The 2024 Division I Men’s Hockey Championship kicks off Thursday and Buffalo Sabres fans will have the opportunity to watch four Sabres prospects in action in the 16-team, single-elimination tournament.

Defenseman Gavin McCarthy and second-overall seed Boston University will take on RIT at 5 p.m. on Thursday while forward Aaron Huglen and the University of Minnesota Gophers will face Omaha at 8:30 p.m. in the Sioux Falls Regional. Both games can be found on ESPNU and ESPN+.

Defenseman Maxim Strbak and fourth-overall seed Michigan State, who won the Big Ten Championship game last Saturday, will face off against forward Matteo Costantini and Western Michigan University at 5 p.m. on Friday in the Maryland Heights Regional. The game will also be featured on ESPNU and ESPN+.

The two winning teams at each site will play each other in the Regional Finals before the winner advances to the Men’s Frozen Four, which will be held at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The National Semifinals will be played on Thursday, April 11 ahead of the National Championship game on Saturday, April 13.

Here’s a closer look at how each of the Sabres prospects in the NCAA fared in their conference tournaments, with insight into their seasons from Sabres player development coach Tim Kennedy.

Matteo Costantini, F – Western Michigan University

Costantini (fifth round, 2020) and the Western Michigan Broncos fell in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Quarterfinals after dropping the best-of-three series 2-1 to St. Cloud State.

After losing 5-2 in the series opener on March 15, the Broncos bounced back to post a 6-1 win the next day. Costantini won 10 of his 15 faceoffs while recording an assist in the final seconds of the game to cap off the victory.

St. Cloud State defeated Western Michigan 5-1 in the series finale, in which Costantini scored the Broncos’ lone goal.

The junior ended the regular season and conference playoffs with a total of 30 points (10+20) in 37 games in his first season with the Broncos.

"He’s 21 years old. He’s an older player on his team at Western Michigan," Kennedy said. "He plays in a top-six role, plays in all situations, and is having a very good year this year with 10 goals, 20 assists, 30 points, and a plus-20 in 37 games. He is a player that his team depends on, if the team is going to have success, he has to be playing well. They, unfortunately, lost in their conference tournament but they made the tournament because they had such a good season in a very good conference.

"Matteo is a strong, 200-foot player, very good defensively. He works hard, competes, and also has a knack for offensive production. He also has experience in the tournament. He played with North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament two years ago."

Aaron Huglen, F – University of Minnesota

Huglen (fourth round, 2019) advanced to the Big Ten Semifinals after Minnesota defeated Penn State in a best-of-three series in the quarterfinal round.

The junior tallied a goal and three shots en route to a 5-1 win over Penn State on March 8 before scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Nittany Lions on March 9 to send the Gophers to the semifinals against Michigan.

Minnesota fell just short of advancing to the Big Ten Championship, falling 2-1 to Michigan on March 16. Huglen recorded three shots and one blocked shot in the loss.

The Roseau, Minn. native posted 20 points (12+8) in 32 regular-season games and three postseason games for the Gophers in 2023-24, including four game-winning goals.

"Aaron is playing on a very good Minnesota team," Kennedy said. "Aaron’s an offensive player with very good puck skills and very good offensive hockey sense. He’s always a threat when the puck is on his stick, but he also has good defensive responsibility as well. He's a 200-foot player for Minnesota. This will be his third time in the tournament and his team has had recent success in the last few years, going all the way to the NCAA Championship game last year against Quinnipiac. He's really going to lean on that experience, and his team is going to lean on him.

"He’s having a really good second half of the year right now, he has nine points in his last 10 games. If his team is going to have success in the tournament, Aaron should be a big part of that."

Gavin McCarthy, D – Boston University

McCarthy (third round, 2023) and the Terriers advanced to the Hockey East Finals after posting a 4-2 win over Northeastern in the quarterfinal round and a 4-1 victory over Maine in the semifinals.

