March 31, 2012

Fischler Report: NHL teams will keep tabs on Frozen Four

By Stan Fischler

The Frozen Four field is set, with Ferris State, Union, Boston College and Minnesota advancing to Tampa Bay Times Forum for games on April 5 & 7. The two semifinals couldn’t be bigger contrasts. The first, featuring Ferris State and Union, is between two teams making their first Frozen Four appearances, without an NHL Draft pick between them. 

The Rangers will be keeping a close on BC forward Chris Kreider, their prized prospect. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The other half of the bracket has combined for 41 Frozen Four appearances and nine championships. Boston College and Minnesota boast 26 NHL Draft picks on their rosters, including three first-rounders.

The Boston College-Minnesota Frozen Four collision on April 5 at Tampa Bay Times Forum will be closely watched by the Rangers high command, primarily because of Blueshirts prospect and current Boston College forward Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.).

The 2009 first-round draft choice has a rare combination of size and speed and has displayed the ability to finish scoring chances throughout his time at the collegiate level. Those attributes should make for a forward who conceivably could provide scoring for the Rangers in their Cup quest.

Key players to watch

Ferris State’s Taylor Nelson, a senior goaltender from Regina, Sask., allowed just two goals in a pair of 2-1 victories in the Midwest Regional, posting a .959 save percentage. Union’s Jerry Welsh. The 6-3, 200-pound center has goals in five straight games and 27 on the season. A junior, Welsh has several NHL suitors hoping to pull him out of school with a contract offer this season.

Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau is the latest in BC’s line of diminutive superstars. The freshman was a fourth-round pick of the Calgary Flames. At 5-7, 170 pounds, Gaudreau has played his best in big games, earning MVP of the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournament.

Minnesota’s Erik Haula, a Finnish-born center, is a Minnesota Wild Draft pick who leads the Gophers in scoring. He has points in six straight games entering the Frozen Four.

All four teams won their regular-season championships, so while Ferris State and Union may seem like surprises, they have proven themselves over the course of the season.

GOSSIP

After being invited by the Islanders to training camp as an unsigned tryout last fall, Jay Pandolfo (Burlington, Mass.) says he’s having fun and would like to play another season. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot just being a part of a team again and competing,” explains Pandolfo. “That’s the big thing I missed being away.” ...

Carolina defenseman Bryan Allen often has to remind himself that his teammate on the blueline, Justin Faulk, is only 20-years-old. Faulk has logged major minutes for the Hurricanes and his consistent play has impressed coach Kirk Muller. “We talked a month ago about being careful, that it’s a big step, especially for kids coming out of college,” says Muller. “He hasn’t slowed down. Now we’re saying, ‘He’s a guy with young legs and let’s keep using him.’”… 

Quebec City is moving apace in the hopes of gaining its “second” NHL team. (Do you recall the original NHL Nordiques?) A deal has been reached to construct a $400 million, 18,000-seat QC arena complex scheduled to be ready in 2015. “The dream has finally become a reality,” says hustling Quebec City Mayor Regis Lebeaume.

If Phoenix does lose the Coyotes this spring, Quebecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau can try to buy the ‘Yotes and, until the new rink is built, temporarily put a transferred Coyotes team in the current Colisee. That is, of course, if the league approves such a move. Right now nothing public has been said about a Phoenix sale or move.