By Jayson Hajdu
When each of the Frozen Four teams took the stage for their respective press conferences today at Amalie Arena in Tampa, a common theme quickly emerged: effusive praise for the host city.
Tampa is hosting its third men’s Frozen Four in the last 11 years (2012, 2016), a frequency that is incredibly rare and indicative of the city’s ability to showcase a high-level event. Undoubtedly compounding Tampa’s appeal is the ability for the players and coaches to escape the extended winter weather in the upper Midwest and east coast.
“Back in Minnesota, all the airports are shut down again. Miserable winter,” said Golden Gophers head coach Bob Motzko. “Tampa Bay is an unbelievable place for all of us to be. We're excited to be here. They do such a fantastic job with the event. The sun's not going to bother any of us.”
Teams were greeted by swarms of enthusiastic locals – including scores of children – when stepping off their flights upon arrival in Tampa. It certainly resonated with the players.
“It was pretty cool,” said BU captain Domenick Fensore (Thornwood, N.Y.). “The red carpet was out there. It was fun. It was awesome. I know the guys loved it on our team. We definitely enjoyed it.”
Fensore’s coach, Jay Pandolfo, recalled his experience at the 2016 Frozen Four while he was working with the Boston Bruins.
“I was shocked how great a job they did and how excited people were here to watch college hockey,” said Pandolfo. “And it's great to see in a warm-weather place like Tampa. Obviously, the success they've had in the National Hockey League with the Stanley Cups and how great an organization they have been for the last 20 years…it just keeps growing the game.”
It’s safe to assume the Frozen Four will one day return to Tampa.
“In just a couple weeks, we’re going to gather down in Florida for the American Hockey Coaches Association,” added Bob Motzko, “and I’ll make a plea for it to be here at least every third year.”
All three Frozen Four matchups can be seen on ESPN2, ESPN+ and TSN+. Fans can also tune in to the radio broadcast by Westwood One.
Visit College Hockey Inc.’s 2023 NCAA Frozen Four Media Kit (above) for more tournament information, statistics, and key storylines.
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USCHO: Quinnipiac lacks foes’ Frozen Four history but has a balanced team going to Tampa
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Wisconsin State Journal: Inside the early wake-up call that shaped Mike Hastings’ coaching career
College Hockey Insider: Reviewing NCAA Regionals and visiting with Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson
College Hockey Today: 2023 NCAA Frozen Four preview
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What About Bob?:
Motzko received national acclaim on the eve of the Frozen Four when he was named the 2023 Spencer Penrose Award recipient as the men’s CCM/AHCA Division I Coach of the Year.
It’s the first such award for Motzko, who joins John Marriuci (1953) as the only Minnesota bench bosses to have won the award.
Motzko has guided the top-seeded Gophers to a 28-9-1 overall record and a Big Ten regular-season title heading into Thursday’s semifinal clash with Boston University.
All in the Family:
The last time the Frozen Four was in Tampa, Quinnipiac advanced to the championship game before falling to North Dakota. Current Colorado Avalanche star defenseman Devon Toews, a junior on that QU team, recently shared some words of wisdom with the Bobcats.
“We had a great talk with him,” said graduate forward Michael Lombardi (Barrington, R.I.). “And obviously he's played on the biggest stage, won the Stanley Cup and different things. And a lot of things that he regretted was not bringing back a national championship to Quinnipiac, and that really stuck with us.”
QU graduate defenseman Zach Metsa (Delafield, Wis.) said he and his teammates were grateful for the conversation.
“It's so cool that we're able to leverage those guys and ask them for advice,” said Metsa. “And they're eager to give it to us. They want to be involved. They're following along the entire time. So it's really cool.”
Been There, Done That…Sort Of:
Pandolfo is in his first season behind the BU bench, but he’s no stranger to the Frozen Four.
As a player, Pandolfo was a member of the 1994 and 1995 Terrier squads that advanced to the Frozen Four. Pandolfo was injured and unable to play in ’94 when BU fell to Lake Superior State, but he was back in the lineup the following year when the Terriers won the national title.
“At this level there's only so many games, so many opportunities,” said Pandolfo. “So guys are going to do whatever they can to play. These guys are understanding it -- you get to this point…it's hard to get here but it's even harder to win.”
Hockey in the Sunshine State:
There are two native Floridians competing in this year’s Frozen Four and both happen to play for Michigan: sophomore defenseman Seamus Casey (Miami) and freshman forward Gavin Brindley (Estero).
Speaking at Michigan’s press conference Wednesday, Brindley could barely contain his excitement.
“It's pretty exciting,” said Brindley, who has 38 points in 40 games this season. “It doesn't happen too often where you get to play a Frozen Four in your hometown, especially Florida.”
Brindley said he grew up rooting for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.
“Coming here and breathing in this Florida air has been really nice,” Brindley continued. “And a beautiful rink. I've seen a ton of games here growing up. It's awesome to be back, and we're jacked up.”
You Can Quote Me On That:
“Everyone’s mood is better since we got here. It’s the vitamin D.”
-- Michigan head coach Brandon Naurato at Wednesday’s Frozen Four press conference.
NHL Note of the Week:
While the Colorado Avalanche are taking on the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, the Avs will do so with eight different players whose alma maters are competing in the Frozen Four that same night. In fact, each of the Frozen Four teams boasts at least one alum on the Colorado roster:
Boston University: Matt Nieto, Evan Rodrigues
Michigan: Andrew Cogliano, J.T. Compher, Jack Johnson
Minnesota: Erik Johnson, Ben Meyers
Quinnipiac: Devon Toews
College Hockey Inc. Resources:
- College Hockey Inc. Media Center
- College Hockey National Pronunciation Guide
- NHL Matchup Tool
- NCAA Alums in the NHL This Season
- Former Collegians in NHL Front Offices
- College Players With 1,000 NHL Games
- College Players 1,000 Career NHL points
- NHL Draft Picks Playing in the NCAA
- 2023 Pro Signings Tracker
Did you know? 92% of NCAA Division I men’s hockey players earn their degree!