Back to Class: Frozen Four field is set with two newcomers and two old standards

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The NCAA tournament weekend is a frenetic one when it comes to college hockey. With just 16 teams in the field, things get whittled down quickly and after just a few days of games, here we are down to four teams setting up for a Frozen Four weekend in Tampa, Florida that’s teeming over with story lines.

In one semifinal you’ve got a pair of legendary hockey schools. Top seeded Boston College will square off against the University of Minnesota after each team took down game opponents last night. BC gets there by knocking off the defending champs from Minnesota Duluth while the Gophers earned their spot avenging their loss in the WCHA semifinals to North Dakota by taking out the Fighting Sioux handily.

Between the two sides, there’s a ton of future NHL talent. Boston College comes in with nine pro prospects while Minnesota has a whopping 18 NHL draftees on their roster. Chief among them for BC is Rangers prospect Chris Kreider but it’s been Calgary prospect Johnny Gaudreau that’s made a name of himself of late in both the Hockey East tournament and in the NCAAs. For Minnesota, their top three scorers are destined for the NHL with Wild prospect Erik Haula and Panthers studs Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad.

source: APMeanwhile, the other semifinal features two schools that have never been in the Frozen Four. Union College and Ferris State come in with similar looks to their roster in that neither team has any NHL draftees; a stark contrast from what we’ll see in the other game. That doesn’t mean they’re lacking in stars of their own.

Union goalie and Hobey Baker Award finalist Troy Grosenick (pictured) and forward Jeremy Welsh have earned plenty of attention thanks to their big play this weekend and Ferris forward Jordie Johnston along with goalie Taylor Nelson have been standouts for the Bulldogs. The teams play similar brands of hockey in that you can’t give them power plays and if you get behind you’ll have a hell of a time coming back.

With the way the Frozen Four is set up, it’s the first time since 2003 that a representative from each major conference (Hockey East, CCHA, ECAC, and WCHA) was represented. This Frozen Four also features four teams that were the regular season champions of their conference as well as two schools that doubled up and won the conference tournament as well (Union and BC).

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.