Florida Panthers prospect Rocco Grimaldi and the University of North Dakota are having a tournament to remember. In the first two days of the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament, Grimaldi has led North Dakota to victories over Wisconsin and Ferris State on the way to qualifying for a berth in the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
Grimaldi (drafted 2nd round, 2011) scored a hat-trick in North Dakota’s 5-2 over Wisconsin and played a key role in the team’s 2-1 double overtime victory over Ferris State in the Midwest regional final.
In their 2-1 double OT victory over Ferris State on Saturday night, the University of North Dakota capped off their longest game in NCAA Tournament history with an overtime winner scored by Connor Gaarder. The goal wrapped up a wild regional final and punched North Dakota’s ticket to Philadelphia.
Riding the momentum from his three goal performance in the regional semifinal, Grimaldi was named the tournament’s MVP. Grimaldi leads UND in scoring this season with 39 points (17-22-39) in 41 games.
The trip to the Frozen Four will be the 20th in North Dakota’s storied history but this time the traditional hockey powerhouse will be something of an underdog. UND barely snuck into the tournament, receiving an at-large berth after Wisconsin defeated Ohio State for the Big Ten title. As a fourth seed in the Midwest Regional, North Dakota upset the top-seeded University of Wisconsin 5-2 thanks in large part to Grimaldi’s performance. He and his teammates will be watching Sunday’s action intently as they await their Frozen Four opponent.
North Dakota will face the winner of Minnesota and St. Cloud State’s clash on Sunday evening. Minnesota advanced to the West Regional Final after their 7-3 win over Robert Morris on Saturday. Panthers prospect Kyle Rau led the way for the #1 ranked University of Minnesota, recording a goal and an assist in the victory.
In other tournament action, Union College defeated Providence College 3-1 to advance to the Frozen Four out of the East Region. In the Northeast Regional, Boston College defeated the University of Denver 6-2 in their first round matchup.
Panthers’ prospects Michael Matheson (1st round, 2012) and Ian McCoshen (2nd round, 2013) played important roles on the blueline in BC’s victory. Matheson contributed two assists in the win, helping BC advance to the Northeast final against UMass-Lowell. Boston College’s win was largely powered by a four point (2-2-4) performance from Kevin Hayes, the younger brother of Florida Panthers forward, and BC alum, Jimmy Hayes.
The Frozen Four will be set in ice following Sunday’s action, and the semifinal games will kick off in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 10. While we do not know who Grimaldi and the North Dakota will face in their first Frozen Four matchup, we do know that if the games resemble the first rounds at all, they are sure to offer plenty of edge-of-your-seat excitement.