This year’s Frozen Four again showed some of the best and the competitiveness of college hockey. None of the number one seeds in the four regions made the final grouping. Michigan State, a “bubble team” just prior to tourney selections, ended up the champion, winning Saturday night with 18.9 seconds left on the clock. The game-winning goal was also the first time the Spartans led in the game.
Yet there’s another reason I became addicted to and love NCAA hockey. It’s the number of players I’ve actually seen play here prior to their college years. It would be easy just to point to Jim McKenzie, a former Stampede player and captain, who scored a goal in Michigan State’s semifinal win and added an assist on the closing empty net goal and and was frequently mentioned Saturday night. But as the USHL itself points out, the league had a successful Frozen Four. Three former USHL players were credited with the goal and assists on Michigan State’s game-winner. Fifteen members of the Michigan State team played in the USHL. Five of the six players who made the all-tournament team played in the USHL. The tournament’s most outstanding player is a USHL alum. Thus, in watching the NCAA regionals and finals, I get to see dozens of players I’ve watched over the last couple years, many of whom are upper round NHL draft choices.
Starting next week, more opportunity to see hockey’s future in action arises at another intense level of competition. The USHL playoffs begin and, as any hockey fan will tell you, there ain’t nothing like playoff hockey. And I today also submitted my application for tickets to the Frozen Four in Denver next year.
I am in love with a game that possesses the worst qualities of maledom.
Dave Bidini, Tropic of Hockey