Frozen Four begins Thursday

Apr 10, 2008 - 12:03 PM DENVER (Ticker) -- Following a battle between familiar foes, David faces Goliath as the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals take place at the Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Third-ranked North Dakota takes on Boston College for the fourth time in the tournament in as many years in the semifinal opener, while top-ranked Michigan faces Notre Dame in the second contest of the night.

The winners meet for the national championship here on Saturday.

The Fighting Sioux (28-10-4) and Eagles (23-11-8) will be meeting in the semifinals for the third consecutive year. Boston College won both of the previous meetings but went on to lose in the championship game each time.

"The rivalry is something - it's really special," Boston College coach Jerry York said. "We have a respect for their program. When we blow the whistle in October, our goal is to get to the national tournament at the end of the year and try to win a national title.

"We have the full understanding that somewhere along the line, if history repeats itself, we're going to play North Dakota."

The teams also are facing off in the tournament for the seventh time in 10 years.

"The familiarity is nice, but it pretty much ends once the puck drops," North Dakota goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux said. "Once the two teams are playing, those advantages are over. It comes down to which team is ready to play and which team executes better."

Making its sixth Frozen Four tournament appearance in nine years and 18th overall, North Dakota is seeking its first national title since 1997, when it defeated Boston University.

The Fighting Sioux are led offensively by St. Louis Blues prospect T.J. Oshie, who has recorded 18 goals and 25 assists in 40 games this season. Ryan Duncan and Andrew Kozek each have netted 17 tallies for North Dakota.

Boston College defeated North Dakota in the 2001 championship game for its second national title in 20 tournament appearances. The Eagles lost to the Fighting Sioux in the title game the previous year.

Leading the way for Boston College is Hobey Baker Award finalist Nathan Gerbe, who has registered 30 goals and 30 assists in 41 games. Joe Whitney is second in points with 50, while Ben Smith trails Gerbe with 23 tallies.

With a record nine national championships already under its belt, Michigan is in search of its first since 1998, when it defeated Boston College.

The Wolverines (33-5-4), who are making their 23rd Frozen Four appearance, are the second-youngest club in the 16-team tournament field with 11 freshmen on their roster.

Legendary coach Red Berenson believes his team should be commended for its success considering that fact.

"This team has surprised all of us right from day one," he said. "The bottom line was, our goals for never changed much but our goals against changed by at least a goal a game. That starts in goal and goes right through the team. With such a young team, it's quite an accomplishment."

Michigan boasts Hobey Baker finalist Kevin Porter, a senior who has notched 33 goals and 29 assists in 42 games. Chad Kolarik is the team's second-leading scorer with 28 tallies and 54 points in 38 contests.

The Wolverines won both regular-season meetings with the Fighting Irish, with Louie Caporusso and Matt Rust scoring two goals apiece in the series.

However, they should not take their opponents lightly, as the Fighting Irish (26-15-4) breezed past top-seeded New Hampshire in the West regional semifinals before topping defending champion Michigan State en route to the first Frozen Four semifinal appearance in their 40-year history.

"People might talk about our second half and our first half, but what really matters is what have you done lately," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "The fact that we're here - it's important to emphasize that this is the first time in Notre Dame history that the team's in the Frozen Four, and you don't do that by accident. We played well at the right time, and it's a great opportunity for us."

Erik Condra leads Notre Dame in scoring with 38 points - 15 goals - in 41 games, while Jordan Pearce has been an ironman in goal, going 8-6-3 with a 1.86 goals-against average in starting each of the team's last 17 contests.

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