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Who should Illinois fans cheer for in the 2015 Frozen Four?

The Illini don't have a varsity hockey team, but that doesn't mean there aren't Illinois ties to the Frozen Four.

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The field is set for the 2015 Frozen Four.

Providence, Nebraska-Omaha, Boston University and North Dakota will play for a national championship, starting with the semifinals on Thursday and the title game Saturday in Boston, Mass at TD Garden. Both of Thursday's semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN2. Providence and Omaha will play at 4 p.m., and BU and UND will follow at 7:30 p.m. Saturday's championship game will begin at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.

So with a national championship up for grabs and with no Big Ten teams to root for or against, what team should Illinois fans root for? The criteria for selecting the team to cheer for will be if they have any Illinois natives or Chicago Blackhawks prospects on their roster.

Let's take a look at how each team:

Providence (24-13-12)

How they got here: The Friars finished second in the Hockey East, but lost the New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Providence was seeded fourth in the East Regional and eliminated Miami (OH) in the semifinal and Denver in the final to reach the Frozen Four.

Star power: Jon Gillies posted a .921 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average in 37 games for the Friars. He was named the Hockey East goaltender of the month in December and one of three finalists for the conference's player of the year award.

Frozen Four history: Fourth trip to the Frozen Four, but first since 1985 when it lost to RPI, 2-1. The Friars have never won the national championship.

Other Illinois ties: Senior defenseman Mark Adams did play with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League.

Nebraska-Omaha (20-12-6)

How they got here: The Mavericks finished third in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, behind Miami and North Dakota. Omaha was assigned the No. 2 seed in the Midwest and knocked off Harvard in the first round and RIT in the final to advance.

Star power: Goaltender Ryan Massa allowed only one goal in the Midwest Regional. He stopped 40 saves to shutout RIT, and the lone goal he allowed was to Harvard's Jimmy Vesey, the nation's leading goal scorer and a Hobey Baker finalist.

Frozen Four history: This is Omaha's first trip.

Illinois natives: Sophomore defenseman Ian Brady hails from Lombard, Ill.

Blackhawks prospects: Freshman defenseman Luc Snuggerud was selected in the fifth-round of the 2014 draft.

North Dakota (29-9-3)

How they got here: North Dakota won the NCHC, but lost in the semifinals to St. Cloud State (MN) in the conference tournament, then dropped the third-place game to Denver. It still earned the No. 1 seed in the West and handily defeated Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State by an identical, 4-1 score.

Star power: Junior goaltender Zane McIntyre is a Hobey Baker finalist, and was the NCHC goaltender of the year. He's the program's all-time leader in career GAA (2.08) and save percentage (.927).

Frozen Four history: This will be the 21st appearance. North Dakota has won seven NCAA titles, but none since 2000.

Blackhawks prospects: Freshman forward Nick Schmaltz (2014 first-rounder), sophomore forward Luke Johnson (2013 fifth-rounder) and senior defenseman Nick Mattson (2010 sixth-rounder).

Other Illinois ties: The university retired the athletic department's use of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and Indian head logo in 2012 after controversy with the NCAA. It's a similar dispute to what Illinois faced.

Boston (27-7-5)

How they got here: Boston steam rolled through the season, winning the Beanpot Championship, the Hockey East regular and conference tiles. The Terriers were the No. 1 seed in the Northeast and survived an overtime game against New England foe Yale in the regional semifinal. They followed with a win over Minnesota-Duluth in the final.

Star power: All eyes will be on the projected No. 2 overall pick in this year's NHL Draft, freshman Jack Eichel. He was named the rookie of the year and player of the year for Hockey East and leads the nation in almost every offensive category.

Frozen Four history: This will be the 22nd appearance, the first since 2009. The Terriers have won five NCAA titles.

The winner is...

Neither Boston or Providence boast any Illinois natives or Hawks prospects, thus narrowing the decision to Omaha and North Dakota. Omaha fills both criteria, while UND only fulfills one but the similarities involving the team nickname ring true with the Illinois faithful. Go North Dakota.

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