Is Martin St. Louis among the greatest over-achievers in NHL history? That's up for debate, but there is no question he's right there in NCAA history.
"I've dedicated my life to being a hockey player," said St. Louis, "and the truth is I'm so focused on being a hockey player. That comes from a kid dream just trying to accomplish being the best you can."
St. Louis is hands-down the best scorer in the history of the University of Vermont, a two-hour drive from his hometown of Laval, Que.
"I felt like I could step in right away and get quality ice time," St. Louis said of his decision to play at Vermont. "It was near my house and I loved the campus and the Gutterson Fieldhouse. When I first saw a game there it was electrifying.
North Dakota and Notre Dame rounded out the field for this year's Frozen Four with victories Sunday in their regional finals.
The Fighting Irish (25-13-5) will face Minnesota-Duluth (24-10-6) at 5 p.m. ET in one of two national semifinals to be played April 7 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. In the nightcap, the Fighting Sioux (32-8-3) will play Michigan (28-10-4) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan are going to the NCAA Frozen Four.
Minnesota-Duluth won the East Regional the hard way -- the Bulldogs beat Yale, the top seed in the tournament, 5-3 in Bridgeport, Conn., less than a half-hour from Yale's campus in New Haven. Michigan, coached by former Blues star Red Berenson, won the West Regional in St. Louis by edging Colorado College 2-1.
The other two Frozen Four berths will be decided Sunday. Notre Dame will play New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional final at Manchester, N.H., and North Dakota will play WCHA rival Denver for the Midwest title in Green Bay, Wis.
Kenny Reiter made 32 saves and Minnesota-Duluth beat Union College 2-0 on Friday to advance to the NCAA East Regional final in Bridgeport, Conn.
Kyle Schmidt and Justin Fontaine scored power-play goals for the Bulldogs (23-10-6), who will play the winner of the second game between No. 1 Yale against No. 4 Air Force in the final on Saturday night. The winner of that game goes to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn.
Union (26-10-4), making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament as a Division I team, came into the game with the nation's top-ranked power play, converting 31.1 percent of its opportunities -- but went 0-for-9.
Schmidt scored on the power play in the first period on a redirected shot. Fontaine added his goal at 6:24 of the third period, pounding home a rebound.
Sixteen teams were selected Sunday morning for the puck version of March Madness which begins this weekend at four regional sites.
Five of those teams won their league tournaments the night before, earning the automatic bid; 11 were selected at-large.
The No. 1 seeds are Miami in the Northeast regional, North Dakota in the Midwest regional, Boston College in the West regional, and Yale in the East regional.
Yale is the No. 1 seed overall.
While these four are historic powerhouses in late March, others like Western Michigan and Rensselaer assume the ultimate underdog role, possibly all the way to a final-game showdown on April 9 in St. Paul.
The field for the 2011 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship is set.
The 16 teams were announced Saturday morning, with four teams going to each of the regional sites in Bridgeport, Conn., Green Bay, Wisc., Manchester, N.H., and St. Louis for a one-and-done scenario from March 26-28.
Automatic bids were handed out to the winners of each conference's postseason: Yale (ECAC), Boston College (Hockey East), Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Miami of Ohio (CCHA) and North Dakota (WHCA).
Born in nearby Dearborn, Michigan, and currently playing his fourth season in the Motor City, Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski might seem a local kid with limited exposure to world geography.
Since the mid 1990s, Rafalski has traveled -- and played -- from next-door Madison, Wisconsin, to Sweden and then Finland, and back to the USA in New Jersey before returning to the Wolverine state with a five-year deal in 2007 to anchor the Wings' blue line with Nicklas Lidstrom.
Each one of these five sites produces enough personal and puck stuff to create a biography worthy of NCAA, international, and NHL distinction.
Three of the five NCAA hockey leagues -- Atlantic Hockey, CCHA and the ECACHL -- ended their regular seasons last weekend. The other two, Hockey East and the WCHA, end this weekend.
Of the 58 Division I teams, 55 will participate in postseason play in the five respective league tournaments. The winner of each gets an invite to the 16-team NCAA Tournament, to be held March 25-27. (The other 11 teams will be selected on an at-large basis.) The four regional pairings, seeded No. 1-4 each, will be announced March 20. The regional winners advance to the Frozen Four, to be held this year in St. Paul, April 7 and 9.
With Alabama-Huntsville playing an independent schedule, only Hockey East's 10-team league exempts members from postseason play.
Hockey East's Merrimack Warriors were NHL.com's No. 1 surprise the first half of the season.
There's no denying that the CCHA's Western Michigan Broncos -- and the Union College Dutchmen in the ECACHL (see sidebar) -- are tops the second half.
With the longest unbeaten streak this season among the 58 teams, first-year coach Jeff Blashill got his Broncos going before the new year with an 8-0-6 run from Dec. 11 until a 3-1 loss to Miami on Feb. 12.
"We're certainly happy with the progress we've made," Blashill told NHL.com. "We have a good foundation in place to be good the next few years, but right now we recognize there are great opportunities at hand."
I don't think it's really truly going to sink in until we drop the puck, to be honest. I know there's going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the media attention and all that. We came [Monday] and it was sort of a light day to get things organized. We just want to focus in on the business aspect, the game itself. That's what we're preparing to do. Get these next couple of days out of the way and it's game on.
— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos on playing in his first Stanley Cup Final