Less than two weeks from today, Tampa will host the first Frozen Four to be held south of the Mason-Dixon line. And that won't be the only first for the 64-year-old NCAA tournament.
The first semifinal at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will feature two teams making their first Frozen Four appearances, Union (N.Y.) and Ferris State.
Union, No. 3 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, had made the tournament only once before, losing in the first round last season. The liberal arts school with an enrollment of 2,133 doesn't give out athletic scholarships. But it beat No. 15 Michigan State 3-1 and No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell 4-2.
"It's a tremendous accomplishment," first-year coach Rick Benner told the Albany Times-Union after the Lowell win. "We're, obviously, very excited."
The Dutchmen are led by sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick. He is 22-5-3, second in the nation in goal-against average (1.64) and save percentage (.936) and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the nation's top player.
Ferris State, No. 9 in the nation, won a pair of 2-1 games, against No. 10 Denver and No. 2 Michigan.
"It was jubilation, I guess, would be the word," coach Bob Daniels told the Kalamazoo Gazette after the Michigan win. "It seemed like the last four or five minutes of the game took forever between TV timeouts and timeouts and whatever. It was jubilation."
The Bulldogs are led by goalie Taylor Nelson. The senior is 19-6-3 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
The second semifinal features two historic powerhouses in Boston College and Minnesota, who have won a combined nine national titles. Minnesota scored 12 goals in its two games while Boston College became just the fourth team with multiple shutouts in the tournament.
Boston College, which received all 50 first-place votes in the latest USCHO poll, is led by defenseman Brian Dumoulin. The junior, also a Hobey Baker finalist, has six goals and 20 assists and is plus-25.
The Eagles are riding a 17-game win streak, including 2-0 over No. 16 Air Force and 4-0 over No. 5 and defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth. The last two times BC won the national title, 2008 and 2010, it played its regional in Worcester, Mass. — where it played this weekend.
"We've been fortunate in Worcester, to come out a winner more times than not," BC coach Jerry York said, with a wide smile; "my favorite place other than (my hometown of) Watertown."
Minnesota, ranked No. 6, is led by Erik Haula, who scored his 20th goal of the season in Sunday's 5-2 win over North Dakota. The sophomore forward also has 28 assists and is plus-17.
"I am really proud of our guys," said coach Don Luciam whose team beat No. 8 Boston 7-3. "We had a very difficult region. To beat programs like Boston University and North Dakota is very rewarding."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.