The Union hockey team has dealt with bye weeks three of the past four seasons, when it earned a first-round bye in the ECAC Hockey tournament.
But the week off that the Dutchmen will be dealing with this time is something completely different.
The Dutchmen will be handling more media interviews this week, not just from the Capital Region, but nationally. Playing in your first NCAA Frozen Four will garner plenty of attention.
Union coach Rick Bennett will try to keep things as routine as possible as the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional-champion Dutchmen (26-7-7) prepare for their national semifinal game against Midwest Regional-champion Ferris State (25-11-5) at 4:30 p.m. April 5 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Preparations for that game are already under way. The players had a weightlifting day Monday. They will be back on the ice today. Bennett plans to have one-hour practices through Saturday, take Sunday off and have another practice next Monday before leaving for Tampa the next day.
“We’re kind of in uncharted waters here a little bit with that stuff,” Bennett said Monday during a press conference at Messa Rink. “We’ll figure it out as we go along, but we’re going to stick to the same process that we’ve always had. The bye week after winning the league helped us be in the top four, so we’ll stay with that format going into the Frozen Four here.”
The Garnet Room, where Monday’s press conference was held, had three newspaper reporters and several TV crews.
But they aren’t the only ones interested in what the Dutchmen are thinking about Ferris State. There will be numerous requests from the national media.
“One interview at a time. That’s my best advice,” Bennett said.
Two of the Dutchmen who will probably attract the most attention are junior forward Jeremy Welsh and sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick.
Welsh, who was named the East Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, is the Dutchmen’s leading scorer with 27 goals and 16 assists. He was getting high praise from ESPNU announcers John Buccigross and Barry Melrose, who called the East Regional games.
And Welsh is getting plenty of attention from NHL scouts.
“It’s pretty easy [to handle the attention] when you’re in a spot like this,” Welsh said. “With the intensity, you focus in a lot more. As far as the ESPN stuff, I didn’t watch the games. I don’t know what’s being said. I’m not a real media guy. I don’t cruise the Internet and read the reports. I probably know less about that than people on campus do. It’s not a big issue for me.”
Grosenick was named to the East Regional all-tournament team after stopping 39 of 42 shots in the wins over Michigan State and UMass Lowell. He is 22-5-3 with a 1.64 goals-against average. Grosenick is a Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist, and he’ll find out Thursday if he is a Hobey Hat Trick finalist.
He won’t let the attention go to his head.
“We’re pretty mature,” Grosenick said. “We realized that there is still work to be done. You deal with it, and you move on and you realize that there’s still more important things ahead.”
Monday marked the start of the spring trimester. Many of the students and professors were thrilled about the team winning the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., over the weekend and advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time in the program’s 21-year Division I history.
“They were congratulatory, and want us to finish the job,” captain Nolan Julseth-White said. “The professors, they’re very excited for us, and they’ll be here cheering us on.”
Tickets on sale
Dutchmen fans who want to attend the games in Tampa can purchase tickets at the Union ticket office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through next Monday. The cost is $195, which includes the two semifinal games and the April 7 championship contest.
To reserve tickets, call 388-6020. All tickets must be picked up at the ticket office.