PITTSBURGH – Good afternoon from PPG Paints Arena, where St. Cloud State faces Massachusetts for the championship in the NCAA Division I men's Frozen Four at 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN.
There are no lineup changes for the Huskies from their 5-4 semifinal win over Minnesota State Mankato. The Minutemen return two key players from COVID-19 protocol. Leading goal-scorer Carson Gicewicz is back at right wing on the top line, while Filip Lindberg was listed first among the Minutemen's three goalies and was the first to take the ice for pregame warmups. Lindberg, a seventh-round draft pick of the Wild in 2019, leads the nation with a 1.33 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. Matt Murray started in place of Lindberg and made 36 saves in UMass' 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota Duluth in the semifinals.
Whichever team wins, there will be first-time national champion. Both the Huskies and Minutemen are in their second Frozen Four. St. Cloud State also made it in 2013, falling to 4-1 Quinnipiac in the semifinals. Massachusetts beat Denver 4-3 in overtime in 2019 before falling 3-0 to Minnesota Duluth in the title game.
A win by the Huskies would give the NCHC its fifth consecutive national championship. If UMass wins, Hockey East would have its first championship since Providence in 2015. Since college hockey's conference shakeup that started with the formation of the NCHC and Big Ten for the 2013-14 season, the NCHC has filled 12 of the 28 Frozen Four spots. Hockey East is second with eight, followed by the Big Ten with four , he ECAC with three and the WCHA with one.
The NCAA is allowing a crowd of 4,500 for the Frozen Four, and both the Huskies and Minutemen had fired-up groups in the arena. Should be a fun one tonight.