Two years ago, the Union College hockey team got the red-carpet treatment when its plane landed at Tampa Jet Center for the NCAA Frozen Four.
The weather was hot, a group of youth hockey players lined up on either side of the red carpet, and raised their sticks high as the Dutchmen walked through onto the tarmac. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomed them to the city, and a reggae band played.
So, how were the Dutchmen greeted when their bus arrived at their hotel in the heart of Center City? Blustery weather, the sounds of workers whizzing by in their cars trying to head home in the rush-hour traffic. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was nowhere to be found to say hello, but a Philadelphia New Year’s Day tradition, a Mummers band, was playing in the hotel lobby.
The top-ranked Dutchmen arrived in the city around 5:30 p.m., dropping their gear off at the Wells Fargo Center, where they will face Boston College in the semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday. The other semifinal pits Minnesota against North Dakota at 8:30. The winners play for the NCAA title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Dutchmen didn’t mind the subdued arrival.
“It was a little less emotion here than Tampa, which is nice,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “Last time, we were coming right off the plane. This time, we bused in. That’s the big difference. Hotels are hotels, so be it.
“It’s like going to Lake Placid. It’s like going to Bridgeport. We just went to Philly. I’m sure tomorrow when we hit the ice, it will be a little bit different. Ice is ice, and we’ve just got to get ready to play. All we have to do is worry about tomorrow’s practice.”
While Dutchmen senior defenseman Mat Bodie misses the palm trees of Tampa, he didn’t mind the quieter arrival in the City of Brotherly Love.
“It’s a little bit more business-like,” Bodie said. “The last time, people were super excited. That’s not to say people aren’t super excited, but I think the guys are handling it a lot better. It’s just another hockey game, and you’ve just got to go and have fun.”
Junior right winger Daniel Ciampini was happy to get off the bus after the four-hour ride from Schenectady.
“It’s a little different and a little colder,” Ciampini said. “It’s nice. It’s a great city. It’s the first time I’m here. So, I’m going to enjoy it.”
The Dutchmen held a one-hour practice at Messa Rink, the final one of the season, before making the trip.
“It was bittersweet,” said Bodie. “That rink’s been good to my class. We’ve had a lot of fun there. But it’s on to bigger and better things here.”
Unlike two years ago, there was no pep rally for the Dutchmen as they left Messa. That was fine with Bennett.
“It was nice for people to give us some space,” Bennett said. “We appreciate it, and that was it.”