It would take roughly 22 hours to drive from the Omaha, Neb., to TD Garden in Boston. The trip from the Grand Forks, N.D., to the Garden would take close to 25.
Providence College, meanwhile, is a quick, one-hour cruise up I-95, and Boston University … well, on a nice day, it would take less than that to walk to Causeway Street.
Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota obviously won’t be driving to the Frozen Four, which begins next Thursday in Boston, but the setting of college hockey’s championship weekend will be a much more familiar one for their two opponents.
?Well, it certainly is a special opportunity,” said BU coach David Quinn, whose team is 4-0 in games at the Garden this season. “Any time you get a chance to go to the Frozen Four, it?s incredibly special. But to have it here in Boston ? I don?t know if our guys realize the magnitude of what this could mean for BU, and what it means for the city of Boston when it?s all said in done. I think they have a little bit of an idea since nobody can get a ticket, so it?s hitting us right between the eyes right now. It really is something special, but I think now that the excitement?s wearing off, I think we?re starting to get back into that whole mode of, ?Let?s get ready to win the next hockey game.?
?I think when this whole thing?s said and done, when guys sit around in the spring and the summer, they?re realize the magnitude of what?s in front of us.”
A New England team winning a title in Boston certainly would be a big deal, both for the school itself and for Hockey East as a whole. A local team has won just one of the seven national championship games held in the city. (BU defeated Wisconsin at the old Boston Garden to win the 1972 title.)
Providence coach Nate Leaman, whose Friars are playing in their first Frozen Four since 1985, said his team is relishing the opportunity, not feeling the pressure.
?I don?t think there?s any added pressure at all,” Leaman said. “I think if anything, it adds to our confidence level a little bit, because we realize that we?ve played in that building before. The seniors on our team have played in that building three times before. There?s a little bit of comfort, and the bus trip to Boston, because we do it nearly every weekend. Thursday, I think it might bring a little bit of confidence.
“It might bring a little bit of a good feeling for us knowing that the building we?re going into we?re a little bit familiar with, the town we?re going into we?re familiar with, and we?re excited because we?re close to home. A lot of our fans are going to be able to experience this with us. I don?t think there?s any added pressure. I think we?re just excited about it. And for a Hockey East team to win the tournament, I think that would be terrific. But I know the two western teams in this tournament are excited to play, too.”
For those “western” teams, the de facto road games are just part of the gig.
?That?s hockey,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “I assume it will be a great home crowd, home-ice advantage for them. But as I said, that?s hockey.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@TerrierHockey