The teams gathering at Detroit's Ford Field for the NCAA Frozen Four bring a little bit of everything to the story of college hockey's quest for the national championship.
One is a newcomer to the highest level of NCAA play, one is on a road to redemption, and the other two are storied college programs that met in the 2006 title game.
Rochester Institute of Technology, Miami, Boston College and Wisconsin face off for a shot at the NCAA version of Lord Stanley on April 8 and 10 at Ford Field, the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions.
"You play your absolute best game as a team," said Florida Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who played in four Frozen Fours and three title games with Boston College from 1997-01. His Eagles won it all in 2001. "That's the key. We had our things in order in-house."
Here's how the 2010 Frozen Four teams got their house in order to win the regional, how they match up for the semifinal games, quotes from each head coach, the NHL.com skinny about each semifinal -- and a prediction about the final outcome at Ford Field on April 10 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN HD.
Semifinal Game 1
April 8, 5 p.m.ET, ESPN HD.
2010 Frozen Four facts
* RIT is the first Atlantic Hockey League team to reach the Frozen Four.
* RIT is the first team in NCAA history to reach the Frozen Four in a team's first postseason appearance.
* The Frozen Four field is the first from four different leagues since 2003 when Cornell (ECAC), New Hampshire (Hockey East), Minnesota (WCHA), and Michigan (CCHA) competed.
* Boston College leads this year's field in Frozen Four appearances with 21.
* Wisconsin leads this year's field in Frozen Four wins with 15 (BC has 14), and in national championships with six.
* Miami came within one minute of winning last year's national
championship until Boston University scored two goals in the last minute to tie the game, before scoring in OT to win it all, 4-3.
* RIT has the longest current win streak of the Frozen Four field at 12.
* Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves coached the Badgers to the 2006 national championship, and played on his alma mater's national championship team in 1977, a 6-5 win over Michigan, also played in Detroit. Eaves assisted on the first two Badger goals.
* RIT coach Wayne Wilson played on Bowling Green's national championship team in 1984. The 5-4 win in 4 OTs over Minnesota-Duluth in the longest postseason game in NCAA history. Jerry York was head coach.
* The CCHA is host for the 2010 Frozen Four.
-- Bob Snow
Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers (Atlantic Hockey, 28-11-1) vs. University of Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA, 27-10-4)
How RIT got to the Frozen Four -- The Tigers held on for a 2-1 victory over heavily favored Denver in the East regional semifinal before blowing out New Hampshire, 6-2, in the final. UNH had defeated Cornell, 6-2, in that semifinal.
RIT coach Wayne Wilson's comments -- Maybe these guys won't realize until they're older how lucky they are to be here. So many teams lose players to the pros early, we have a lot of consistency here. It's fallen into place for us. Our goal was to make the NCAA tournament and their minds have been in the right place. Right now, it's Wisconsin on another ice sheet.
We just want to meld and prove ourselves. What we've tried to do more than anything else is work on our own game as a team. Some teams expose you and you need to be conscious of that.
People were expecting us to change our whole style depending on who we were playing. I'd rather just be aggressive and up-tempo, work hard on special teams play, and know who the dangerous players are and how well they transition. Teams have bigger players than us, but we're quite aggressive. That's our style.
How Wisconsin got to the Frozen Four -- The Badgers took out the last at-large team selected in Vermont, 3-2, before rolling past league foe St. Cloud State, 5-3, in the West regional final. St. Cloud had beaten Northern Michigan, 4-3, in the other semifinal.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves' comments -- We're tremendously excited to go to Detroit. We have great senior leadership on this team. Since Day 1, it's about having that second wave from your defensemen. Our word is "TWIG" Take what is given. Find and see the weakness on the other team's penalty kill or whatever.
The basis of our success is the ability to play hard, win races and win battles to support each other physically, to get pucks in and out of key areas, to have net-front presence and be strong in front of ours. Then make sure our specialty teams are ready to go. It's no secret that in the playoffs, they have to be effective.
If we take care of the puck in key areas and get some good goaltending, we give ourselves a chance to be successful. Just play and don't think too much.
NHL.com skinny -- Hats off to Wayne Wilson's Tigers who make NCAA history by being the first Atlantic Hockey team to play in the Frozen Four after only five seasons of Division I play.
A gutsy 2-1 win over title-favorite Denver in the East regional set RIT in a good groove to roll over New Hampshire in the final. No question, they are the Cinderella team in Detroit, led by Cameron Burt's and Andrew Favot's 47 and 45 points, respectively.
The Tigers have the best four offensive defensemen in the tournament in captain Dan Ringwald, Chris Tanev, Chris Haltigin, and Al Mazur who have combined for 111 points. Ringwald has 36 of that total. Senior Jared DeMichiel (1.97 GAA) will need to replicate his 1.50 GAA in both regional games against Wisconsin's potent offense.
Wisconsin has the best overall defense in the tournament, led by three No. 1 NHL picks in Jake Gardiner (Anaheim '08), Ryan McDonagh (Montreal '07) and Brendan Smith (Detroit '07). Smith is a Ray Bourque-type horse with a nation's best 15-32-47 for a defenseman. The offense is equally talented and layered with NHL draftees. Seniors Michael Davies and Blake Geoffrion, along with sophomore Derek Stepan, lead that category with 58 goals among 149 total points. The Badgers need a very strong performance from junior Scott Gundmandson in goal.
