There will be a significant USHL flavor at next weekend's NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota, but the Indiana (and Indianapolis) Ice will be significantly represented on the North Dakota roster.
Two former Icemen -- Ben Blood and Mike Cichy -- are part of the Fighting Sioux roster. Blood, a junior who has been drafted by the Ottawa Senators, is a team-best +34 and has 12 points in 42 games going into the national semifinals. A sophomore, Cichy has seven points in 26 games. He was a major part of the Ice's 2009 Clark Cup championship run before heading to Grand Forks.
The Fighting Sioux's coach is Dave Hakstol, who played two seasons for the IHL's Indianapolis Ice from 1992-94. Hakstol is the third-winningest coach in UND history -- trailing only former USHL commissioner Gino Gasparini and former Fargo head coach Dean Blais -- and is a multi-time finalist for national coach of the year, which he is again this year. Hakstol has guided the Sioux to five Frozen Fours in seven years.
Of course, an Indiana school is in the mix, as Notre Dame is making its first Frozen Four appearance in three years. The Fighting Irish roster includes a Hoosier, Jared Beers, who hails from nearby Mishawaka. He is one of 18 USHL alums on the roster. Ice fans will see a lot of familiar faces this weekend on all four teams. Minnesota-Duluth had 14 USHL alumni on its roster, North Dakota and Michigan have 13 each.
Also of note, former Ice goaltender B.J. O'Brien helped lead St. Norbert to the Division III national championship, beating Adrian 4-3 in the national title game. O'Brien was named Most Outstanding Player of the Division III national tournament for the second straight year.
Notre Dame will face Minnesota-Duluth at 5 p.m. Friday at the Xcel Energy Center, with Michigan to meet North Dakota at 8 p.m. The national championship game is Sunday night, April 9, at 7 p.m.