In Massachusetts, college hockey has become a part of the culture of the state during the winter months. Ten Division I men’s teams call the state home and have combined for 11 national championships. The state is home to five women’s Division I teams that have combined for 24 NCAA tournament appearances since its inception in 2001. The state is home to the headquarters of Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey, and College Hockey America. As host of the annual Beanpot tournament, Hockey East men’s and women’s championships as well as past various conference championships, Massachusetts has a storied history of big-time college hockey.
There is no bigger buzz in college hockey than when the NCAA tournament rolls around and it’s time to determine the national championship. Once again, Massachusetts has been there to host the games year-in and year-out for almost 60 years. In the men’s game, the state has hosted eight Frozen Four’s with plans for an ninth in 2022. On 15 occasions the state has hosted a regional tournament, with another one scheduled for 2018. Massachusetts has hosted 114 men’s tournament games, the most of any state. For the women, Boston has hosted the Frozen Four once before and will host again in 2020.
TD Garden (Boston)
Hosted: Men’s Frozen Four in 1998, 2004, 2015, will host in 2022
Just three years after opening its doors, the Fleetcenter (now the TD Garden), first hosted the Frozen Four in 1998, which turned out to be a classic. The tournament saw lots of local flavor with Boston College (BC) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH), who was making its first appearance. UNH dropped their first game to Michigan, while BC knocked off Ohio State, to set up one of the better championship matches that the sport has ever seen. The game went to overtime tied 2-2, and the BC heavy crowd was left heartbroken when Josh Langfeld scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the young Wolverines their NCAA-leading ninth championship. The attendance in 1998 was phenomenal, and at the time set the record for highest average attendance for the semifinals and championship games, a record that stood for four years.
Six years later would Boston host another Frozen Four, when Boston College again appeared in their home city. The Eagles would get knocked out in the semifinals by a fellow New England school in Maine, who advanced to the championship to face Denver after the Pioneers beat Minnesota-Duluth. Gabe Gauthier scored the only goal of the championship game for Denver, leading them to their sixth national championship and again preventing a local team from taking the title while in Boston. Attendance for the weekend of games was once again phenomenal, as each game averaged over 18,000 fans to watch the best that college hockey had to offer.
After an 11-year hiatus, the Frozen Four returned to Boston in 2015 in one of the most memorable events to date. Boston University (BU) and Providence advanced to the championship with wins over North Dakota and Omaha respectively, setting up an all-New England championship with multiple Hockey East teams. Providence edged out BU 4-3 after a late goal and shocked the heavily favored Terriers and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. The Friars came into the tournament as a #4 seed and was one of the last teams to be selected into the field.
In 2022, the TD Garden will host the Frozen Four for the fourth time since opening, the eighth time in the history of the city and the ninth time in the history of the state.
DCU Center (Worcester)
Hosted: Men’s Regional in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, will host in 2018
When it comes to the NCAA Men’s Division I Regional Hockey Tournament, there is no place like Worcester and the DCU Center. Not a single city or arena in the entire country can match what has been here in Worcester. 48 regional games have been played in the DCU Center, which is far and away the most of any arena. Worcester is trailing Colorado Springs by only one game, and will become the city to host the most tournament games after they host the regional in 2018. The NCAA only started using neutral sites in 1992, and Worcester has been able to host 14 times so far with a 15th coming up very shortly.
Worcester has been the site of some of the largest crowds to watch a NCAA Tournament Regional hockey game. Four of the top five regional attendances have, in fact, taken place at DCU Center (known also as Worcester Centrum Center). On March 27, 1999 the regional semifinals in Worcester saw 12,517 fans come through the gates to watch Maine beat Clarkson and New Hampshire beat Michigan. That record still stands today and does not figure to be passed for quite some time. Regional semifinal attendances in 1993, 2001 and 2002 also rank in top five of regional attendance sessions. There is truly no better place for the NCAA Hockey Tournament than the DCU Center in Worcester.
Agganis Arena (Boston)
Hosted: Women’s Frozen Four in 2009, will host in 2020
Agganis Arena opened in 2005 as the home of the Boston University men’s ice hockey team. It only took four years for the arena to host its first women’s Frozen Four, given its modernness and great hockey environment. The 2009 Frozen Four took place on the BU campus, and just narrowly missed out on hosting a few local teams, as BC and New Hampshire lost in the quarterfinals and could not make it to Boston. The city was instead treated to some heavy Midwest flavor, as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Mercyhurst advanced. Wisconsin and Mercyhurst advanced to the championship, where Wisconsin dominated and won 5-0 before 2,437 fans behind one goal and two assists from Angie Kelesey. It was the third title in program history for the Badgers. The arena will host the Women’s Frozen Four once again in 2020, with the hope to see a Massachusetts team capture a national championship.
Boston Garden (Boston)
Hosted: Men’s Frozen Four in 1972, 1973, 1974
Many memorable moments were made in the old Boston Garden, from heated Celtics-Lakers games, to a steal by John Havileck, and a flying goal by Bobby Orr. But from 1972-1974, it hosted the pinnacle of college hockey. The Frozen Four was in the same arena for three years in a row for the first time since the 1950′s, when Colorado Springs hosted the first ten championships. The tournament saw incredible support in its first year in 1972, when the stadium sold-out to watch the local Boston University Terriers win their second straight NCAA title over Cornell. The 14,955 fans who showed up on March 18 of that year more than doubled the previous record to see an NCAA hockey championship, which was set five years earlier in Syracuse, NY with only 6,571 fans in attendance. The record held up for 13 years until Joe Louis Arena hosted the championship.
While the next two years did not see the attendance that the first championship game saw, it still saw more fans come through the gates than any other NCAA Tournament game not at the Boston Garden. Despite being torn down in 1995, the old Boston Garden remains the last venue to host the event three years in a row, and one of only two venues to have that distinction. It is still tied for third on the list of most championship games hosted per arena, and will be passed by its successor the TD Garden in 2022.
Mullins Center (Amherst)
Hosted: Men’s Regional in 2005
Located on the UMass campus in Amherst, the Mullins Center was built to house the John Calipari-era Minuteman basketball team. The Minuteman hockey team uses the arena as well, and for a few days in 2005, the college hockey world converged in Amherst. The Northeast regional was held from March 26-27 for a spot in the Frozen Four in Columbus. New England teams, New Hampshire and Harvard were joined by defending champion, Denver, as well as Bemidji State. Over 7,000 people came through the gates for the two days, as they watched Denver defeat Bemidji State and then New Hampshire en route to their second consecutive national championship.
Matthews Arena (Boston)
Hosted: Men’s Frozen Four in 1960
Matthews Arena (formerly Boston Arena) is one of the oldest arena’s in the entire country, being a former home for the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics. The arena is now used consistently by Northeastern University and their highly success hockey program. In 1960, the arena hosted the best that college hockey has to offer when the Frozen Four came to town. St. Lawrence, Michigan Tech, Denver, and Boston University all came to Matthews Arena looking for a championship. Denver beat BU 6-4 in one semifinals, while Michigan Tech put on one of the greatest offensive outputs that college hockey has ever seen. They defeated St. Lawrence 13-3, a game that still is near the top of the record books in goals scored and largest margin of victory. Despite their offensive output, they could not capture the championship as Denver defeated them 5-3 in the finals. 12,500 fans watched the tournament games played at Matthews Arena.
McHugh Forum (Chestnut Hill)
Hosted: Men’s Frozen Four in 1963
McHugh Forum was closed in 1987 to make way for the still-standing Conte Forum on Boston College’s campus. However, McHugh Forum did something that its successor never has, and that is host a Frozen Four. In 1963, McHugh Forum hosted the four-team tournament that saw the home squad Boston College joined by national powers Clarkson, Denver and North Dakota. The hometown Eagles had no success against North Dakota, falling 8-2 in the semifinals. Denver beat Clarkson 6-2 in the other semifinal, setting up an all-Midwest championship game. North Dakota ended up taking their second title, edging out the Pioneers by a score of 6-5. An estimated 16,190 fans attended the weekend of games at old McHugh Forum.