The men's hockey Frozen Four field is set, and the matchups should provide for an intriguing and memorable weekend on the ice. In the first national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth takes on Harvard at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday at the United Center in Chicago, followed by Denver against Notre Dame at 9:30. Both games will air on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN App. The winners will play for the national title Saturday night (8 ET on ESPN and the WatchESPN App).
These four programs are no strangers to the environment on the game's biggest stage. Denver, a seven-time NCAA champion, is making its 16th Frozen Four appearance and second in a row. Harvard is here for the 13th time, Minnesota-Duluth the fifth time and Notre Dame the third occasion. None of the current players involved, however, have won a national championship. Minnesota-Duluth was the last program among the four to take the crown back in 2011.
To get you ready for the action, let's take a look at each team's path to the Frozen Four.
Head coach: Scott Sandelin (17th season)
NCAA tournament seed: No. 2 overall
How they got here: The Bulldogs have won seven consecutive contests, the last three of which have been decided by one goal. Right wing Joey Anderson's power-play goal with 50.3 seconds left in the third period lifted Minnesota-Duluth to a 4-3 victory over North Dakota in the NCHC championship game to give the Bulldogs the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Minnesota-Duluth squeezed past Ohio State 3-2 in the NCAA West Regional semifinals on senior defenseman Willie Raskob's sudden-death overtime goal, 11:58 into the extra session. In the regional championship, Minnesota-Duluth again used overtime magic, when sophomore center Adam Johnson scored on a power play 1:57 into the extra session for a 3-2 victory over Boston University. It marked the first time the program has reached the Frozen Four since the Bulldogs won the title in 2011.
Player to keep an eye on: Forward Alex Iafallo, a senior from Eden, New York, leads the team with 19 goals and 30 assists. His 49 total points rank tied for 13th in the country. Iafallo has scored or assisted on a goal in Minnesota-Duluth's last 13 games, beginning Feb. 4 against Nebraska-Omaha.
Did you know? Minnesota-Duluth is unbeaten in its last 13 games that have gone beyond regulation, going 6-0-7 since losing 2-1 to North Dakota on Feb. 19, 2016, in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Head coach: Ted Donato (13th season)
NCAA tournament seed: No. 3 overall
How they got here: Harvard has been on a roll, having won 16 consecutive games to set a new program record. The previous mark of 15 straight victories was established in 1988-89, when the Crimson won their only national title. This time around, Harvard defeated Cornell 4-1 in the ECAC tournament final, then knocked off Providence 3-0 in the East Regional semifinal and Air Force 3-2 in the regional final to clinch the program's first Frozen Four berth since 1994. Crimson goaltender Merrick Madsen, who saved a career-high 41 shots against Providence, earned the East Regional's Most Outstanding Player award.
Player to keep an eye on: Forwards Alexander Kerfoot and Tyler Moy pace the Crimson with 44 points apiece. But forwards Sean Malone (42 points) and Ryan Donato (40 points) provide Harvard with the type of scoring balance few teams in the country possess.
Did you know? Harvard has the best scoring offense in the country at 4.14 goals per game. Only one other team in the nation averaged more than four goals per game this season (Penn State).
Head coach: Jim Montgomery (fourth season)
NCAA tournament seed: No. 1 overall
How they got here: Denver swept Colorado College in a best-of-3 opening round NCHC tournament series before losing 1-0 to North Dakota in the NCHC semifinals. The loss, Denver's first in two months, knocked the Pioneers into the third-place game, but Denver still nabbed the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Denver handled Michigan Tech 5-2 and Penn State 6-3 to capture the Midwest Regional title and earn a spot in the Frozen Four. Troy Terry tallied a hat trick for the Pioneers in the regional final against the Nittany Lions and was named the region's most valuable player.
Player to keep an eye on: Henrik Borgstrom has amassed 21 goals and 21 assists to lead Denver with 42 points, and Terry isn't far behind with 41 total points.
Did you know? No NCAA team has allowed fewer goals per game this season than Denver's 1.83. Pioneers goaltender Tanner Jaillet ranks ninth nationally in save percentage (.928), which is tops among qualifying goaltenders at the Frozen Four.
Head coach: Jeff Jackson (12th season)
NCAA tournament seed: No. 4 seed in Northeast Regional
How they got here: Notre Dame cruised past Providence by a total goal margin of 10-2 in the Hockey East playoffs before losing 5-1 to UMass Lowell in the semifinals. The Irish earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and upset top-seeded Minnesota 3-2 in a Northeast Regional semifinal. Junior forward Anders Bjork scored twice for Notre Dame, which included the game-winner at the 8:42 mark of the third period. Notre Dame then exacted revenge on UMass Lowell in the regional final, winning 3-2 in overtime to reach the Frozen Four for the first time in six years. Irish sophomore Andrew Oglevie scored the game winner at 2:44 of the extra session.
Player to keep an eye on: Anders Bjork's 52 points are the most among players at the Frozen Four. He has 21 goals and 31 assists. Bjork, who recorded a career-high three assists in the regional final, has six total points in three career NCAA tournament games.
Did you know? Notre Dame is the only team at the Frozen Four that didn't earn a top seed in the NCAA tournament regional. The Fighting Irish, seeded fourth, also are the host school at the United Center in Chicago.