NHL.com says -- WCHA-tested play and team depth propel Wisconsin to a 4-1 win over RIT.
Semifinal Game 2
April 8, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN HD
Boston College Eagles (Hockey East, 27-10-3) vs. Miami RedHawks (CCHA 29-7-7)
How BC got to the Frozen Four -- The Eagles took out Alaska (CCHA) in the Northeast semifinal, 3-1. The next night, BC and Yale put on an NCAA postseason and record-setting red-light display in the 9-7 final. The 16 goals is an NCAA tournament record. Yale had defeated North Dakota, 3-2, in the other semifinal.
BC coach Jerry York's comments -- It's always great to be playing hockey in April; that's for sure. It's the pinnacle of collegiate sports for us.
You can't plan a 2-0 or high-scoring game; you try to get to the next game. We'll do what we do best: play Eagle hockey and pay attention to details. Puck movement has been a big thing -- the ability to find the open man. Give and go is paramount to our success.
Badgers salute crowd (Courtesy: Paul Capobianco)
Sometimes we stick handle too much. I don't like the puck on the tape too long. We put an extra pound of tape on this week [in practice] to move pucks a little bit better. Focus on faceoffs and create offense from good solid defense. I like to focus on 50 percent of each.
This class rivals any in leadership. One of our biggest questions coming in was how the young guys would blend with the older. It's been our biggest surprise.
How Miami got to the Frozen Four -- The RedHawks played two nail-biters in the Midwest regional, eking out a 2-1 win over No. 16 seed Alabama-Huntsville in the semifinal. The final was a 2-OT, 3-2 win over archrival Michigan. The Wolverines had beaten Bemidji State, 5-1, in the other semifinal.
Miami coach Rico Blasi's comments -- We're excited to play at Ford Field. It's a big challenge to play BC. It's been a long year and trying to get back is not an easy thing. We knew what it takes to win the whole thing.
Our program is one of family; we are family. You're talking about three or four years staying together. [The games] are not life and death. What happened to Brendan (Burke, son of Toronto GM Brian Burke, and Miami's student-assistant coach who was killed in a car accident on Feb. 5) is real life.
As for these games, we're different styles. BC likes to play transition and can score in bunches. We can play run-and-gun, but we prefer to not play that style. If we can play five-on-five, and chip in a few goals and make it a special teams game, we'll take it. It boils down to a special teams game. Last year was hard to swallow. We wanted an opportunity to be here again.
NHL.com skinny -- Miami will seek to check out of "Heartbreak Hotel" after two consecutive and crushing postseason losses: the 2008 Northeast regional final OT loss to BC, and last season's last-minute meltdown to Boston University in the national championship game where the RedHawks blew a 3-1 lead. They lost, 4-3, in overtime.
Rico Blasi's boys stayed atop the national polls most of this season, but have stumbled in the take-charge and goal-scoring department the past three weeks with three consecutive one-goal victories and a total of seven goals therein. Connor Knapp appears to be the RedHawks' go-to goaltender, but Cody Reichard is the other half of the best goaltending duo in the country. Jarod Palmer, Andy Miele, Tommy Wingels and Carter Camper lead the way up front; Chris Wideman, Cameron Schilling and Joe Hartman on defense.
Boston College is the most tournament-tested team in this Frozen Four field, and, along with Wisconsin, the most explosive. Jerry York's Eagles have scored 22 goals in their four postseason wins.
Better still, two of those wins were by scores of 3-0 and 3-1.
NHL.com's Top 10
BC can play it any way the game swings. Its four freshmen defensemen are learning on the fly. When they give up a bunch, as in the two recent 7-6 and 9-7 games against Maine and Yale, a season total of 85 goals from Cam Atkinson, Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney, Ben Smith, and Jimmy Hayes help to win those run-and-gun games. Senior Carl Sneep is the Eagles' leader on defense and in points from the blue line with 28. John Muse led the Eagles to the 2008 national championship over Notre Dame.
NHL.com prediction --Too much Beantown firepower for Miami to handle. Boston College, 5-3.
In the national championship game -- The Eagles' four freshmen defensemen hold their own and BC's firepower prevails to atone for the 2-1 loss to Wisconsin in the 2006 national championship game. Boston College, 5-4, for their fourth overall title.
On Campus Clips -- Other first-round NHL draft picks in the 2010 Frozen Four include Boston College freshman forward Chris Kreider, taken at No. 19 by the Rangers last June. … Wisconsin's Michael Davies leads all Frozen Four players with 51 points. Wisconsin's Blake Geoffrion leads in power-play goals with 14. Miami's Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp lead in save percentage at .925 and .926, respectively. … Ford Field, home of the NFL's Detroit Lions morphed into a hockey venue this week with a capacity of some 35,000. Tuesday was the installation of the rink boards and Wednesday was installation of the rink glass. Friday, the ice will be installed and painted. A new Frozen Four total average attendance record will be set in Detroit. The current record is 19,322, set at the Xcel Energy Center in 2002.