TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The NCAA Frozen Four is being hosted for the first time in a Southern city. And in keeping with the theme of a non-traditional site, two first-time participants hope to make their own memories.
Union College, a 2,133-student liberal arts school from Schenectady, N.Y., and Ferris State - located in Big Rapids - will meet in today's semifinals as both try to continue their unlikely paths toward a national hockey championship.
Meanwhile, the "other" semifinal is a more familiar matchup to college hockey fans.
Boston College (31-10-1), the overall No. 1 seed and winners of 17 straight games, will take on Minnesota (28-13-1). The Eagles and Golden Gophers have combined for 43 Frozen Four appearances.
But it's not like the winner of the Boston College-Minnesota matchup will be a lock to claim the title.
"Any of the teams have a chance to win here," said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels, whose school competes at the NCAA Division II level in other sports. "That's the beauty of our sport. College hockey is definitely a unique animal when it comes to opportunities for all to be successful."
Ferris State (25-11-5) reached the Frozen Four after making only the second NCAA tournament appearance in the program's history. Union College (26-7-7), which competes at the NCAA Division III level in its other sports, is the Frozen Four's first East Coast Athletic Conference representative since 2003.
Both teams are strong defensively.
Union College features sophomore goaltender Troy Grosenick, who is second nationally in goals-against-average (1.64) and save percentage (.936). Ferris State, featuring goaltender Taylor Nelson, is tied for fifth nationally in team defense, allowing 2.17 goals per game.
"We don't really consider ourselves a small school in terms of hockey," Union College coach Rick Bennett said. "The only time we consider ourselves a smaller school is in terms of enrollment. Both teams look like they're in uncharted waters. At this stage, you tend to want to reinvent things and we're not going to do that. We're going to keep doing the things that got us here."