add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );2024 Frozen Four: BC vs. Michigan Preview - BANG.
John Sexton / Gavel Media

2024 Frozen Four: BC vs. Michigan Preview

On Thursday in St. Paul, Boston College will face off against the Michigan Wolverines in the 2024 NCAA Men's Frozen Four. It will be BC's 26th Frozen Four. The Eagles, led by Cutter Gauthier and the Kid Line, will be looking to soar past Michigan to the National Championship game on Saturday.

One thing this matchup will have? Goals. BC averages 4.6 goals per game, while the Kid Line alone averages 4.7 points per game, making them the marquee names in a star-studded lineup. But, what will make the difference against a Michigan offense that can also score, averaging 4.2 goals per game, is the ability of playmakers like defensemen Eamon Powell or occasional goal scorer Jack Malone to get involved and make a difference in crashing the net. The big names for the Eagles have shown up in the postseason, but what would help the team feel more complete and push past the Wolverines is the supporting cast stepping into the limelight just a bit.

The Eagles will, no doubt, be looking to start the game off on the front foot by taking the game to Michigan and sustaining that pressure throughout all three periods. That seems like an obvious key to the game, but BC has struggled to take the game to their opponents all tournament. Michigan Tech and Quinnipiac both disrupted the Eagles' preferred style of play and forced the Eagles to grind instead of fly. If the Hockey East tournament featured an Eagles team in complete control of their destiny, the NCAA tournament has shown that BC is a very good but very human team that a stringent neutral zone defense can frustrate.

Michigan doesn't play the same neutral zone-heavy defense scheme that both Michigan Tech and Quinnipiac used to slow down the Eagles. The Wolverines are also a young team, though they've made the Frozen Four the last three years, giving the team significantly more experience on this particular stage than the Eagles. The Michigan version of the kid line is relying on the production of their sophomores. Gavin Brindley and Rutger McGroarty lead the offense with 53 and 52 points, respectively. Junior Dylan Duke has four goals so far in this tournament and has received the St. Louis Regional MVP award. Those might not be the same eye-popping points numbers that Eagles fans have seen this year, but it would be a mistake to discount the Wolverines' firepower.

While the best way to win is to outscore the opposing team, there's also a chance that this matchup becomes a goaltending battle. The most obvious battle would simply be which goaltender lets in the fewest amount of shots, but there's also the intriguing potential that Jacob Fowler and Jake Barczewski put on a clinic and respectively limit two of the best offenses in the country. Fowler comes out on top in terms of save percentage, with his sitting at .924 compared to Barczewski's .909 save percentage. The two are capable of shutting out opposing teams, but it's unlikely that BC or Michigan will be kept to zero. From a goaltending perspective, it's likely a test of who can survive the initial flurry of shots and keep their team ahead early.

Before the start of this tournament, the easy answer was Michigan was the more volatile of the two teams: capable of winning big and then losing to the very same team they blew out the next night. While the Eagles haven't broken, there have been some shaky moments, including needing a goal late in the third period just to tie Quinnipiac. It's cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason to say the outcome of the matchup will depend on which team comes out on the front foot, weathers the second period storm, and can close out in the third without being baited into silly penalties. The Eagles have had uncharacteristic penalties in the postseason, which is a storyline that could make a difference in this matchup. Michigan, it should be noted, does have more majors and more penalties than the Eagles on the season.

Beyond the star-studded rosters, goal-scoring potential, and looming goaltender battle, the matchup also marks the return of Marshall Warren, the Eagles' captain last year and a four-year BC defenseman. Warren elected to use his COVID fifth year to play at Michigan and has put together quite the year with four goals and 14 assists. BC made the NCAA tournament only once during Warren's four years on the Heights. Eagles fans likely remember Warren for his ballet-like end-to-end skating to generate offensive chances. His familiarity with the BC defense means that he'll likely try those moves at least once, this time against his former team.

On the other side of the bracket, Denver (30-9-3) faces off against Boston University (28-9-2) at 5 pm EST. The Eagles played Denver early on in the season, losing 4-3. Should BU win, the Eagles are 3-1 against the Terriers this season, with the only loss coming in the Beanpot first-round game. DU averages 4.7 goals per game, and BU isn't far behind, averaging 4.2 goals per game. The two teams help to round out the top four offenses in the country, all of which are playing in the Frozen Four. This will be the first time the two play each other this season, and, at the very least, the match will also surely feature goals.

The Eagles (33-5-1) face off against Michigan (23-14-3) in an 8:30 pm matchup on Thursday, April 11th in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fans can watch on ESPN2.

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