College Hockey – National Championship Preview

Gophers Hockey NCAA

It’s been a long six months, but we’ve finally reached the pinnacle of the College Hockey season. At long last, its time to crown a champion. Minnesota and Quinnipiac are not necessarily underdogs and neither is boasting any sort of Cinderella story. Both programs were ranked in the top six to start the season and lived up to every bit of hype throughout the year. By the time that the NCAA playoffs rolled around, the Gophers and Bobcats were ranked 1 and 2, respectively.

With all of the outrage SOME PEOPLE (looks around nervously) would not shut up about online regarding all of the Minnesota teams being lumped into one regional, we still got one of them in the championship game. This year will be the sixth straight that a Minnesota team will be playing in the National Championship game. UMD went to three straight between 2017-2019 followed by SCSU in 2021, MN State last season, and Minnesota this year. With all of this representation, the State of Hockey has only managed to come away with two titles in that span…so far. Thanks, UMD.

How Did We Get Here?

After a tough start to the tournament with blowouts in every game but one, the competition quickly tightened. Even with that being the case, these two teams were SHINING against everyone they played and that was reflected in the game scores. Minnesota’s punishing and relentless attack helped them outscore opponents 19-5 through their three games. Quinnipiac relied more on a stout defensive structure, but was still able to capitalize on their own opportunities leaving them with a goal differential of 14-3. Now, we’re about to have an age old question answered. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Flash Recap:
University of MN 6 – 2 Boston University

34 – SHOTS – 31
3 – PPG – 1
30 – FO WINS – 42

The Gophers started off peppering Drew Commesso and the Terriers early and often. There were posts hit, open nets missed, and blocked shots what seemed like every two minutes. After being unable to take advantage of all these opportunities, the Gophers gave up the first goal. There was a lot of jockeying for position as they traded blows through two periods as Minnesota continued to be on the wrong side of puck luck, despite one hell of an effort. Then, all of a sudden, the third period started and things were clicking.

Once the flood gates were finally opened, all the sand bags in the world couldn’t stop what the Gophers were pouring on. It seemed like every player in Maroon and Gold was possessed when they had the puck on their stick. They could dangle past and spin around anyone in their way and had an extra set of eyes letting them know just where to pass the puck next. You’ve gotta think that kind of play breeds a healthy level of confidence for a team like Minnesota heading into the biggest game of the year.

Quinnipiac 5 – 2 Michigan

30 – SHOTS – 31
0 – PPG – 0
26 – FO WINS – 28

Hobey Baker winner Adam Fantilli was able to find the back of the net one time in the game to tie it at 2-2. Outside of that, Quinnipiac had both he and Hughes locked down tighter than Guantanamo for the majority of the night. Yaniv Perets was a superstar once again, playing one of the more impressive games of the tournament. His ability to move laterally while tracking the puck and always be in the right position is something every young tendy should be watching.

Offensively, the Bobcats benefited from playing the nerds in the ECAC and picked up some geometry knowledge through osmosis. They were able to bank two of their most important, momentum changing goals off of Portillo’s cheeks and skate blade. You can say the transition game was more important to their success, but I’m sticking with the bank shots. Everybody loves bank shots.

The National Championship Game

Minnesota (1) vs Quinnipiac (2)
Saturday, April 8th – 8:00PM ET/7:00PM CT – ESPN2/ESPN+/TSN+

Gophers vs Bobcats


29-9-1 – Record – 33-4-3
230.0 (3rd) – SOS – 93.4 (38th)
27.0 – PP% – 22.4
83.2 – PK% – 86.5
52.5 – FO% – 57.0
1.908 – GF/GA – 2.565
.928 – SV% – .932

Vibes: Both of these teams have an argument as to who has the upper hand in this matchup. The Gophers boast an impressive storyline of Justen Close being a walk-on goaltender that didn’t expect much time who evolved into a solid presence between the pipes. Reading that back, I’m not sure it does his actual stats any favors. He’s 4th in both Save Percentage (.928) and Goals Against Average (1.99) in the entire nation. The only goaltender who’s got a better combination of those two stats will be 180 ft away in a Quinnipiac sweater. Yaniv Perets missed out on winning the Mike Richter award to Devon Levi for a second year in a row despite holding the nations best Goals Against Average (1.48) and trailing Levi for the best Save Percentage by just one one hundredth of a point (.932).

Weapons Aplenty

While the goaltending in this game is set to be some of the best we’ve been treated to all season, the firepower is something to behold as well. Minnesota obviously takes center stage with their two Hobey Baker finalists Logan Cooley (22G, 38A) and Matthew Knies (21G, 21A). As insane as it is to have two players on your roster make the Hobey Hat Trick (despite neither winning) the talent doesn’t stop there. Jimmy Snuggerud (21G,29A) could have easily been included and if he sticks around for another season, you’ve got to think he’s an early favorite for the award. The Bobcats might not have the same depth that Minnesota’s got in their arsenal, but their big gun makes just about as much noise. Collin Graf (20G, 38A) finished at 3rd in the nation for points and saw about a quarter of the exposure. Same Lipkin (14G, 27A) and Ethan DeJong (19G, 21A) round out the offensive weapons to look out for on the score sheet.

Speaking of razor thin margins, Minnesota is finding themselves on the wrong side of comparisons for the first time in a long time. The Gophers are JUST behind Quinnipiac in every category except their power play and strength of schedule. They’re not trailing in any one by what I would consider a “significant margin” and their strength of schedule is certainly the cause of that. All things considered, we’re in for a great game. Who would have thought that would be the case when Number 1 meets Number 2 in the country.

Reputations at Stake

Despite being one of the premiere programs in the country and having five existing titles on their resume, Minnesota is looking to end their long and painful championship drought. They won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 and have not lifted a trophy since. They were also a dominant Number 1 overall seed when they went to the title game in 2014, but fell to Union in a 7-4 drubbing.

Quinnipiac does not have the same history as Minnesota. They’ve only been around since 1975 and a relevant hockey program for a cup of coffee. In fact, they made the jump to D1 just before the turn of the century. Despite their late start, they’ve had a ton of recent success. They’ve been to two championship games in the last decade and made the tournament a handful of other times as well. They’re still looking for their first national title and having it come in Tampa would be extra special since they lost to North Dakota on the same stage back in 2016.

Betting Odds: University of Minnesota (-1.5) – O/U: 6.5
Prediction: Minnesota wins their first championship in two decades in a game that comes down to the wire.

Previous Previews & Picks:

Don’t know whether you can trust the picks or input? I don’t blame you. I’m not anywhere near a “Big J”. In fact, I’m just some idiot with an outlet. An idiot who watches more college hockey than 99% of the nation, but an idiot nonetheless. Take that how you will.

College Hockey – 2023 NCAA Tournament Preview

Alternative College Hockey Media:

Hate my (totally unbiased) prediction or don’t fancy yourself as much of a “reader”? Lucky for you, there’s plenty more College Hockey information coming out of the 10K Takes family! You can listen to The Has Beens podcast (or follow them on social media). Former College Hockey players/National Champions (Gage Ausmus and Trevor Olson) talk with guests about their path to College Hockey, how the sport impacted their life, and where it led them after.

This week, special guest Nolan DeJong joins the pod to talk about Michigan hockey as a whole and how he landed there as a Canadian player.

Want a little more structure to your hockey insight with less of the miscellaneous tangents? The MNCAA podcast on The Sota Pod channel has got you covered there. In it a panel of guests, including myself, each represent a different Minnesota College Hockey program and talk about the teams and related news.