April 7 — Men’s Frozen Four & a 15-Year-Old Phenom

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WILD CARD WEDNESDAY: Yesterday, the Washington Capitals edged out the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a battle of the Eastern Conference Wild Card teams. John Carlson notched two goals and two assists, and Alex Ovechkin eclipsed 1,400 points with a goal and an assist. The Lightning remain tied with the Boston Bruins in points, while the victory moves Washington two points closer to catching the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. 

SABRES STREAK INTO SUMMER: With the Capitals’ regulation win on Wednesday, the Buffalo Sabres are officially out of the postseason for the 11th straight year. That is an NHL record for the Sabres, passing the Florida Panthers (2001-11) and Edmonton Oilers (2007-16) for the longest playoff drought. 

OTTAWA OPTIMISTIC FOR OCTOBER: The Ottawa Senators are following in the Sabres’ footsteps, also getting eliminated from the playoff race with the Capitals’ victory over the Lightning. It is the fifth straight postseason without the Senators, the longest in Ottawa’s history. With Jake Sanderson (19), Tim Stützle (20), Brady Tkachuk (22), Josh Norris (22), and Thomas Chabot (25) all coming into their primes, the future is bright in the Canadian capital city. 

WORLD JUNIORS TO OTTAWA?: The 2023 World Junior Championships could be Ottawa-bound after the Senators organization and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) entered a hosting bid. This announcement marks a shift in direction by the Sens, who planned to bid jointly with Quebec City. 

NCAA Men’s Frozen Four Preview

The 2022 version of the Frozen Four, the final two rounds of the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament, kicks off today at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Top regional seeds Michigan and Denver meet at 5:00 PM Eastern Time, then second seed Minnesota faces off against No. 1 Minnesota State at 8:30 PM ET (unless the first game goes long). Michigan-Denver will broadcast on ESPN2, and Minnesota-Minnesota State will air on ESPNU.

Both winners of today’s games will meet Saturday night at TD Garden for the National Championship. Puck drop is at 8:00 PM ET, and the game will be on ESPN2. Here is a preview of the four teams remaining to get you prepared for men’s college hockey’s marquee event.

Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines, who earned the number one overall seed in the tournament following a 31-9-1 regular season, are the perceived favorites. They feature four of the top five picks from the 2021 NHL Draft (Owen Power, Matty Beniers, Luke Hughes, and Kent Johnson). They are top 10 in both scoring offense (third with 4.02 goals per game) and scoring defense (ninth with 2.22 goals allowed per game) and have multiple players in the top 10 in every major statistical category.

Owen Power, Michigan Wolverines (Photo credit to Michigan Photography)

Three second-period goals helped Michigan cruise past American International in the first round. The Wolverines were up 4-0 going into the third period of their second-round game against Quinnipiac but received a scare when the Bobcats scored three straight unanswered goals. Michigan held them off and ultimately won 7-4.

Denver Pioneers

Denver bounced back from a losing 2020-21 season and slow start to this year to finish with a 29-9-1 record. Despite losing in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) tournament, the Pioneers earned an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament. This season, Denver boasted the nation’s top-scoring offense (4.28 goals per game) and had the NCAA’s leader in points and assists in Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect Bobby Brink (14 goals, 42 assists, 56 points in 31 games).

Bobby Brink, Philadelphia Flyers, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Denver edged past UMass-Lowell 3-2 in the first round, with Cameron Wright scoring the game-winning goal with 2:57 remaining. Another third-period game-winner (this time by Carter Savoie with 6:16 remaining) helped the Pioneers beat Minnesota Duluth 2-1 in the second round.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Golden Gophers, who are no strangers to the Frozen Four, finished this season with a 26-12-0 record and made it to the final of the Big Ten Tournament, where they lost to Michigan. Hobey Baker Award finalist Ben Meyers (17 goals, 24 assists, 41 points) leads the team and ranks fourth in the nation in scoring offense (3.61 goals per game).

Ben Meyers, University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Athletics)

Minnesota found itself in a back-and-forth battle with UMass in the first round, winning 4-3 thanks to a third-period goal from Matthew Knies. The Gophers then shut out Western Michigan, the top seed in their region, 3-0 in the second round to secure a spot in the Frozen Four.

Minnesota State Mavericks

Minnesota State, who made it to the Frozen Four last season (where they lost to St. Cloud State), got back there again this year following a 37-5-0 regular season and a Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) tournament championship. The Mavericks rank second in the nation in both scoring offense (4.10 goals per game) and scoring defense (1.29 goals allowed per game) and have the country’s second-highest point scorer (Nathan Smith, who finished with 50 in 36 games).

