Chicago Blackhawks prospects Blake Hillman and Dennis Gilbert will face off in Frozen Four on Thursday at United Center.
Hillman and top-seeded Denver meet Gilbert and Notre Dame in the second of two semifinal games Thursday. No. 1 seed Minnesota-Duluth will take on No. 1 seed Harvard in the first semifinal.
It’s the first time the United Center will host the Frozen Four.
Denver, the top overall seed, beat Michigan Tech and Penn State to earn its 16th Frozen Four appearance in program history. The Pioneers’ last win at the Frozen Four was its 2005 national championship victory over NCHC conference rival North Dakota. Denver fell to North Dakota in last year’s national semifinal.
Hillman, a 2016 sixth-rounder, scored a goal and six assists in 39 regular-season games during his sophomore season. He was scoreless in the Pioneers’ two regional games.
"I feel like I've taken a pretty big step (this season)," he told Blackhawks.com. "They've done a lot to help me, they've shown me video of what I can do, they're always there with a helping hand, and they keep a close eye on me. I just take what they say and try to implement it.
"Before I step on the ice, I'll look around and take it all in, but it's a business trip for us, and after what happened last year we're hungry for more and we want to win this year.”
Notre Dame, however, doesn’t have a storied history. It’s Notre Dame’s third Frozen Four appearance and first since 2011. The Fighting Irish’s lone semifinal win was a 5-4 victory over rival Michigan in 2008 before falling to Boston College in the national championship game.
Gilbert, a 2015 third-rounder, had zero goals and 22 assists in 37 regular-season games. He did not record a point in Notre Dame’s regional round wins.
"It's a great building, a lot of history happens here, a lot of winning happens here," Gilbert said. "It's a very exciting time to be in the Frozen Four, obviously, but having it be here close to Notre Dame and where I played for a year [with the USHL's Chicago Steel] is extra special for me."
It’s also the first Frozen Four appearance since 2011 for Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs won its only national championship that year with a 3-2 overtime win over Michigan in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Harvard makes its first appearance in a national semifinal since 1994. The Crimson fell 3-2 in overtime to eventual champion Lake Superior State that year. Like their opponent, Harvard’s last win at the Frozen Four was its lone national title - a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota in 1989.
Thursday, April 6 (Frozen Four)
West/East Semifinal: No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth vs. No. 1 Harvard
When/How to watch: 5 p.m., ESPN2
Northeast/Midwest Semifinal: No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
When/How to watch: 8:30 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, April 8 (Championship)
NCAA Tournament final: Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner
When/How to watch: 7 p.m., ESPN