The ultimate dream scenario for Boston University men’s hockey (27-7-5) is close to actually going down. The Terriers meet North Dakota (29-9-3) at TD Garden on Thursday (8:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the 2015 Frozen Four. On Friday, freshman superstar forward Jack Eichel (24 goals, 43 assists) - the leading scorer in college hockey - is a heavy favorite to win the 2015 Hobey Baker Award, which will be presented at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena. It could all add up to be a very special long weekend for BU if it wins its sixth national title and third Hobey Baker in program history in the span of two days.
It has been a season of high expectations on Commonwealth Avenue, and thus far, the Terriers have met all of them. They were ranked No. 1 in the country for much of the season, they won the 2015 Beanpot (for the first time since 2009), captured the Hockey East regular season title and rolled through the Hockey East tournament. They earned the third overall seed in the 16-team NCAA tournament and survived a 3-2 overtime thriller in the first round against Yale and they beat Minnesota State, 3-2, the next night to reach their 22nd Frozen Four (first since 2009, which was their last NCAA title).
A Chelmsford native, Eichel has received plenty of attention, befitting for a player expected to be taken No. 2 in this summer’s NHL Draft. Still, for BU to pull off the biggest turnaround in college hockey (17 more wins than last season), it has truly been a team effort under second-year head coach Dave Quinn. Senior forward Evan Rodrigues (21 goals, 40 assists) is the second-leading scorer in the country and he’s picked up the slack for his linemate as Eichel was held to a lone assist in the two regional contests. Rodrigues had a goal and an assist against Yale then followed that up with two goals, including the game-winner, over Minnesota State. The other guy on their line, junior forward Danny O’Regan (22 goals, 26 assists) from Needham, has also stepped up with a goal and assist (including the overtime tally) against Yale and an assist vs. Minnesota State. They are undoubtedly the top line in college hockey and a main reason why BU is here, two wins away from a championship and their third crown at the Garden this season.
Bruins prospect and Charlestown native defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (10 goals, 27 assists) is dangerous offensively, as he had the overtime winner vs. Northeastern in the Beanpot title game. Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor (24-3-4, 2.10 goals against average, .928 save percentage) is also a very dependable player.
North Dakota is another blueblood team in college hockey and is led by junior goaltender Zane McIntyre (29-9-3, 2.00 goals against average, .931 save percentage) who is also a Hobey Baker finalist and a sixth-round draft pick of the Bruins in 2010. The winner of BU/North Dakota will meet the winner of Providence (24-13-2) /Nebraska-Omaha (20-12-6) on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) on college hockey’s biggest stage.