Road to NCAA Frozen Four begins Friday, Panthers well-represented

Eight, count 'em, eight Florida prospects will be involved in the battle for college hockey's ultimate prize.

The sixteen-team NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament gets underway starting today, with games on Saturday and Sunday also. The teams are split into four different regions, with this year's Frozen Four to be played at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. The championship game will take place on April 12th. Among the participants in this year's tourney will be a whopping eight Florida Panthers prospects.

The forwards representing the Panthers will be North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi (14G-22A), Minnesota's Kyle Rau (12G-22A), and Vermont's Connor Brickley (5G-10A).

Boston College's dynamic duo of Mike Matheson (3G-14A) and Ian McCoshen (4G-8A), and Wisconsin's Eddie Wittchow (1G-6A) are the Cats' blue line prospects playing in tourney.

Florida draftees Sam Brittain (2.11 GAA) and Evan Cowley (1.95 GAA ) are the University of Denver's one-two punch in goal, with Brittain being the unquestioned, workhorse starter.

Rau's Golden Gophers are the 3/1 betting favorites to capture the crown, which was won last year by Yale, who didn't make this year's tournament.

The ESPN family of networks has got you for coverage, with ESPN2 and ESPNU carrying the bulk of the games. The title tilt will be on ESPN proper at 7:30 p.m. on April 12th.

First Round games:

East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)

Union (1) 28-6-4 vs. Vermont (4) 20-14-3 ESPNU 2:00 p.m. Friday

Quinnipiac (2) vs. Providence (3) ESPNU 5:30 p.m. Friday

Winners will meet in the second round game at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday on ESPNU

Northeast Regional (Worcester, MA)

Boston College (1) 26-7-4 vs. Denver (4) 20-15-6 ESPNU 4:00 p.m. Saturday

UMass Lowell (2) 25-10-4 vs. Minnesota State (3) 26-13-1 ESPN3 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Winners will meet in the second round game at 3:00 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, OH)

Wisconsin (1) 24-10-2 vs. North Dakota (4) 23-13-3 ESPNU 8:00 p.m. Friday

Ferris State (2) 28-10-3 vs. Colgate (3) 20-13-5 ESPN2 4:30 p.m. Friday

Winners will meet in the second round game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU

West Regional (St. Paul, MN)

Minnesota (1) 25-6-6 vs. Robert Morris (4) 19-17-5 ESPN2 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Notre Dame (2) 23-14-2 vs. Saint Cloud State (3) 21-10-5 ESPNU 9:00 p.m. Saturday

Winners will meet in the second round game at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

Which prospect(s) has the best chance of winning the NCAA title?

Kyle Rau (Minnesota)13
Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota)7
Connor Brickley (Vermont)0
Mike Matheson / Ian McCoshen (Boston College)15
Eddie Wittchow (Wisconsin)0
Sam Brittain / Evan Cowley (Denver)1