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Frozen Four 2012 Preview: Talented Gophers Eye College Hockey's Top Prize

The field is set, and this Thursday the four best college hockey teams will face off in the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. Among the quartet of combatants is a pair of first-timers, Ferris State (MI) and Union College (NY), mixed with two of the most successful programs in recent memory in Boston College and Minnesota.

For the Gophers, who are making their 20th Frozen Four appearance in school history, the dubious task of slowing down a red-hot Boston College squad becomes the next step towards a national championship. The Eagles have won 17 consecutive games after starting the year 6-9-1, and are making their 23rd appearance in college hockey's version of the final four.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who has now been to four Frozen Fours with the Gophers, will be looking to bring a title back to Minnesota for the first time since the school won back-to-back championships in '02 and '03. "We want our guys to enjoy this," Lucia told the Tampa Tribune. "It's obviously business, but you better have fun with it, too. We're all going down there to do the same thing, win a national title. We're not trying to take the fun away from our players. But they know that Thursday is the time for business."

The puck drops at 8:00 pm EST for the Gophers and Eagles this Thursday, in what should be a highly-competitive hockey game. The winner will take on either Ferris State or Union College in Saturday's finale, which will be televised on ESPN2.

Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay, Florida

Semifinal game one: Ferris State vs. Union College - Thursday, April 5th, 4:30 pm ET - ESPNU/ESPN3

Semifinal game two: Minnesota vs. Boston College - Thursday, April 5th, 8:00 pm ET - ESPN2/ESPN3

Championship: Game one winner vs. Game two winner - Saturday, April 7th, 7:00 pm ET - ESPN2/ESPN3

For more on the Frozen Four, stick with our 2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament StoryStream. You can also follow Western College Hockey and SB Nation's NHL hub for more NCAA Hockey news.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.