While the Florida Panthers prepare to make their fifth postseason appearance in franchise history, three of the organization’s top prospects will soon be competing for some very special hardware of their own.
After a wild weekend of regional action, the 2016 Men's Frozen Four is set to begin, with North Dakota, Boston College, Denver and Quinnipiac all heading to the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., this weekend for a chance to claim college hockey’s top prize.
The Panthers currently have three prospects still competing in this year’s Frozen Four, as forward Chris Wilkie (North Dakota), defenseman Ian McCoshen (Boston College) and goaltender Evan Cowley (Denver) all advanced past the regional round.
At first glance, this year’s Frozen Four looks to certainly be one for the ages, as three of the six teams with the most all-time Frozen Four appearances are in the field: Boston College leads all teams with 25, while North Dakota has 22 and Denver has 14.
Luckily for Panthers fans, there is guaranteed to be at least one prospect representing the franchise in this year’s championship game, as Boston College faces Quinnipiac (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and North Dakota battles Denver (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in the semifinals on April 7.
The winner of each semifinal game will advance to the National Championship on April 9 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Whether you’re making the cross-state trek to watch the games first hand or simply plan on taking in the action from the comfort of your own couch, below you’ll find everything a Panthers fan needs to know about this year’s Frozen Four.
CATS IN CONTENTION
Chris Wilkie (North Dakota): A sixth-round pick (162nd overall) of the Panthers in the 2015 NHL Draft, Wilkie has seen a substantial amount of ice time during his first season with the Fighting Hawks. As a true freshman, the 19-year-old winger tallied five goals and four assists in 32 games during the regular season, but has been out of the lineup since a 4-2 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCHC playoffs on March 18. As one of the more inexperienced skaters on North Dakota’s roster, Wilkie’s status as an underclassman may inevitably keep him out of action over the weekend.
Evan Cowley (Denver): A fourth-round pick (92nd overall) of the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Draft, Cowley has looked exceptional during his junior season with the Pioneers while sharing the net with sophomore Tanner Jaillet. The 20-year-old goaltender owns an 8-5-1 record with a career-best 2.07 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 16 games this season, last starting on March 19 when he stopped 25 of 26 shots to lead Denver to a 1-1 tie against North Dakota in the NCHC third-place game. Although Jaillet is Denver’s clear-cut starter heading into the weekend, Cowley could be called upon if he struggles.
Ian McCoshen (Boston College): A second-round pick (31st overall) of the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Draft, McCoshen has established himself as an important leader on the blue line during his junior season with the Eagles. Already praised for his stalwart defense, the 20-year-old defenseman has also seen his offensive production improve throughout his collegiate career, posting a career-high 20 points (6-14—20) in 39 games this season. As Boston College looks to capture its fourth championship in nine years, McCoshen, who also serves as an alternate captain, is expected to play a pivotal role in slowing down opponent’s offenses over the weekend.
Wednesday: If you’re arriving to Tampa early, head on over to the Amalie Arena to take in an open practice for all four teams. Boston College will skate from 11 a.m. to noon, Quinnipiac from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., North Dakota from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., and Denver from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
Thursday: The No. 1 seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats will take on the Boston College Eagles in the first semifinal (5 p.m. ET), followed by the No. 3 seeded North Dakota Fighting Hawks facing off against the Denver Pioneers in the second semifinal (8:30 p.m.). If you are unable to attend, both semifinal games can be found on ESPN2.
Friday: On the eve of the National Championship, players from both finalist squads will be signing autographs from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Tampa Theatre, located at 711 N. Franklin St. on the Franklin Street Mall. Don’t have anything to get signed? No worries! There will be commemorative posters provided at the event for eager autograph enthusiasts.
After scoring a few signatures, stick around the Tampa Theatre for the announcement of the 2016 recipient of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given annually to college hockey’s top player. The initial field of ten finalists has been narrowed to three Hobey Hat Trick finalists: forward Kyle Connor (Michigan), goaltender Thatcher Demko (Boston College) and forward Jimmy Vesey (Harvard). The 36th annual announcement will also be televised live on the NHL Network at 6 p.m. ET.
Saturday: Want a taste of the championship experience? Then head on over to the Amalie Arena from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. to participate in an open skate prior to puck drop. The arena has a limited number of skates that will be available, so guests are encouraged to bring their own.
Once the fans have cleared off the ice, the real game will get underway as the semifinal winners face off for the National Championship at 8 p.m. If you are unable to attend, the championship game can be found on ESPN.
Click here for Full NCAA Frozen Four Information