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NCAA Frozen Four: Canadiens Prospects Set To Play Key Roles

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montreal canadiens jacob fowler frozen four

Two Montreal Canadiens prospects in particular represent the team’s best hopes for a better future at key positions, and they’re both set to play crucial roles for their respective powerhouse teams at the Frozen Four on Thursday.

Between Jacob Fowler’s NCAA-leading 31 wins and Lane Hutson’s impressive 49 points in just 37 games, the goaltending and defensive situations in the prospect pool are as healthy as you could hope at this point in the team’s rebuild.

But if you ask both players they’d probably confirm their seasons would all be for naught if they fail to capture a National Championship.

The penultimate games get underway on Thursday, which means it’s time for a general primer on what to expect, while also catching up on how the Habs prospects and their teams have performed to this point in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament.

Frozen Four Semifinal No.1

Boston University (26-9-2. No.1 Sioux Falls Seeds) vs. DenverΒ  (28-9-3. No.1 Springfield Seeds)

Time And Location: 5:00 pm ET, Xcel Energy Centre, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

How To Watch: United States – ESPN+, Canada – TSN+

The Boston University Terriers rebounded nicely from their loss to the Boston College Eagles at the 2024 Beanpot, earning a pair of 6-3 wins in their first two games of the tournament.

Hutson was an integral part of both wins, as he opened the scoring against RIT and followed it up by scoring the game-winning goal against Minnesota.

At this point in his college career, fans have come to expect a certain level of offence from Hutson, and though the standards are high, he has still managed to produce more points as a defenceman than the vast majority of forwards playing college hockey.

And yet, the most impressive part of his season has not been his offensive prowess, but rather the steps he’s taken to improve his defensive acumen.

With an elite forward such as Macklin Celebrini in the mix, Hutson no longer has to carry the offensive load for the Terriers. That’s not to say he shies away from driving the play. Hutson will complete a dozen controlled exits by the midway point of most games, not to mention at least a half dozen controlled entries, if not more.

And when Celebrini scores on the powerplay it’s almost always Hutson setting him up with a perfect pass.

But with an opportunity to focus a little more on his defensive play, Hutson has improved his positioning, gap control, and consequently, his rush defence.

He’s also had to cover for some of the more audacious plays attempted by his teammates.

Expect both Hutson and Celebrini to be the main lynchpins to the Terriers’ success, though they will be able to count on a strong supporting cast, including senior Luke Tuch, a Canadiens prospect who usually features on the top line.

Lane’s brother, Quinn, is a potent scoring threat whenever the Terriers start buzzing, and though Tom Willander showed somewhat limited offensive upside this season, he improved his all-around play every time he took to the ice.

Goaltender Mathieu Caron had a solid year after transferring from Brown University, though he’s run hot and cold, struggling at times when facing top teams.

And that’s exactly the type of team he will face on Thursday.

The Denver Pioneers may not have as many elite players in their lineup as the Terriers, but they still have a bevy of players that can change the momentum of a game at any moment, including 2024 top prospect Zeev Buium, who matched Hutson’s production as a defenceman this season, albeit it took him three additional games.

Canadiens prospect Sam Harris scored 14 goals in 40 games for the Pioneers this season, none more important than the game-winning powerplay goal that clinched a Frozen Four appearance for his storied team.

Denver netminder Matthew Davis has arguably been the team’s best player. He saved 45 of the 46 shots he faced during the 2-1 overtime win against Massachusetts, following it up with a near-perfect performance in Denver’s 2-1 win over Cornell in the semifinals.

Boston University may be the favourite in this match-up, but it’s never wise to bet against a team that has great depth and red-hot goaltending.

 

Frozen Four Semifinal No.2

Boston College (31-5-1. No.1 Providence Falls Seeds) vs. MichiganΒ  (21-14-3. No.3 Maryland Heights Seeds)

Time And Location: 8:30 pm ET, Xcel Energy Centre, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

How To Watch: United States – ESPN+, Canada – TSN+

The Eagles were pushed to the limit by the reigning champions in their regional final matchup. The 5-4 overtime win against Quinnipiac was a sobering reminder that you can never rest on your laurels despite having one of the strongest lineups ever iced in NCAA history.

That being said, this semifinal has all the makings of a mismatch.

The Wolverines have been a great story, and they can be proud of their recent play given they reached the Frozen Four by beating Michigan State.

But they’re about to face a team filled to the brim with top-tier drafted talent.

Boston College is the top team in the country, with an astounding 14 players on their roster who have already been drafted into the NHL, including a three-headed monster composed of top forward prospects Cutter Gauthier, Will Smith, and Gabe Perreault.

Boston scores early and often, and they don’t slow down once they gain a lead, which usually takes place moments after the puck is dropped for the first period.

Beyond their star-studded lineup, the Eagles can count on Fowler to bail them out of most difficult situations. He plays with the poise of a 10-year veteran, and though he’s still a rookie, Fowler has become an integral part of the Eagles’ success this season.

On the rare occasions that he allowed four or more goals this season,Β  Fowler has shown a fantastic penchant for bouncing back. A quick look at his track record confirms he doesn’t dwell on difficult starts.

He’s also established a reputation as a big game player due to his performance for the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL playoffs last season. Fowler ended the playoffs with a sparkling .952 save percentage in addition to being named the Clark Cup MVP.