PHILADELPHIA -- Union College and Minnesota will play in the final game of the college hockey season to decide the national champion in the championship game of the 2014 Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Golden Gophers of Minnesota are looking to capture their sixth national title in program history on Saturday (7:30 ET, ESPN). The Dutchmen are making their first appearance in the national championship game in their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The two teams are eerily similar in many statistical categories, but one major advantage that Union will have is the ability of its defense to push the puck up ice and start the transition. Shayne Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie are two of the best blue liners in the nation, especially at moving the puck and jumping into the offense.
Minnesota has the slight advantage in the goaltending department with Hobey Baker Award finalist Adam Wilcox. Union junior Colin Stevens has been solid all season, but he isn't as capable of stealing a game as Wilcox.
What Rick Bennett lacks in experience compared to his counterpart on the Gopher bench, Don Lucia, he makes up for in proven postseason track record during a shorter period. Bennett, in his third season behind the bench in Schenectady, is 18-2 in the postseason. He has won three consecutive ECAC Tournament championships and advanced to two Frozen Fours, including this year.
Don Lucia led Minnesota to back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003. The Gophers have consistently had teams loaded on paper since then, but have fallen short, often times because of a lack of depth or key players turning pro early.
The last time a Division III school won the national championship in Division I hockey was 1957 when Colorado College edged Michigan. The Gophers women's program advanced to the national title game in women's hockey this season, but fell short against Clarkson.