As the Florida Panthers fall further out of the playoff picture, the Panthers of the future are getting set to begin their quest for a championship of their own. On Sunday night, the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee announced the 16 teams that would be competing in this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship.
The championship playoff format involves four predetermined regional sites with four teams assigned to each site. The winner of each region will advance to the “Frozen Four” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To add even more drama to the already exciting event, the entire championship uses a single-elimination format, so every game will be ripe with suspense.
Of the 16 teams participating in this year’s tournament, 5 currently have at least one Florida Panther prospect on their roster. Overall, the Panthers have 7 prospects competing in this year’s tournament – an amazing number considering the Panthers’ already have an NHL-leading 12 total prospects playing at the NCAA level.
The Florida Panthers prospects competing in this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship are as follows:
- Edward Wittchow – University of Wisconsin (Freshman)
- Michael Matheson – Boston College (Freshman)
- Sam Brittain – University of Denver (Junior)
- Kyle Rau – Minnesota University (Sophomore)
- Rocco Grimaldi – University of North Dakota (Freshman)
- Nick Bjugstad – Minnesota University (Junior)
- Corban Knight – University of North Dakota (Senior)
Of the 7 Panthers’ prospects that are participating, the most intriguing name of the group has to be Minnesota University junior, Nick Bjugstad. After failing to win the National Championship last season, Bjugstad snubbed the NHL in favor of trying to bring a title to the University of Minnesota one last time.
After deciding to return to Minnesota for the 2012-2013 season, Bjugstad discussed his decision with Gopher Sports:
“This is the right spot for me,” said Bjugstad. “I am going to be close to finishing my education and hopefully can accomplish the goal that I have had ever since I was little, which is winning a national championship. We are going to have a good team this year and hopefully get another chance at the national championship and make a run there. I feel I can develop here and become more of a leader on the team as well. Hopefully, I will have a good season.”
Although Nick Bjugstad is likely the only participating prospect with a chance to play in the NHL next season, I encourage Panthers’ fans to tune in and watch the pool of Cat’s prospects as they attempt to capture championship glory. The tournament begins March 29th with Yale taking on Minnesota at 2:00 p.m. For some added fun, feel free to fill out your own official NCAA Division 1 Men’s Ice Hockey Championship bracket here.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts on the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Ice Hocke Championship below. After reviewing the bracket, I think we could be headed for a Panther riddled final with Mike Matheson’s Boston College Eagles taking on Nick Bjugstad’s Minnesota Gophers.
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