. Dominic Basse (11-5-2, 2.30, .911).
Statistical leaders vs. UND this season: So. D Jack Peart (2-5-7), Krannila (5-1-6), Okabe (3-3-6), Miettinen (1-4-5). Castor (58-62, .935), Basse (46-50, .920).
Power play vs. UND this season (overall): 7-for-16, 43.8% (25.5%).
Penalty kill vs. UND this season (overall): 10-for-15, 66.7% (76.1%).

Coach's quote: "I walked in the (locker) room and said, 'Guys, should we have a light, easy day today?' and all the guys looked at me and said, 'No way. We've got to practice how we're gonna play,'" Brett Larson said of Tuesday's practice after an off day Monday. "We went out there and got after it, competed hard and we want to take our compete level into the weekend against North Dakota.

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"We know it's going to be no difference from when we played (Minnesota) Duluth," said Larson, whose team won Game 3 against the Bulldogs on Sunday. "It's going to be high intensity, high compete and we've got to be ready for that."

Player's quote: "It's so much fun and just letting the guys know to enjoy it," captain Spencer Meier on what he's shared with players who have not played in the Frozen Faceoff. "Myself, (Brendan) Bushy and Micah (Miller) have lost two championship games, so we have some fire in our stomachs going up there because we want to win one of those.

"We'd obviously love if it was all red," Meier said of the fans at Xcel Energy Center on Friday. "But it's St. Patrick's Day and it's North Dakota and its fans travel well ... It's going to be green and it's going to be loud. Those are the games that are fun to play in. Those are the games when the whole place is going nuts. As an athlete, that's what you dream of as a kid. You want to play in these games where it's packed and it's loud."


PairWise Ranking: No. 7.

Parker Mackay (39) of Minnesota Duluth takes the NCHC championship trophy back to his team Saturday after defeating St. Cloud State 3-2 in double overtime in the NCHC championship game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Clint Austin / The Rink Live

NCHC Frozen Faceoff history

The NCHC Frozen Faceoff has been held at three locations — Target Center (2014-16), Xcel Energy Center (since 2017) and Ralph Engelstad Arena —since 2014. The lone season it did not happen was 2020 when the postseason was cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2021, the Frozen Faceoff had all eight teams play in Grand Forks, N.D., due to the pandemic. Minnesota Duluth has the most Frozen Faceoff championship wins. St. Cloud State has the most championship game appearances with five. Denver has the most Frozen Faceoff appearances (9). There was a third-place game played from 2014-19.


Minnesota Duluth 2, Denver 0
Western Michigan 4, North Dakota 2
Minnesota Duluth 3, Western Michigan 0


St. Cloud State 3, Minnesota Duluth 2
North Dakota 2, Denver 1, OT
North Dakota 5, St. Cloud State 3


St. Cloud State 5, Colorado College 2
Minnesota Duluth 3, Denver 0
Minnesota Duluth 3, St. Cloud State 2 (2 OTs)


St. Cloud State 3, North Dakota 2 (OT)
Denver 3, Minnesota Duluth 1
Denver 4, St. Cloud State 1


Minnesota Duluth 5, Western Michigan 2
North Dakota 1, Denver 0
Minnesota Duluth 4, North Dakota 3



Minnesota Duluth 4, North Dakota 2
St. Cloud State 4, Denver 2
St. Cloud State 3, Minnesota Duluth 1


St. Cloud State 3, North Dakota 1
Miami 6, Denver 3
Miami 3, St. Cloud State 2


Denver 4, Western Michigan 3
Miami 3, North Dakota 0
Denver 4, Miami 3

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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