Three things to watch for as 2011 Frozen Four begins today

Even when I was a kid and had infinite amounts of time to watch every sport available, college basketball just didn’t do it for me. There’s a part of me that regrets that since I grew up in the days of the “Fab Five” and the last era in which professional stars played a little while before jumping to the NBA, but for whatever reason, it didn’t touch a chord. So let’s just say I didn’t watch a second of that much-maligned horror show between Butler and the University of Connecticut.*

The Frozen Four has been a puck-based counterargument to the Final Four for many years now, even if its profile is much lower. The first two of three matches is set to take place today, as Minnesota-Duluth takes on Notre Dame at 5:00 pm ET while Michigan and North Dakota play a fitting primetime match at 8:30 pm ET.

The best part might be that the games are taking place at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, one of the places in which all forms of hockey are treated as epic events. If NBC ever ran a “Friday Night Lights” spin-off that focused on hockey instead of football, it would need to take place in Minnesota. ESPN’s David Albright astutely points out that if the Frozen Four ever settled on a single headquarters, it would have to be “The State of Hockey.”

Here are a few storylines to watch in these games.

1. Hobey Baker finalist at play …

While Andy Miele’s Miami of Ohio team is already out of the discussion (and he’s already a member of the Phoenix Coyotes organization) and Boston College’s Cam Atkinson is now playing in the Columbus Blue Jackets system, one finalist for college hockey’s top award will be on display in the primetime game. North Dakota’s star forward Matt Frattin will play tonight.

2. A guaranteed “David and Goliath” final game.

No matter who wins, there will be one mammoth NCAA men’s hockey dynasty going up against a Cinderella team. Michigan is a nine-time champion and North Dakota has seven titles to their name, while Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth have never won a championship. If you enjoy rooting for underdogs, you’re in luck in 2011.

3. North Dakota is the biggest Goliath, though.

While Michigan features a storied hockey history and beloved coach Red Berenson, North Dakota is the clear favorite this time around. They have gone a stunning 14-0-1 since January 28th, according to ESPN’s Albright. Albright points out the fact that they are also winning in dominant fashion, as they outscored opponents 12-1 so far in the tournament.


While the NHL is our main area of concern here at PHT (hence the “Pro” in Pro Hockey Talk), tournaments like these often showcase future talents and high-level hockey. We’ll keep an eye on the games for you, so stay tuned for results and more.

* – Am I the only one who feels weird about writing “UConn”? Saying it is fine, but actually writing it just feels wrong to me.

Tough start: Lehner knocked out of Sabres debut, won’t return

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.

Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.

During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.

It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.

As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.

Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.


‘Canes lose Wisniewski (lower body) 47 seconds into debut

Phil Kessel, James Wisniewski
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James Wisniewski‘s time as a Carolina Hurricane is off to a troubling start.

Wisniewski, acquired by the ‘Canes at this year’s draft, exited Thursday’s season-opener against Nashville early in the first period with a lower-body injury.

Shortly thereafter, the team ruled out his return.

Wisniewski, 31, was expected to play a fairly significant role on Carolina’s defense this year.

It’s unclear what the injury is or how severe it might be, but initial reports don’t sound good; Wisniewski appeared to be in significant pain and had to be helped off the ice.