TAMPA, Fla. — Some folks in the press are playing up the David-and-Goliath angle of the Ferris State-Union semifinal versus the Boston College-Minnesota game, even referring to the former as “junior varsity” as opposed to the alleged varsity game — the real game — between the Eagles and Golden Gophers.
“I think that’s silly,” said Bulldogs senior goaltender Taylor Nelson. “First off, we’re in the Frozen Four, last time I checked. Both teams [Ferris State and Union] deserve to be here. We’ve both had great seasons, two great hockey teams, teams that pride themselves in defense first.”
Union, said Nelson, is “not a team to joke around about.”
There’s no question that the Boston College and Minnesota men’s ice hockey programs are well established and high profile with storied histories. This is the first trip to the Frozen Four for both Ferris State and Union, the second NCAA appearance for each team.
But size? Well, Union is small, with an enrollment of just over 2,100. Ferris State (14,581) and Boston College (14,513) have enrollments of roughly the same size and Minnesota dwarfs all three altogether with an enrollment upwards of 50,000.
Perhaps the little-versus-large narrative comes from the schools’ college hockey reputations, but both the Dutchmen and Bulldogs are the big men on their respective campuses. At Union, men’s and women’s ice hockey are the only Division I sports at a D-III school. Ferris State is a D-II school — except for men’s ice hockey.
As this is their first trip to the Frozen Four, no one would blame the Bulldogs if they were a little nervous. They’re loose yet focused as they were in Green Bay, Wis., two weeks ago, not at all overwhelmed by the pageantry surrounding the event. Senior defenseman Chad Billins said that’s because the team is doing what it’s done all season, playing for each other and keeping an even keel.
Then there’s the task at hand. “Our motto all season long is that we can’t be satisfied,” said Nelson. “We’re still hungry for that next win — for those next two wins. That’s essentially what the ultimate goal is.”
The Bulldogs don’t mind being underdogs, and they don’t mind the JV jokes. They just know that they’ve earned their way here as much as the Dutchmen, Eagles and Golden Gophers have.
“I think all four teams here … are going to have a great chance of winning,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said, “and I can make a strong case for any of the four.
“And I certainly feel the same again for ourselves. I can make a strong case for us being the champion as well.”