As the final buzzer sounded on the Frozen Four, Union skated off the ice as this year’s National Champions. Held for the first time in Philadelphia, one of the USA’s largest cities and most passionate sports locations, the tournament was thrilling from the start of the first semifinal game Thursday night through the last fan leaving the building on Saturday. The NCAA and Comcast-Spectacor impressed the college hockey world with this event, whose highlights were plentiful.
1. Union is a college hockey program to be respect
Regardless of the result of the championship game, Union College, a school with just over 2,200 students and no athletic scholarships, has proven that they belong with the big guns in college hockey. With their second Frozen Four appearance in three seasons, they not only defeated favorite Boston College in the semifinal in dramatic fashion, but they were able to beat top-ranked Minnesota in the final for their first ever hockey championship. With a large number of players returning next year, and another improved recruiting class on its way in, coach Rick Bennett is poised for another run to the tournament next season.
2. Philadelphia is missing the boat in college hockey
With an unbelievable sports fan base in this city, in addition to a sports complex that rivals any in the country, a company (Comcast-Spectacor) that runs hundreds of sports arenas in North America, and a hockey team that has drawn sellout crowds for years, Philadelphia is missing the boat by not having a major college hockey team. Penn State moved college hockey closer to Eastern Pennsylvania, but a quality program in the Philadelphia area could have immense positive implications for the NCAA as they attempt to increase their standing in college sports.
3. College sports fans are the most passionate there are
It’s widely known that college basketball and football fans are crazy. The Frozen Four tournament was no different, as fans from all four schools, in addition to multiple others, were in the parking lot more than four hours prior to game time. They took part in Frozen Fest – an impressive event put together by Comcast at their Xfinity Live! complex before each game – along with tailgating that rivals that of an NFL Sunday. Not only that, but the losing fans left with grace and pride, which is rare in most major pro sports towns.
4. Shane Gostisbehere is the real deal
Everyone always talks about the Philadelphia Flyers and their inability to develop a home grown defenseman. That may end as soon as next year, as Union defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere tore up the tournament. He had two assists in the semifinal win against Boston College, and had three points, including a highlight goal in the first period in the final against Minnesota. If the Flyers are able to sign him to an entry-level deal after the tournament, they may have a gem from their 2012 third round pick.
5. It doesn’t take Hall of Fame talent to create historical matchups
No need to call in Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and the others. North Dakota, Minnesota, Union, and Boston College did just fine on their own. The two semifinal games were some of the most entertaining hockey in years, and the volume of the Wells Fargo Center when Minnesota scored their winning goal Thursday night rivaled that of the 2010 Stanley Cup final when Claude Giroux scored his overtime goal in Game 3.
The 2014 Frozen Four was one of the most impressive feats that Comcast has shown in Philadelphia in years, as they welcomed in college hockey fans from across the continent with open arms and an atmosphere that made people come early and be entertained for hours. Their event presentation was legendary, and fans expressed how impressed they were after each game.
Perhaps college hockey will be back to the City of Brotherly Love sometime soon.