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Denver, Boston College — two teams that have it all — set for Frozen Four title game

In one corner, you have the Denver Pioneers, a traditional hockey power that began hanging NCAA championship banners in the 1950s and is seeking a nice, round number on Saturday night.

"We're staring '10′ in the mirror Saturday," Pioneers coach David Carle said. "Really excited for that opportunity and can't wait for that moment."

In the other corner, you have the Boston College Eagles, the beasts of the East who've occupied the top spot in the national polls for most of the season and boast a 33-5-1 record built on an active 15-game winning streak.

"Anytime someone commits to Boston College, it's to win championships," Eagles star forward Cutter Gauthier said, "and we have an opportunity for that on Saturday."

When Boston College and Denver face off in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game at Xcel Energy Center, they'll do so with confident rosters and accomplished coaches.

Carle, only 34 but in his sixth season as Denver's coach, took the Pioneers to the Frozen Four in his debut season and won the national title in 2022. Boston College's Greg Brown, 56, was legendary coach Jerry York's top lieutenant when the Eagles won NCAA titles in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Brown's in his second year as head coach.

Which team will have the edge Saturday? That depends on how one values tight victories vs. comfortable wins. Denver (31-9-3) advanced to the final by beating Massachusetts, Cornell and Boston University by 2-1 scores, the first in double overtime and the third in a single extra session. Boston College, meanwhile, routed Michigan Tech 6-1, edged defending champion Quinnipiac 5-4 in overtime and blanked Michigan 4-0 in the semifinals.

Boston College is averaging 5.3 goals per game in its 15-game winning streak, so it's no surprise the Eagles have the nation's leading goal-scorer in Gauthier, with 38, and four of the top five point-producers in Will Smith (25-46-71), Gauthier (38-27-65), Gabe Perreault (19-41-60) and Ryan Leonard (31-29-60).

Smith centers Perreault and Leonard on an all-freshman line of former U.S. National Team Development Program stars and 2023 first-round draft picks.

"Our 18 year is when it really started to gel," Smith said of the USNTDP experience. "We were solidified as a line. From there, we kind of ran with it. We haven't really been separated since.''

Brown considered splitting up the trio early in the season to balance the talent on his lines, but the results suggested otherwise.

"We didn't put them together the first two weeks of practice in September," Brown said. "We tried a whole different kind of combinations. One day, we did throw them together, and I was like, 'Whoa!' "

Both teams are riding a hot goalie in the playoffs. Pioneers junior Matt Davis has given up 10 goals in seven postseason games, including only one in each of his past four starts. Eagles freshman Jacob Fowler beat Michigan 4-0 on Thursday, making 32 saves and becoming the only goalie to shut out the Wolverines this season.

"We can win any type of game," Smith said. "We take pride in that. If we play a 1-0 game or high-scoring game, we'll be there."

Denver believes it can win, too, and it has recent success against the Eagles as proof. On Oct. 21 in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the Pioneers edged Boston College 4-3. Smith scored a pair of goals, the last tying the score 3-3 in the third period before Carter King's power-play goal with 2:02 to play secured the win for Denver.

"That was a long time ago," Brown said. "We've improved a lot, but that was a really fun hockey game."

Carle concurred.

"That game back in October was probably the most exciting game that we've been a part of; just back and forth," he said. "It was good defense, good offense. … It was just great energy and emotion out of both teams.

"So, I would expect very similar here on Saturday night, with obviously much more on the line," Carle added. "Greg and I after the game, we both said, 'Hope to see you in St. Paul.'"