The freshman scored his first collegiate goal in the Hockey East championship game, but Boston College took advantage of four power-play goals and an empty netter en route to a 6-2 win over the Terriers.

McCarthy has appeared in 37 games in 2023-24, tallying five points (1+4) and 26 shots.

"Gavin's game has been trending up all year," Kennedy said. "He plays on a very good Boston University team with a lot of draft picks and high-end talent. He plays primarily at even strength and on the PK, this is a normal process in your freshman year. It’s an adjustment your first half of the season, figuring out how to play against older players and he's done that. His second half of the season he's taken steps to establish himself on his team.

"He's a good skater, hard defender, has offensive ability, and plays with an edge. His game has been improving the whole year and we are excited as he takes the next steps in his development. BU is a No. 1-seed in the tournament this year, hopefully they can go on a long run, this will be his first NCAA Hockey Tournament experience."

Jake Richard, F – University of Connecticut

Richard (sixth round, 2022) and the UConn Huskies took down Vermont 4-1 in the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament to move on to the quarterfinals. Richard recorded two primary assists in the win, including the assist on the game-winning goal.

The Huskies went on to lose 5-4 to No. 1 seed Boston College in the Hockey East Quarterfinals on March 16. The freshman tallied a goal and three shots in the loss.

Richard ended his rookie season with 16 points (6+10) in 31 games for UConn.

"We thought Jake had a really good first season at UConn," Kennedy said. He’s a good offensive player with offensive hockey sense, puck skills, and a really good stick. He excels in the offensive zone, but also, he’s responsible in his own zone. We think with the year he had, it’s a great first step in his college career. Unfortunately, his team didn’t make the tournament, but now he’s focusing on his offseason. This is just the next step in his process where he’s got to get bigger, stronger, faster, and work on the things that he knows he needs to work on. With his season overall, we were very happy with it, and we thought that he had a great freshman year."

Stiven Sardarian, F – University of New Hampshire

Sardarian (third round, 2021) and the New Hampshire Wildcats fell short of making the NCAA Tournament after dropping their Hockey East Quarterfinals matchup with Maine by a score of 5-0.

The sophomore totaled two shots in the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament and added one shot in the quarterfinal loss.

Sardarian closed out the 2023-24 season with 14 points (7+7) in 32 games, including three power-play goals and two game-winning goals.

"Stiven Sardarian had a good sophomore year," Kennedy said. "He’s a player that has high offensive hockey sense, good puck skills and good instincts in the offensive zone. His team had a resurgence this year, just missing the NCAA tournament and Stiven was a big part of that.

"He is a young player, early in his development. It’s his second year in college hockey, so we saw an improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year, which is always what you want to see. Not just in his play off the ice, but also off the ice as well. Getting bigger, getting stronger, being more of an impact player for his New Hampshire team. That's what you want. So, we’re excited for him this summer to have another great offseason and be even more of an impact player next year."

Maxim Strbak, D – Michigan State University

Strbak (second round, 2023) has recorded a pair of goals and nine assists in 31 appearances so far in his rookie season.

The defenseman played in both games for the Spartans during the Big Ten Tournament, registering two shots and three blocked shots as Michigan State defeated Ohio State and Michigan to secure the Big Ten Championship title.

Strbak also played for Team Slovakia in the World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden this past winter, recording seven points (1+6) in five games.

"I think his game has continued to develop the whole year. He’s a hard-to-play-against, shut-down defender." Kennedy said. "He plays with an edge and is very competitive. He’s had a long season, he also played for Slovakia at the World Junior Championships. Just throughout the year, talking with Max’s coaching staff, they are very happy with his season and he’s continued to trend upwards. It's a process your freshman year, figuring out what it takes to play against older players in college hockey.

"Michigan State is a No. 1 seed and he will be playing against Matteo Costantini in the first round with Western Michigan. With Max, we’re extremely happy with his season, his game play and his development this season. It will be a great first experience for him in the NCAA Tournament."