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Pair of prospects set for Frozen Four appearance

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks

Two 2010 draft picks will clash in the NCAA Frozen Four on April 5 in Tampa, Fla. Justin Holl (above) and Minnesota face Kevin Hayes and top-seeded Boston College, with the winner advancing to meet either Ferris State or Union. (Getty Images)

Two rounds, three days, four teams left. Six Blackhawks prospects saw NCAA tournament action over the weekend with their college teams, with some head-to-head clashes adding to the playoff intensity.

Round 1

Cornell 3, Michigan 2 (OT)—The Big Red pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend, removing the tournament’s second seed from the bracket with an overtime strike. Junior defenseman Braden Birch, a 2008 sixth-round draft pick, has been a mainstay on Cornell’s blueline this season and recorded a power-play assist on his team’s first goal of the game.

North Dakota 3, Western Michigan 1—Fourth-ranked North Dakota made quick work of Western Michigan in its tournament opener. A pair of Blackhawks prospects featured on the Fighting Sioux defense; freshman Nick Mattson finished the game with a +1 plus/minus rating and 4 penalty minutes, while Joe Gleason also appeared for UND.

Boston College 2, Air Force 0—BC’s stifling defense was a big reason for their success this season, and the top-seeded Eagles limited Air Force to 20 shots in their first round matchup. Sophomore forward Kevin Hayes registered an assist and ended the game with a +1 rating and two shots on goal.

Minnesota 7, Boston University 3—The first round’s most exciting matchup produced 10 combined goals and showcased two more blueline hopefuls in Chicago’s system. Sophomore Terrier Adam Clendening scored a goal and added an assist in the contest but finished with a -1 rating as his squad bowed out of the tournament. For the Golden Gophers, Justin Holl was kept off the scoresheet despite sending three shots on goal and finished the game with a +1 rating and 2 penalty minutes.

Round 2

Ferris State 2, Cornell 1—Cornell couldn’t translate their first-round upset into second-round success, falling to Ferris State as the Bulldogs made the Frozen Four for the first time in school history. Birch was held scoreless for the Big Red.

Boston College 4, Minnesota-Duluth 0—The Eagles made it three Frozen Four appearances in four seasons with their second consecutive shutout of the tournament, this time against defending champions Minnesota-Duluth. Hayes did not record a point in the game but finished with a +1 rating.

Minnesota 5, North Dakota 2—Playing in front of a partisan crowd at the Xcel Energy Center, the Golden Gophers booked their first Frozen Four appearance since 2005 with a victory over fierce rivals North Dakota, who scored six unanswered goals the last time the two sides met in the same building—a WCHA Final Five semifinal game on March 16. Holl was held scoreless and logged 4 penalty minutes in the contest for Minnesota. For UND, Mattson recorded two shots on goal and finished with a -1 rating, while Gleason logged an assist but finished with a -2 rating.

The Frozen Four will pit BC against Minnesota, where Hayes and a high-powered Eagles attack will put Holl and the Gophers blueline to the ultimate test. Union takes on Ferris State in the other semifinal. BC vs. Minn. will be aired on ESPN2 on April 5 at 7 p.m. CST.

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