Update: Sadly the wrong Minnesota team won, and Matt Knies and Mike Koster (and Ben Meyers) are done for the season. What happens next? We’ll find out.
Maple Leafs prospect Matt Knies is playing tonight in the Frozen Four semi-final with the University of Minnesota. Don’t confuse them with Minnesota State because that’s their opponents.
The Frozen Four is the annual NCAA hockey championship played each spring. The NCAA is divided into various conferences, and teams play most of their games within their conference. Those conferences have playoffs and declare a champion. Once all those results are in, those top teams are padded out with teams chosen by a committee to play in the regionals. The four regionals whittle the teams down to four finalists for the big show.
The Frozen Four is a big show. It’s held in a single location — this year in Boston — and there’s a great deal of hype, marching band shenanigans and very few hockey games. The Frozen Four is single elimination with two semifinal games today and the final on Saturday. It’s a party, but it’s an anxious one.
In March, Ohio State won its first championship in the Women’s Frozen Four using this same format. The final was a 3-2 nail-biter that wasn’t decided until deep in the third period.
The first men’s semifinal is at 5 pm and features Denver vs Michigan. It’s going to get a lot of buzz because of players like Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, Brendan Brisson, Owen Power and Luke Hughes. And that’s just Michigan.
The second men’s semifinal, the Minnesota Bowl, is at 8:30 pm, the same time the Leafs take on the Stars.
Who to Watch
On the good Minnesota team, along with Knies, you can also see Mike Koster, drafted by the Leafs. There’s a host of players drafted by other teams as well, and also the undrafted Ben Meyers.
Meyers, the captain, is 23, plays as a centre/winger, and scores at a very good rate and always has. He’s not a star, but you’ll be shocked to hear he’s 5’11” and under 200 lbs. He was likely even smaller at age 18. He’s also got a November birthdate, and studies show repeatedly that people born in the last quarter of the year are drafted lower than they should be and there are fewer of them drafted every year than people born in the first quarter. As the youngest, smallest player on a lot of his teams as a young teenager, Meyers was passed over by the scouts. Brigstew really, really wants the Leafs to sign him, Kyle, just so you know. There’s no reason not to.
Matt Knies, if you’ve forgotten, was drafted last year in the second round. He is also a late birthday, so he will turn 20 this fall just as everyone’s new season starts.
He is 6’3”, just about 200 lbs and plays a very aggressive forechecking game as a winger or a centre. He is relentless in pursuit of the puck in a way that will make every coach swoon. He’s also decently agile, very strong and just plays with a kind of intensity that makes me think of Natalie Spooner or Sarah Nurse. He’s not up to their skill level as scorers, but he’s got all the other things — drive, ambition, work ethic, smarts. He played along with Nick Abruzzese in the Olympics and was clearly the better player of the two in the more obvious ways of making an impact. Abruzzese has a subtler game.
Mike Koster is 20, and celebrates a birthday next week. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2019. He’s a defenceman, is actually a lot smaller than Timothy Liljegren, and has a very big hill to climb when he turns pro. Just in his second year in the NCAA, he’s got some years of school yet before decision time for him.
Speaking of decision time, everyone is all will he or won’t he, should he or shouldn’t he with Matt Knies and his looming decision to carry on in school or turn pro. Here’s my take: he should do what’s right for him. In the meantime, we can watch him try to beat the evil Minnesota team tonight. It pains me to report, he does not wear #67 for Minnesota, he’s #89 there.
How to Watch?
TSN holds the rights to the Frozen Four in Canada, and they chose to not broadcast it on any channel. The games are both available online only through their bonus streaming coverage. If you have TSN via cable or satellite, you can make an online account and watch for free. If you do not, you can pay for a single day’s online access for $7.99. If you want to watch other things over the next month, a single month is $19.99.
In the United States, the games air on ESPN2 and are streamed on ESPN.com.
If the right Minnesota team prevails, the final is at 8pm on Saturday.