By Michael Warren, Ray Biggs, Matthew Webb, and Eric Gulseth,
Frozen Four weekend is obviously the biggest weekend of the year and thus gets its rightful share of coverage. Expanded game previews, podcasts, game stories, press conferences, video, practice day feature stories, and on and on it goes.
But the weekend has truly evolved into an event -- especially when hosted in Lake Placid, which is about as perfect of a locale as one could ever hope for.
As part of this event there's always far more going on than meets the eye, so we yet again did our best to capture some of the off-the-beaten-path happenings of what was yet again a most memorable weekend. The end result, the Frozen Four Notebook. You know, to really catch the spirit of things...
EDITOR'S NOTE: There is more to come.... as D3hockey.com will be running Question and Answer stories with ORDA Communications Director Jon Lundin, and Olympic Center General Manager Denny Allen in the near future.
As always in our Frozen Four Notebook, we like to observe and report on college hockey team gear we see in the arena and around town in beautiful Lake Placid. This season saw a wide array of programs represented, including large contingents from teams that weren't even playing in the championship. This year's list, in the order we saw them...
Division III: St. Norbert, Salve Regina, UW-Stevens Point, Colby, Oswego State, Utica, UW-Eau Claire, Plattsburgh State, SUNY Geneseo, Brockport, Connecticut College, Norwich, SUNY Canton, Elmira, Hamilton, Fredonia, Wesleyan, Elmira, UMass Dartmouth
DI: Vermont, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Princeton, Michigan Tech, Army, Clarkson, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Air Force
Division III coaches can be hired from all over the country, which is what you'd expect with most schools conducting full-blown national searches to fill vacancies these days. But in the case of Friday's first semifinal between Salve Regina and UW-Stevens Point, both schools turned to a hometown guy, and both of them ended up taking their clubs to Lake Placid despite being first year coaches.
That's right, that means Salve Regina head coach Zech Klann is from Newport R.I., while UW-Stevens Point head man Tyler Krueger hails from Stevens Point, Wis. Klann had as good a first year as you can ask for as a permanent head coach, and after making the Frozen Four, it will be interesting to see if Krueger loses the interim tag to become a permanent head coach in his own right.... We think he's earned it.
LONG TRIP TO BRING SOME ATMOSPHERE
UW-Stevens Point had a few well-traveled fans who carried a tune into Herb Brooks arena as the Pointer pep band made the long road trip to the North Country from central Wisconsin. The instrumentalists rolled into Lake Placid with just a few hours to spare before puck drop of Friday's semifinal contest. Pep Band director
|The Stevens Point band rocked Herb Brooks Arena on Friday.
Photo: Mike Warren, D3hockey.com
Jordan Held spoke about their long travel schedule.
“The band is excited to be in Lake Placid, because no one has ever been to the area," Held said. "We had two or three of us who had to drive 21 hours straight to get here, leaving at 2:30 p.m. Central time on Thursday and arriving in the village at about 11 a.m. Friday morning.”
When asked about what they hoped to bring to the game, Held said “We hope to bring a DI atmosphere to the game, even though we are DIII, and hope to take the emotion out of the other team.”
The band hoped the Pointers would win so they would have the chance to enjoy Lake Placid on Saturday, and even though they came up short despite unloading 55 shots on Salve Regina, we do hope they hung around and enjoyed the town for at least a little bit as it would have been time well spent -- especially after making that 21 hour drive.
It always seems when the event comes to Lake Placid, there is always a tie into the Miracle on Ice in 1980.
This year, Miracle team members Buzz Schneider and Jim Harrington each made their way onto the ice to do the ceremonial puck drop, and both of them each took part in an intermission shooting competition as well. There was also a special moment this weekend where St. Norbert Coach Tim Coghlin's daughter, Faith, was invited to help drop the ceremonial puck.
In addition, you can’t have a hockey intermission without a t-shirt gun. How do you improve upon that? You send out someone dressed in a T-Rex costume.
Yes, this actually happened. Also, we hear the King's College women own the exact same one which is, quite frankly, pretty awesome.
While Schneider and Harrington were on hand to drop the ceremonial puck, they also had an eye towards the action on the ice.
"Playing in a championship tournament here in Lake Placid is great. These kids are good hockey players I think it's a tremendous oppurtunity to play in this building for them and for us to watch them play," Schneider said.
Harrington himself also holds a special connection to Division III as a Frozen Four qualifier while he was the head coach at St. John's.
"I coached for 15 years at St. John's and we got lucky enough to advance to a Frozen Four one time, but watching practice today, there's just tremendous skill by the players," Harrington said. "There's not just top end skill, but there's depth of skill that I didnt see when I was coaching so I'm real excited to be here for the tournament, and i think it's a real thrill for them to play in this rink."
Harrington also emphasized perspective, and that the players always recognize the effort and dedication it took to get to this point, just as great teams of his own once did.
"I think its important they have been though some big games already to get themslves to this point. They understand what it's like to play as a team, but I think it's important they understand they've got to count on everyone else to be on top of their game. You're better as a team than as individuals. And that's what I've tried to tell each team, just like our team in 1980, we had great individuals, but we were even greater when we played together and I think thats what you need to do to win a championship."
FANS GEAR UP FOR LONG WEEKEND OF TRAVEL
When it came to fans of St. Norbert and UW-Stevens Point, it obviously took most of them a bit of travel to make their way to Lake Placid. But it was also the case for some of the Colby fans, some of who actually made their approach from the west.
|They're used to it by now, but St. Norbert fans had a long way to travel to get to Lake Placid.
Photo: Mike Warren, D3hockey.com
We spoke with a couple fans of the Mules who made their way in from Toronto and were getting ready to cheer on the Mules prior to the game, complete with head gear to go along with it. That couple made a point to attend what they could of this weekend's championship.
"We’re from Toronto, and we can only stay for (Friday’s) game,” the couple said.
When asked why, they said, “it’s because of our daughter's engagement party (Saturday).”
If there ever was an excuse for someone to miss a potential national championship game, we think that qualifies. Barely.
We also ran across a few St. Norbert fans whose travel schedule could best be described as crazy. Perhaps even reminiscent of something out of the the film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, though probably without the shower curtain rings.
Those fans took a flight from Green Bay to Baltimore, followed by another to Albany, before the drive up to Lake Placid. But despite the lengthy travel route, it was all business prior to St. Norbert's semifinal contest as they felt pretty good about the Green Knights' chances.
“We think they can roll all four lines out there and be effective.”
It turned out that confidence was warranted as St. Norbert did indeed skate away with its fifth national title -- albeit by the slimmest of margins.
CLIPPITY CLOPPIN' ALONG
The Colby fan base was out in full force and along with it came multiple signs that read "Mule Train."
When we asked one of the fans about the signs they explained, “It's a old western song they play at home games that really gets the fans jazzed up and since we’re the Mules, it works.”
|Colby Fans have been on the Mule Train this entire postseason.
Photo: Mike Warren, D3hockey.com
Mule Train was written in 1947 and first recorded by Buz Butler, Jr., who was also one of its original writers. The tune rose to prominence following the 1949 recording and release by Frankie Laine, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It was soon thereafter recorded and released by well-known artists such as Vaughn Monroe, Bing Crosby and Tennessee Ernie Ford and versions were later recorded by the likes of Bo Diddley, Gene Autry and Woody Herman, among others.
Here's the Frankie Laine version. What do you think? And fun fact: Laine is prbably best known for performing the original version of "Rawhide," which was also used as the theme for the hit television show of the same name and later featured in the film Blues Brothers in the classic scene at Bob's Country Bunker.
A LEGEND STOPS TO WATCH THE NEXT GENERATION
We got the chance to talk to USA Hockey Legend Mike Eruzione, who of course is here to cheer on his nephew Danny, who plays for Salve Regina.
When we asked him about what it was like to have his nephew playing in the same building where he scored the game winner in 1980, he said “This is the first time I've had a family member play in this same arena in a long time.” The Lake Placid legend went on to say, “my son played a Can-Am game here when he was 10, but that was the last time a family member played here.”
|Before an upcoming camp slated to take place in Lake Placid, Olympic Legend Mike Eruzione came into town early to watch nephew Danny play for Salve Regina.
Photo: Mike Warren, D3hockey.com
We also asked Eruzione about his reaction if Danny were to score the game winning goal with exactly 10:00 left on the clock.
“I’m leaving, because that would be eerie.”
THE NEXT GENERATION
The younger Eruzione, Danny, had somehow never been to Lake Placid, and he definitely felt that it was a once in a lifetime experience with the championship not returning until 2022.
"It's a once in a lifetime thing," Eruzione said. "You never know if you're going to be back in the national championship setting like this, especially being in Lake Placid... It won't be here in my next three years. You just take it all in."
The Seahawks definitely valued their time here, with a double overtime battle in the National Championship game required to end the season.
FROM THE BENCH TO THE STANDS
Many coaches from around the country stopped in to get a piece of the action, even with their seasons over. Plattsburgh State men's assistant coach CJ Tozzo was one of them.
“I’m just taking in the scene to watch some hockey," Tozzo said.
That makes a lot of sense with the arena being a short drive away. Sometimes you just can't resist the call to come back to the rink after all.
IT'S GOTTA BE THE SUIT
When you come to the Frozen Four for the first time, you may as well dress to impress. Salve assistant Sports Information Director Andrew Pezzelli certainly did this weekend. The broadcast voice of the Seahawks showed up with a unique getup that included navy pants, a grey shirt, a red Jerry Garcia tie, and a light gray blazer, an outfit that truly represented Salve's home state of Rhode Island quite well.
As it turns out, there's a lot more to this story than that. It goes back to the team's Commonwealth Coast Quarterfinal win against Nichols. This is the same outfit he wore on that evening, a game in which Salve was victorious. In the league semifinal, a change in that attire proved costly. Pezzelli switched it up with different pants and a different shirt for their semifinal, and the Seahawks were eliminated from the CCC tournament that night.
"Silly me," Pezzelli said. "I told Zech after the game that I took complete responsibility for the loss because I changed my outfit."
When the Seahawks were given a new lease on life with an at-large bid, he didn't make the same mistake again. He returned to the old getup in the NCAA tournament, and the Seahawks got all the way to double overtime in the national title game.
While you can't dispute the suit's results, Pezzelli still got some flak from somewhere: His parents.
"My parents made fun of me.... they said 'why are you wearing red and gray to broadcast Salve games," Pezzelli said. "I said 'ma, you're kidding me, this is my lucky suit. Superstition reigns supreme in sports."
MORE FASHION FILES
The other amusing "threads" pertaining to the Miracle on Ice came from Salve Regina head coach Zech Klann. In advance of this weekend's games, we asked him if he felt more comfortable knowing he was coaching in Lake Placid with a guy named Eruzione on his team. His reply was one for the books.
"I might have to break out the plaid pants," Klann said.
We didn't see any Herb Brooks attire this weekend, but we admire his ambitions here.
'STACHE LEVEL: MAX
If you see him at the rink, UW-Stevens Point goalie Max Milosek is pretty difficult to miss. His high-and-tight mullet and handlebar moustache stand out, and are a great example for others to follow. He largely considers the moustache to be a product of his will to win, but admits it doesn't help him everywhere in life.
"With the ladies? No, it doesn't help there," Milosek said. "I like to think of it as a good luck charm. Ive always had a moustache, and after no shave November I just kept it going and said, i'm growing it out until we lifted the final tophy again... Everyone just kind of knows of me having a moustache now and I said after we win I'll have the buzzer ready and they can shave it off for me right on the ice. Where ever they want, at that point I don’t think I'll care."
When it's said and done, and the Moustache is forever gone, Milosek believes he may look completely different to some.
"Most of these freshman dont even know what I look like without one, it’ll be like meeting a new teammate."
NEVER A DULL MOMENT
Ever want to know how wonderful it is to live in Lake Placid? We asked one of the locals to find out. Lake Placid native Steven Vassar is the assistant director of the Olympic Museum, and he discussed how much he enjoys the hustle and bustle of New York's Olympic Village.
"Where can you go where you open your door and have a bobsled track in your backyard?," Vassar said. "You have some of the best hiking all around you, and all the different sports. If you ever go through a day in your life and say you're bored, get the hell out of town.... There's always something to do in this little town."
He also acknowledged the team effort required to host international events frequently, up to and including the Olympic Games.
"These guys click, they are a great team, you can't work as an individual in this setting." Vassar said. "You may have your spot and the person next to you might have something else, but without that person next to you it might not work....This village has hosted the world twice, These guys know how to plan, set, and get stuff togeather and have it fall right on time."