James O'Brien

Quinnipiac defenseman Alex Miner-Barron (8) celebrates the team's 3-2 win over Boston College during an NCAA Frozen Four men's hockey semifinal, Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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2016 NCAA Ice Hockey Championship match set: Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota

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There were a ton of meaningful hockey games on Thursday, leading to even bigger ones on Saturday … and not just in the NHL.

The NCAA’s Frozen Four is now whittled down to Saturday’s ice hockey national championship game, as Quinnipiac will take on North Dakota.

Quinnipiac did so by beating Boston College 3-2 while North Dakota defeated Denver 4-2.

To whet your appetite, here are some relevant images and GIFs:

It should be a great part of one of the best nights of the hockey year on Saturday.

It’s official: Blackhawks will begin playoffs on the road

Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville yells to his team during the first period of an NHL hockey game against St. Louis Blues Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
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The Chicago Blackhawks don’t know where they’ll begin the 2016 postseason, but they do know that it won’t be in Chicago.

The Dallas Stars and St. Louis both won their games on Thursday, putting them out of reach for the Blackhawks. With that, Chicago is locked into the third spot in the Central Division, so they will begin the first round on the road.

It’s not the first time this team will begin the playoffs in this type of situation, but still …

So, the Blackhawks will face whichever team fails to win the division. At the moment, the Stars are technically in first place thanks to holding the tiebreaker edge, but both Dallas and St. Louis hold 107 standings points.

The Stars close out their season on Saturday against the Nashville Predators while the Blues’ 82nd contest is against the Washington Capitals.

One opponent is far more familiar than the other, yet either way, the Blackhawks face a challenge. Of course, they also know that they’ve jumped over plenty of hurdles before, ones that both the Blues and Stars must clear if they want to take that next step.

With first-ever sweep of Rangers, Isles move to third in Metro (for now)

New York Islanders' Shane Prince, right front, celebrates with teammates as New York Rangers' Dan Boyle (22) skates next to him during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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Here are the things we know, as of Thursday night:

  • The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the top two spots in the Metropolitan Division. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, are one and two in the Atlantic.
  • The Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers are primed for a potentially dramatic three-team race for the two playoff spots that haven’t been decided.
  • For the first time ever, the New York Islanders swept their season series against the New York Rangers.

Now, sweeping the Rangers pushed the Islanders to the third spot in the Metro, but they’re definitely not cemented in that spot.

Instead, the two teams are locked at 99 standings points, only the Isles hold a game in hand over the Rangers. Want to see it visually? Why not:

metroaprl7
via NHL.com

Now, the natural reaction for many is “Would you really want to win this race?” The third seed faces the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins while the top wild card squad takes on the Florida Panthers.

Then again, if it’s more important to finish on a hot streak, the Islanders seem like they’re doing the right thing.

Penguins clinch round of home-ice advantage, keep Holtby at 47 wins

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) reacts after a goal by Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins are finishing the 2015-16 season on an astounding pace, and their reward is at least one round of home-ice advantage.

They clinched as much merely by grabbing a point against the Washington Capitals, yet Sidney Crosby‘s overtime goal grabbed Pittsburgh a 4-3 overtime win.

With that, Braden Holtby stays at 47 wins this season, one short of tying Martin Brodeur’s single-season record.

This could very well ruin Holtby’s chances of eclipsing Brodeur:

Now, the question is, who will the Penguins face in the first round? The New York Islanders completed their first-ever season sweep of the New York Rangers on Thursday, and took the third seed in the Metropolitan Division in the process.

At least for now.

How Bruins, Red Wings and Flyers can make playoffs after thrilling Thursday

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Jakub Voracek (93) tries pulling away from Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey (27) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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There aren’t many certainties, it seems, when it comes to the three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s two unresolved playoff spots.

That said, it seems like we can count on the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers to at least keep things interesting.

As you can see here, the Bruins thwarted the Red Wings’ attempt to clinch yet another playoff berth on Thursday. It seems like everything was coming up Millhouse for the Bruins with the Flyers trailing the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the third period of that game … but it couldn’t be that simple, could it?

Nope, instead, the Flyers managed to force the game into overtime before falling 4-3 in OT to Toronto.

Fittingly, Wayne Simmonds scored his 30th goal at an opportune time for Philly:

So, you might wonder how things look. First, the standings view:

eastwildthreeraceapril7
via NHL.com

OK, now let’s roll out the clinching scenarios for each team.

For the Flyers: They can clinch a spot by winning their two remaining games.

For the Red Wings: Can clinch by beating the New York Rangers in regulation or overtime.

For the Bruins: Can clinch with any kind of win against the Ottawa Senators AND any kind of loss for the Red Wings.

Also:

As you can see, the Red Wings and Flyers can “control their destiny” while Bruins will need a little help.

Of course, there are some other scenarios depending upon wins and losses, especially beyond regulation … but the simpler version is to win.