Nathan Smith, Minnesota State (Image courtesy of Minnesota State Athletics)

Minnesota State jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first round against Harvard and held on to win 4-3. The Mavericks clawed out a 1-0 victory over Notre Dame in the second round behind a first-period goal from Smith and 23 saves from goaltender Dryden McKay, clinching a consecutive Frozen Four berth.

Michael Misa & the OHL Cup

The Mississauga Senators are OHL Cup champions on the strength of a historic performance by Michael Misa. If very few of those words mean anything to you, we’re here for you. With one of minor hockey’s premier events anointing a new rising phenom to watch, let’s look at what went down in Toronto over the past week and why you should care.

What is the OHL Cup?

Dating more than 50 years, the OHL Cup features the top under-16 teams from across Ontario and the United States, offering a very early look at possible future NHL stars. John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Shane Wright are just some of the many famous OHL Cup alums.

Shane Wright isn’t that far removed from his own OHL Cup participation. (Photo by Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

Who is Michael Misa?

Speaking of notable alums, Connor McDavid owned the tournament record with 19 points—that is, until the 15-year-old Misa notched 20 (10 goals and 10 assists) over seven games at this year’s event. Misa recorded a hat trick while adding two assists in the Cup final Tuesday night, leading Mississauga to a 6-2 win over the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in a chippy affair. Misa’s hat trick and five-point night were both firsts for an OHL Cup final.

So What?

We haven’t arrived at the 2022 NHL Draft yet—where Wright is the favorite to go first overall, by the way—but Misa’s performance already has us looking ahead to 2025, the earliest that he will be eligible. In the meantime, he will pursue exceptional status that would enable him to join the OHL at a younger age than is allowed under standard regulations. Suffice to say, outdoing McDavid in anything means there will be plenty of eyes on the teen moving forward.

When your achievement knocks Connor McDavid out of the record books, you’ve done something pretty special. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

What Does Misa Bring to the Table?

Misa is lauded not only for his high-level speed and skill but also for his tenacity and motor. He was a faceoff wizard at the tournament, where he won 26-of-40 faceoffs and went 10-of-13 from the dot in the championship game. Scouts marvel at his ability to thrive under pressure, while Senators teammate Malcolm Spence, a candidate to go first overall in the OHL Draft, is blown away by his speed.

Television Twins: Sons of Anarchy

While searching YouTube, I came across a Sportsnet segment of actor Kim Coates building a hockey starting lineup with Sons of Anarchy characters. Kurt Sutter introduced the world to Charming, California’s, motorcycle club on. Sept. 3, 2008. In this week’s edition of Television Twins, we compare NHL players to Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals (SAMCRO) members. Warning: spoilers ahead! Let’s dive in. 

Marc-André Fleury as Filip “Chibs” Telford

As the series finale approached, the show’s creator killed off multiple characters. This approach left fans worried that Chibs would meet an agonizing demise, but luckily he survived to become the president of SAMCRO. Like Marc-André Fleury, Chibs was a favorite among fans. Since being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft, fans have seen the veteran goaltender go through tough times, including finding out about his trade on Twitter. It may not be as dramatic as being part of a car explosion, but both deserve the best after being involved in unfortunate situations. 

Tom Wilson as Alexander “Tig” Trager

Tig was a former Sergeant-at-Arms, and Wilson is known to patrol the ice for his teammates. Both have an explosive presence and make rash decisions based on their emotions. Tig shot the daughter of a rival gang’s leader, causing significant problems for SAMCRO. Although Wilson’s disciplinary history has come in streaks, his team suffers thanks to the 6-foot-4 winger’s impulses. 

Patrice Bergeron as Bobby Munson

Both Bergeron and Munson are even-keeled and the voice of reason. You won’t see either one act out irrationally, and they always put their club first. Bergeron has been the captain of the Boston Bruins since Jan. 7, 2021, and Munson served as both the club’s vice president and secretary. Bobby once said, “when you want blind action, you go to Tig. When you want the truth, you come to me.” Switch Tig and Bobby for Marchand and Bergeron, and that quote still holds for the Bruins.

Mike Smith as Clay Morrow

Like Clay Morrow, Mike Smith has been around for a long time playing for five NHL teams. The Edmonton Oilers goaltender has appeared in 664 NHL games and does not shy away from violence on the ice. He takes liberties when opposing players are near his crease and will fight alongside his teammates when necessary. Driven by a need for success, Morrow was always on the hunt for money, while the 40-year-old goaltender is still seeking his first Stanley Cup ring. 

Igor Shesterkin as Jax Teller

Nicknamed the “Prince of New York,” Shesterkin has seamlessly stepped up after Henrik Lundqvist’s reign, similar to Jax after Clay steps down. Shesterkin is not one of the five players with a letter on his sweater, but he doesn’t need it to be a leader of his club. The 26-year-old is having a breakout season and, in the process, earned respect around the league, much like Jax when he first wore the president patch. 

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