A Blackhawks Fans' Guide to the Road to the Frozen Four

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A Blackhawks Fans’ Guide to the Road to the Frozen Four

Chicago Blackhawks

On Sunday, the NCAA announced the bracket for the men’s ice hockey championship. The Road to the Frozen Four, which will be played in Tampa this year, is filled with Blackhawks draft choices. The first round games begin on Thursday afternoon. And each of the four regions have a reason for Blackhawks fans to watch.

Chicago will have seven players on six rosters in the 16-team field that hopes to raise the trophy in Tampa. Here’s when (and how) to watch the Blackhawks’ prospects in the field.

Frank Nazar, C — No. 3 Michigan

  • vs. Colgate — Friday — 7:30 PM CT — ESPNU

Michigan won the Big Ten championship, beating the overall No. 1 seed Minnesota in their barn this weekend. They grabbed the No. 3 overall seed and the top spot in the Allentown Region, where they’ll face Colgate in their first round game. There’s a chance they have to run it back with Big Ten rival Penn State to advance to Tampa. The Blackhawks drafted Nazar 13th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft with one of the two picks acquired in the trade that sent Kirby Dach to Montreal.

An injury delayed the start of Nazar’s freshman season at Michigan, but his speed has been incredible since he joined the Wolverines’ lineup. He scored one goal with four assists in 10 games for Michigan this season.

Aidan Thompson, C — No. 4 Denver

  • vs. Cornell — Thursday — 4:30 PM CT — ESPN News

Denver claimed the No. 4 overall seed despite losing to St. Cloud State in the NCHC tournament. They’re the top seed in the Manchester Region, and might have to face two other Blackhawks prospects to board a flight to Tampa. Chicago drafted Thompson, 21, in the third round (No. 90) in the 2022 NHL Draft with a pick they received from Calgary in the Nikita Zadorov trade.

An injury suffered while trying to make the US team for the August edition of the World Juniors delayed Thompson’s freshman season at Denver, but he’s emerged as their No. 2 center this season. He has 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games for the Pioneers.

Drew Commesso, G — Boston U.
Ryan Greene, C — Boston U.

  • vs. Western Michigan — Thursday — 1:00 PM CT — ESPN2

The Terriers won the Hockey East championship this weekend in dramatic fashion, and Commesso was a big reason why. They’ll have a tough test in Western Michigan in their first round game with a chance to face Thompson and DU for a berth in the Frozen Four. The Blackhawks drafted Greene in the second round (No. 57) in the 2022 NHL Draft with the pick they received from Minnesota in the Marc-André Fleury trade. Chicago selected Commesso in the second round (No. 46) in the 2020 NHL Draft with a pick they received from Vegas.

Commesso was 22-7-0 with a .912 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average this season, but was outstanding down the stretch and in the Hockey East tournament. Greene had 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) in 35 games as a true freshman; he doesn’t turn 20 until Oct. 21.

Dominic Basse, G — St. Cloud State

  • vs. Minnesota State — Thursday — 4 PM CT — ESPN+

St. Cloud State won the NCHC championship with a true two-goalie tandem playing effectively the entire season. Basse has posted an 11-5-2 record with three shutouts, a .911 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average while splitting games with Jaxon Castor (undrafted). The Blackhawks drafted Basse in the sixth round (No. 167) in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Jake Wise, C — Ohio State

  • vs. Harvard — Friday — 1:00 PM CT — ESPNU

The Buckeyes are one of four Big Ten teams to make the 16-team field, an impressive accomplishment for the conference. Wise turns 24 on the final day of February and is a fifth-year senior who spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career dealing with injuries at Boston University. The Blackhawks drafted Wise in the third round (No. 69) in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Wise had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 38 games for Ohio State this season and was one of the best faceoff guys in the country (53.1 percent).

Slava Demin, D — Merrimack

  • vs. No. 2 Quinnipiac — Friday — 4:30 PM CT — ESPN News

Merrimack gets the No. 2 overall seed, Quinnipiac, in the Bridgeport Region. Demin turns 23 on April 4 and is playing in his third college program in four years; he spent three seasons at Denver before playing for UMass-Amhert last season. Ironically, the Blackhawks acquired the rights to Demin from Vegas in the same trade (with Malcolm Subban for Martins Dzierkals) that also got Chicago the second-round pick they used to draft Commesso.

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Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab