Some Darkhorse Frozen Four Contenders


With the NHL Draft over and NHL free agency starting today, it is now officially time to start looking ahead to the 2011-12 college season. In the past few seasons, #4 seed Bemidji State and #4 seed RIT have each made Frozen Fours. With the influx of more talent into college hockey, the talent is being spread around to more than just the usual suspect elite schools.

While this past season featured North Dakota and Boston College head and shoulders above the other teams in the country talent wise, this year’s probable top two teams (Denver and Notre Dame) are much closer to the pack. It seems like every team I would mention below other than those two (and maybe BC and North Dakota again) would be sleepers, but there are no doubt teams I like more than others. Such as…


The Big Red didn’t get a ton of preseason love last year (except from me) but made the ECAC title game and finished in a tie for 4th in the regular season. Cornell has one of the more intriguing goalie tandems in the country. Junior Mike Garman and Freshman Andy Iles split time almost right down the middle, and were 2nd and 3rd in the conference in save percentage with .931 and .927 marks. If just one of them keeps playing as they did this past year the Big Red will be formidable in goal yet again. Iles is obviously the more talented of the two, as he was on the World Junior team last year, but it is tough to argue against Senior leadership as well.

Offensively the Big Red will have to replace their two top goal scorers in Joe Devin and Tyler Roeszler. One key will be whether defenseman Nick D’Agostino, a Penguins prospect, can replicate his offensive success from the blue line. Recruiting wise look for Brian Ferlin, who had 73 points in 55 games for the Indiana Ice last year.

Ohio State

As a general rule I don’t love teams who give up a ton of shots, but I wanted to highlight the Buckeyes because of the impressive talent they are putting together, and to highlight the season that Cal Heeter had last year. He had a .923 save percentage, which is very good, but it gets even better when you notice he made 1009 saves, more than 100 more than the next most in the CCHA.

The Buckeyes have a lot of Seniors to replace, but a lot of guys coming in who I really like, including Ryan Dzingel and AJHL MVP Tanner Fritz.

Colorado College

I suppose CC isn’t really a darkhorse. They upset Boston College last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament and were a win away from the Frozen Four. Still, it seems like every year Scott Owens’s crew is fighting for attention, overshadowed by other WCHA powers. This year’s crew will have some major firepower to fight with, as they return reigning WCHA rookie of the year Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz was 5th in the conference in scoring despite playing 10-12 less games than everyone else in the WCHA. His brother Rylan was no slouch either, with 10 goals and 38 points.

Defensively the Tigers need some shoring up, as they were just 9th in the conference in that department, allowing 2.91 goals per game. Joe Howe was 9th in the conference in save percentage with a .903 mark.

Air Force

Last year as a 4 seed the Falcons took Yale to overtime before finally losing. This was despite having a Freshman goaltender in net (and a rather poor one at that). Air Force does lose its top two scorers in Jacques Lamoureux and Derrick Burnett, but after those two the next highest goal totals they lose are 5 and 4. They return 4 double digit goal scorers and also return four Freshman who were in double digits in points last year. With that Sophomore class maturing, as well as a deep Junior class. The offense will be good, deep and experienced.

Defensively, Air Force needs to solve their goalie problem a bit. Jason Torf had just a .909 save percentage, but that was as a Freshman so it is certainly possible (and indeed probable) that he would improve. Because Atlantic Hockey will likely be a one bid league again, Air Force’s season will come down to their conference tournament. But if they manage to make it through, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them in Tampa.