Traditional power or relatively unknown? One will win college hockey's biggest prize in the Frozen Four at the TD Garden.
The first semifinal Thursday has a newcomer, Nebraska-Omaha, making its first Frozen Four appearance, against Providence, which hasn't made it to the final four since 1985.
The nightcap features two of college hockey's traditional names: Boston University and North Dakota.
"If you ask any casual hockey fan, name the top five or six college hockey programs in the country, every single person will mention North Dakota in one way, shape or form," BU coach David Quinn said Wednesday. "You're talking about one of the most-storied programs in college hockey. I also think BU would be in that mix."
East vs. West
The national semifinals also feature two schools playing close to home..
BU is making is 23rd Frozen Four appearance, and fellow Hockey East member Providence is in the semifinals for the fifth time. The Terriers are chasing their sixth NCAA title, while the Friars are seeking their first.
Both enjoyed the short ride, with BU's campus located about 2 miles from the arena. Providence is an hour south, in Rhode Island.
"It was great making the bus trip up. We didn't need a movie, so that was good," Providence coach Nate Leaman said. "It's special that it's in Boston this year. I'm sure it's special for Boston University, also."
North Dakota, looking to move one behind Michigan's NCAA-best mark of nine national championships, will be playing in the Frozen Four for the second straight year and 22nd overall.
Both North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha relied on strong goaltending to earn trips to Boston.
Zane McIntyre, the most outstanding player of the West Regional, stopped 48 of 50 shots for North Dakota in regional victories over Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State. The junior is a Hobey Baker finalist, an award given to college hockey's top player, along with BU freshman forward Jack Eichel.
Nebraska-Omaha goalie Ryan Massa had even a stronger tourney, stopping 73 of 74 shots in the Mavericks' Midwest Regional run.
"He was a superman at the start of the year," said Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, who won two national titles at North Dakota. "He really held us in every game, stopping maybe 15 quality shots. We've reduced that quite a lot, but still, he's the reason why we're here."
The Terriers certainly will be expecting a big hometown boost after capturing this year's Beanpot and league tourney titles on the TD Garden ice.
"I think it's really nice that we get to have the Frozen Four right here in our home city," Eichel said. "Guys had mentioned things about it throughout the season because we had high expectations for ourselves coming into the season. We wanted to be here, so we were mentioning it all year, how cool it would be to be at the Garden for the Frozen Four."
North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol knows that BU being close to home will bring added interest to the city.
"Obviously, in Boston University's hometown, not too far from their campus, it brings a great spotlight, a great stage to college hockey with the history and tradition of both programs," he said.
Three of last four national champions have been first-timers in the Frozen Four.
For Nebraska-Omaha, it would mean it is truly on college hockey's national map.
"Omaha is not really huge on hockey," Mavericks forward Austin Ortega said. "I'd say in the last couple years it's really growing."
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