Two teams head east to Lake Placid, New York this week hoping to heap more hardware into their already stuffed trophy cases. Two others travel west to take a look at the NCAA Division III Frozen Four for the first time in their respective programs’ histories.

While Wisconsin schools St. Norbert and Wisconsin-Stevens Point have amassed nine national championships between them, Colby and Salve Regina each entered March having never won a single NCAA tournament game previously. St. Norbert and Colby faceoff in one national semifinal Friday at Herb Brooks Arena — site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” — with Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Salve Regina set to skate in the other semifinal.

The two winners advance to play for the Division III national title on Saturday night.

While they represent programs with similar paths to Lake Placid, there are four very different stories involving the four programs.

Here’s a look at the Frozen Four participants this week:

• • • 

No. 4 Wisconsin-Stevens Point vs. No. 6 Salve Regina (Friday, 3 p.m.)

No. 4 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (21-5-3)

Overview: While the Pointers look to win a sixth NCAA Division III championship this weekend, Wisconsin-Stevens Point might be the team feeling the least encouraged by their recent results. The Pointers lost in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championship game, but still earned a first-round bye to the NCAA quarterfinals and have won only one game since Feb. 24.

Granted, Wisconsin-Stevens Point beat second-ranked Adrian in the quarterfinals to advance to the Frozen Four in what interim head coach Tyler Krueger called the best 60 minutes of hockey the team has pieced together all season.

“That loss in the conference championship was a great thing for us,” Krueger said. “We were playing well in February down the stretch run, but we went into that game and had a terrible game. Our top line had an off night, and we were doing things the easy way and not committing to the details that make us successful. It was a humble wakeup call for us.”

Junior Tanner Karty leads the top-heavy Pointers with 22 goals, one of just four players on the team with double-digit goal totals this season, and his 48 points (22-26-48) rank third in the nation. Sophomore Luke McElhenie has 14 goals this season, but eight have come on a Pointers power play that converts at a 24.8 percent clip.

As with all four teams in the Frozen Four, Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s goaltending has been huge. Senior Max Milosek has carried the load, starting 25 of 29 games and posting a 1.86 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

“It’s no coincidence that the four teams left have probably the four best goalies in the country,” Krueger said. “At every level, when your defense and goalies are rolling, it’s going to make your team successful. When Max is on and our defense is on and playing our style of play, we’re going to win hockey games.”

Why the Pointers will win: Karty is a difference maker, and they have plenty of history playing in the Frozen Four — with this being their fourth appearance in the last five seasons. They are rested and have healed some key injuries throughout their lineup, plus they twice beat former No. 1 Adrian, including last week on the road, to give them a boost of confidence.

Why the Pointers won’t win: Their scoring has been streaky of late, and they are just 3-1-1 over their last five heading into the week. Consistency is crucial at this time of year.

Fun fact: Interim head coach Tyler Krueger skated in the 2014 Frozen Four as a player for the Pointers. St. Norbert beat Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the national championship game that season.

• • •

No. 6 Salve Regina University (21-5-2)

Overview: Led by first-year head coach Zech Klann, Salve Regina earned the first at-large bid in any sport in school history and enters the week having gone 8-1-0 over its last nine games.

After winning the regular season title, the Seahawks rebounded from a shocking defeat in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) semifinals by bouncing the team that eliminated them — Nichols — in the NCAA quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye.

“In October, when we first met as a team, we said, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,'” Klann said. “As a coaching staff we tried to instill this principle with in the team. This is a very close group of players who, over the last six months, have taken on a ‘go together’ mentality. Having this opportunity to represent Salve Regina University in the Frozen Four is an honor for our team.”

The Seahawks are the highest-scoring team in the Frozen Four, averaging 4.21 goals per game spread across great balance along the forward group. Sophomore Jack Billings ranks eighth in the nation with 19-26-45 totals, one of four players with 12 or more goals and seven players on the roster with 20 or more points this season.

The team might not be familiar to followers of Colby hockey, with the two teams having not played since November of 2014, but the Mules played fellow CCC foe University of New England three times this season. Colby beat UNE in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Why the Seahawks will win: A difficult non-conference schedule prepped them for a deep playoff run, and they went 8-1-0 in nine games against nationally-ranked opponents this year.

Why the Seahawks won’t win: Youth and inexperience will catch up to them. Five of the team’s top six scorers are freshmen and sophomores, four of them freshmen. CCC goaltender of the year Blake Wojtala has very good numbers with a 2.07 GAA, but the junior has allowed eight goals in three postseason games.

Fun fact: Freshman Danny Eruzione (10-25-35) is the nephew of Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” United States hockey team.

• • •

No. 1 St. Norbert College vs Colby College (Friday, 6:30 p.m.)

No. 1 St. Norbert College (25-4-1)

Overview: The Green Knights are making their ninth Frozen Four appearance in the last 12 seasons, looking to win a fifth national title during that span.

Head coach Tim Coghlin, the longest-tenured coach in Lake Placid this weekend, has coached in eight national championship games and can tie legendary Middlebury coach Bill Beaney’s nine title game appearances with a win over Colby.

