TAMPA — Both Ferris State and Union had to travel more than 1,000 miles to get to their Frozen Four matchup Thursday in Tampa. The Dutchmen, though, were designated the home team, a distinction that was significant to the game planning of the Bulldogs. The road team has to put its line on the ice first, giving the home team a chance to make a last-second adjustment if needed.
"So you start thinking to yourself as a team: Well, can we set lines?" Ferris State coach Bob Daniels asked rhetorically. "And probably not."
That caused the Bulldogs to set a flexible defensive strategy against Union's line of Daniel Carr, Jeremy Welsh and Josh Jooris. Instead of playing those three one-on-one, the Bulldogs tried to send two players to the puck to limit the Dutchmen in the offensive zone and take away their size advantage.
And even then Welsh had a couple of very good opportunities," Daniels said. "The puck — he's one of those players, the puck follows him."
That was, in fact, the line that scored Union's only goal.
ATTENDANCE: The announced attendance for the semifinal session was 18,605, about 1,000 tickets short of a sellout. Other than the 2010 Frozen Four, held in Ford Field—which set attendance records, including the then-Guinness world record for number of people at an indoor hockey game—this was the first time since 1999 that a Frozen Four event did not sell out. The tournament was held in Anaheim, Calif., that year, the only other year it has been held outside the Northeast or Midwest.
MORE Xs AND Os: Union also used the Welsh line to its advantage after icing calls on the Bulldogs. The collegiate rules on icing don't allow teams whistled for the infraction to change lines before the ensuing faceoff.
"Every single time we had an icing the Welsh line came out," Daniels said. "So you would get a group of our players tired and so you could never guarantee who you're going to have on the ice."
For that reason, Daniels pointed to Brett Wysopal as one of the Dutchmen's unsung heroes. As the guy on the second line with Jason Binkley, he often was in a position where he had to defend against Union's top scorer.
"There's a lot of teams in the country that would like him on their No. 1 pairing because of how well he plays defensively, and he's really a warrior," Daniels said. "To have Brett Wysopal to be able to run out after (Scott) Czarnowczan and (Chad) Billins is a luxury a lot of teams would like to have."
Students of the game: Ferris State's abilities in the classroom went a long way to helping it on the ice in the come-from-behind 3-1 victory against Union, Daniels said. Despite falling behind 1-0, the Bulldogs never panicked.
"The one trait of this team is the maturity level is through the roof," Daniels said.
According to the Daniels, his players had an average GPA of 3.41 and senior Tommy Hill won the Elite 89 Award for academic excellence for a student-athlete.
"We're proud of those accomplishments," Daniels said. "I think that's a reflection of this team."
ALL-AMERICAN AWARDS: Minnesota-Duluth senior Jack Connolly received the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award in a presentation during an intermission of the second semifinal between Boston College and Minnesota. Connolly is a three-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic team pick and has been a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in each of the past two seasons. He led the Bulldogs to their first national championship last season in a 3-2 overtime win against Michigan.
Lowe's also named its first- and second-team All-Americans. Connolly was a first-team pick along with Billins (Ferris State), Ryan Flanigan (Merrimack), Keir Ross (Cornell) and Paul Weisgarber (Air Force).