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2016 Frozen Four TV Ratings: North Dakota's win brings viewers; move to ESPN2 cuts audience

While North Dakota's win over Quinnipiac on ESPN2 had nearly 200K more viewers compared to 2012, the move away from ESPN means 2016 was the second-least watched Frozen Four since 2009.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After some disappointing TV numbers in the opening weekend of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the men's hockey Frozen Four in Tampa did garner better viewership this past weekend.

One semifinal slot drew more. One semifinal slot drew less. The championship depends on how you want to look at it.

North Dakota's 5-1 victory over Quinnipiac in the championship game Saturday night was the most watched program on ESPN2 over the weekend, drawing an average of 541,000 viewers. The final number was down from the 635,000 a year ago that watched Jon Gillies and Providence play Jack Eichel and Boston University. However, that game was broadcast on ESPN.

A late change with Golden State-Memphis being moved to ESPN meant the national championship was placed on ESPN2 for only the second time in a decade.

Those two games on ESPN2 are two of the lowest-seen finals. That said, 2016 does top 3 of the past 14 finals on ESPN, including the last time Quinnipiac played for a championship (2013). Although there is little to compare with just two games, the Fighting Hawks' victory handily outdrew the 2012 national championship game on ESPN2. Boston College's victory over Ferris State drew nearly 200K less despite 2012 being a much closer game during the third period.

At the very least it's clear that UND's run to its eighth men's hockey national championship continued to grow with each ensuing game following a first-round win over Northeastern that drew 13% less than the same slot a season ago.

The semifinals were also a mixed bag of good and bad news.

North Dakota's last minute go-ahead goal by Nick Schmaltz to defeat Denver in drew an average of 361,000 viewers Thursday. That total was up from the past two seasons, both of whom featured the Fighting Hawks in the late slot. BU-UND drew 290K viewers in 2015. 2014's last second shorthanded victory by Minnesota over North Dakota drew 335K.

Quinnipiac's 3-2 win over Boston College beginning at 5 pm ET drew an average of 138,000 on ESPN2. The total is lower than both of the last two years and was technically outdrew by the update show between games (142K). Last year's Providence-Nebraska Omaha semifinal in the slot averaged 191,000.

All 2016 numbers come from Sports TV Ratings

Frozen Four Title Game ratings since 2009

2016: 541,000 (North Dakota vs. Quinnipiac)**

2015: 635,000 (Providence vs. Boston University)

2014: 717,000 (Union vs Minnesota)

2013: 402,000 (Yale vs. Quinnipiac)

2012: 353,000 (Boston College vs. Ferris State)**

2011: 624,000 (Minnesota Duluth vs. Michigan)

2010: 526,000 (Boston College vs. Wisconsin)

2009: 656,000 (Boston University vs. Miami)

**Game aired on ESPN2

Note: This article has been updated from its original version to correct the number of championship games the 2016 Frozen Four final has topped since 2001. (5:45 pm CT April 12)


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --