TAMPA — When the Union and Ferris State teams landed at Tampa International Airport Tuesday afternoon, both were given the literal red-carpet treatment.
Lined along the carpet, which was rolled out to the tarmac, were youth hockey players from around the state, holding sticks up as the players walked down the line. A band featuring a steel drum played tropical-themed music, and Florida oranges were given to anyone who wanted one.
While both teams were treated to the same fanfare upon arriving, Union had an extra-special ride into town.
The Dutchmen, who took an NCAA-scheduled charter plane from Albany (about 20 miles from their Schenectady, N.Y., campus) rode on the same plane that had taken the Louisville basketball team to the Final Four and dropped Kentucky off in Lexington on Tuesday morning.
Minnesota was set to arrive at 8:30 p.m., and Boston College was planning to arrive three hours later.
FLORIDA TIES: Union has the only Florida native in the Frozen Four (and the only player from the deep South). Freshman defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is from Margate, 15 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. Gostisbehere, the only teenager who appears regularly for the Dutchmen, has played all 40 games, scoring five goals and registering 17 assists. Before attending South Kent, a boarding school in Connecticut, for his final two years of high school, Gostisbehere played for the Florida Alliance AAA Hockey Club, based in South Florida.
Seventeen Floridians played Division I hockey this season. Brian Ferlin, a Jacksonville native who plays for Cornell, was the only other one to appear in the NCAA Tournament. Ferris State eliminated fourth-seeded Cornell, 2-1, in the Midwest region final.
LOOKING FORWARD: Much has been made of the semifinal matchups between two first-time Frozen Four participants, Union and Ferris State, then powerhouses Boston College and Minnesota, who have made a combined 43 trips. Another measurement sets the pairings apart. There are 26 NHL draft picks on the rosters of the Eagles and Golden Gophers. There are none from Union or Ferris State.
TICKETS AVAILABLE: The NCAA announced single session tickets were on sale for Thursday's semifinals and Saturday's final. The admission price is $110 per day. Tickets can be purchased by visiting ncaa.com/tickets, calling toll-free 1-800-745-3000 or visiting the Tampa Bay Times Forum box office.
Laura Keeley can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3112.