The Knights are big and driven by a puck possession game. They may not blow teams out by averaging just under four goals per game, but their 1.40 goals against per game as a team makes St. Norbert the stingiest team in the nation.

“We’re a puck possession group. We want to make plays. We want the puck,” Coghlin said. “Our foot speed is pretty good on the outside, and we play a 200-foot game — a five-man game both offensively and defensively.”

While St. Norbert might be a powerhouse, Coghlin doesn’t completely buy that prior experience in the Frozen Four environment — in particular on the Olympic-sized ice sheet at Herb Brooks Arena — makes much difference in the final outcomes. The Green Knights have played four times as a program in the Frozen Four in Lake Placid, winning the national championship there in 2008 and 2012 and finishing as the runner-up in 2016.

“I think familiarity of venue is one thing that is nice to have,” Coghlin said. “When we went to Lake Placid for the first time in 2008, it had no impact. There’s something in the sense of being familiar with a place, but does it impact things? No. The better teams come out on top.”

Colby’s Sean Lawrence might be the hottest goalie in the nation, but there’s an argument to be made that St. Norbert’s T.J. Black is the best. A junior, Black ranks second in the country with a 1.39 GAA — despite playing twice as many minutes this season as national leader Evan Buitenhuis of Hamilton (1.28) — and his save percentage of .940 sits third in Division III.

“The puck starts and stops with T.J. Black in terms of our defensive play and posture,” Coghlin said. “At the end of the day, we have some experience on our staff with this. But you can’t win if you don’t have the goaltender, and I don’t think you can win if your best players aren’t your hardworking guys, and you can’t win if you’re not led by an upperclass core of seniors.”

Why the Green Knights will win: They’re the No. 1 team in the country in both national polls, own the longest current unbeaten streak in the country in either Division I or Division III (10-0-0), they’ve allowed the fewest goals (42) of anybody in Division III and they have been here plenty of times before. Add in six 20-point scorers and they’ve got more than enough to win a fifth national title.

Why the Green Knights won’t win: There’s the small matter of a three-game losing streak in late January in which they surrendered 12 goals. If they fall behind in a game, they’re good enough to keep it close but might not have enough firepower to overcome a deficit against Frozen Four-caliber goaltending on the other end of the rink.

Fun fact: Coghlin played his college hockey in the late 1980s just over 90 miles to the west — at Wisconsin-Stevens Point — St. Norbert’s fiercest national rival over the last decade.

• • •

NR Colby (17-10-2)

Overview: Colby heads to the first Frozen Four in program history as the only team in Lake Placid with fewer than 20 wins this season, but only one team in the nation at either the Division I or Division III level has a longer current unbeaten streak than the Mules (7-0-2) and that’s top-ranked St. Norbert.

Despite being the only unranked team in the entire 12-team NCAA tournament field, Colby has proven its mettle in the postseason. The Mules had to beat Trinity for the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship, the University of New England in the first round of the NCAA tournament and SUNY Geneseo in last weekend’s quarterfinals — all on the road and all against teams ranked inside the top six in the nation at the time.

The Mules hope the last month has quickly built up the postseason experience the program lacked prior to the start of March. Colby hasn’t played a home game since Feb. 11.

“We’ve embraced it, which is the best thing,” Colby junior center Nick O’Connor said. “We view ourselves as road warriors now. We have no problem getting on a bus for six and a half hours to Lake Placid. That’s fun for us at this point. We just want to keep the train rolling.”

Senior goalie Sean Lawrence, who has a 1.50 goals against average in the NCAA tournament to go with a .959 save percentage, has been the indisputable key to the Colby run.

“I’m excited,” said Lawrence, who was a backup goalie at Quinnipiac when the Bobcats went to the Frozen Four in 2016. “I’m excited to get back there and see if we can get it done.”

Colby’s balance has been instrumental this season, particularly in the second half. Six different players have hit the 20-point plateau — representing three of their four lines — and two other players are just one point shy of 20 for the season. Sophomore Kienan Scott (11-15-26) and senior Phil Klitirinos (8-18-26) each lead the way with 26 points. Senior Cam MacDonald has a team-leading 15 goals.

Why the Mules will win: When you break a tie on the road with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation in a national quarterfinal, you get the sense that anything can happen — and the Mules have the hot goalie you need in the playoffs. Lawrence has been sensational since postseason play began for the team in the NESCAC quarterfinals, going 5-0-0 over that stretch with a 1.20 goals against average and a .968 save percentage. He’s made 35 or more saves in all five games.

Why the Mules won’t win: Poor periods have made the Mules rely on Lawrence too much at times — in the first period of a first-round game at UNE the netminder kept them in it with 12 saves, and they were badly outplayed in the third period last weekend at Geneseo with Lawrence called on to make 17 stops. If those kinds of things happen this weekend, and Lawrence is only ‘spectacular’ instead of ‘other-worldly’, it could spell trouble.

Fun fact: Colby is the only Frozen Four participant to have played three consecutive games against teams ranked in the top 10 nationally entering the week. Colby’s last game against a non-ranked opponent was against Wesleyan on March 3.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC