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College hockey's Frozen Four is back in Tampa to decide an NCAA champion

Frozen Four banner in downtown Tampa
Tampa Bay Sports Commission
Downtown Tampa is decorated to welcome guests coming to town for the NCAA Frozen Four, which begins Thursday at Amalie Arena.

Minnesota, Boston U, Michigan and Quinnipiac bring plenty of star power to Amalie Arena, which hosts the event for the third time.

College hockey’s four best teams are again in Hockey Bay for the NCAA Frozen Four — the men’s national championship — at Amalie Arena.

This will be the third time the Frozen Four has been in Tampa, which previously hosted in 2012 and 2016. The 2012 event boasted the largest attendance for a first-time host.

Not long ago, many in college hockey scoffed at the thought of playing its championship in humid Florida. But that mentality has been put to rest.

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Besides, it’s not like hockey championships and Amalie Arena are strangers.

“I think they do a great job hosting the Frozen Four, I’d love to see them get it more than once every seven years,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, whose Bobcats advanced to Tampa in 2016 but lost in the title game to North Dakota.

Quinnipiac is back to try again this week, joining three hockey bluebloods: Minnesota, Boston University and Michigan.

“We’re excited for it. It’s 92 degrees,” Pecknold said. “So, we’ve got to make sure we keep the guys away from the pool and the beach."

All four teams bring plenty of star power — expect many players to make regular visits to Tampa once their NHL careers begin. Forty-one have already been drafted, with the Gophers (14), Wolverines (12) and Terriers (12) accounting for 38.

Six of this year’s 10 finalists for college hockey’s top honor, the Hobey Baker Award, will be on the ice.

That includes the nation’s leading scorer, Michigan freshman Adam Fantilli, and the leading goaltender, Quinnipiac sophomore Yaniv Perets; as well as BU defenseman Lane Hutson, a 2022 second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens; and Minnesota forwards Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies.

Fantilli is slated to be the No. 2 pick in the June NHL draft.

And to solidify Florida’s place in the ice, two Michigan freshman will lace up not far from home.

Seamus Casey of Fort Myers and Gavin Brindley of Estero are longtime friends out of the prestigious Florida Alliance youth program. Casey, a defensemen, was drafted last year by the New Jersey Devils. Brindley, a forward, is expected to be a top pick this June.

Then there are the Tampa Bay Lightning ties. Michigan forward Dylan Duke was a fourth-round selection of the Bolts in 2021 and Minnesota forward Connor Kurth was a sixth-rounder in 2022.

Loads of hockey history will be on display. Three of the teams (Minnesota, Boston, Michigan) have combined for 19 NCAA titles. Michigan has nine, the most of any school, with 27 appearances in the national semifinals. Minnesota and BU are making the Frozen Four for the 23rd time.

On Friday, the Hobey Baker winner will be announced at 5:30 p.m. at Sparkman Wharf. It’s the men’s hockey equivalent of football’s Heisman Trophy and basketball Wooden Award. The finalists are Fantilli, Cooley and Knies.

The Particulars

What: NCAA Frozen Four at Amalie Arena, downtown Tampa

Schedule: Thursday — No. 1-ranked Minnesota vs. Boston University (5 p.m.), No. 2 Quinnipiac vs. No. 3 Michigan (8:30 p.m.). Saturday — National championship (8 p.m.)

TV: All games on ESPN2

Tickets: NCAA.com/MFrozenFour.

Defending champion: Denver defeated Minnesota State, 5-1.

Minnesota (28-9-1): The No. 1 overall seed, advanced to Tampa by defeating St. Cloud State in the Fargo Regional final. The Gophers got to the Frozen Four last season, too, but lost their first game to state rival Minnesota State.

Boston U (29-10): The Hockey East champions defeated Cornell in the Manchester Regional final to earn their spot in Tampa. Like the Gophers, the Terriers have won five NCAA championships, most recently in 2009.

Michigan (26-11-3): The No. 3 seed and Big Ten champs topped Penn State in overtime in the Allentown Regional title to earn a return to the Frozen Four after losing last year.

Quinnipiac (32-4-3): The Bobcats, who knocked out Ohio State in the Bridgeport Regional final, are making their third appearance in the national semifinal since 2013.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.