The Friday of Frozen Four weekend is a good chance to reflect. Although there is still a major event on the off day - the winner of the Hobey Baker is announced - it sits between the action. Two entertaining Thursday semifinals have come and gone. With both Yale and Quinnipiac emerging victorious, the anticipation of an all-New Haven County final Saturday grows.
It is the calm before the storm.
Soon a national champion will be crowned at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Either the Bulldogs or Bobcats will end six months of hard work with the biggest victory of their careers. Just thinking about that during this time of reflection leads me to April 12, 2003 - exactly ten years ago today.
On that date, the University of Minnesota defeated the University of New Hampshire 5-1 in Buffalo, NY to win their fifth national championship. Thomas Vanek had a goal and an assist as the Gophers scored four times in the third period to become the first team since Boston University in 1971-72 to repeat as NCAA Hockey champions.
Ten years exactly and at times it feels like it happened yesterday.
Despite not having the hoopla of Minnesota's championship a year earlier where 300,000 fans (if everyone who swears they were at that game is telling the truth) at the Xcel Energy Center saw the Gophers defeat Maine in overtime for their first hockey title in 23 years, the 2003 national title is still fresh in my mind.
There are times when I struggle to remember whether or not I ran the dishwasher 2 hours earlier. That isn't the case with Minnesota's championship.I can remember who I was with watching the 2003 national title game (a couple high school friends), where we watching it, what I was wearing and what I watched after the game (it was Dinkytown burning).
If that's how I think about a title I just witnessed, then it likely has nothing on the players who won that title. The Vaneks, Paul Martins and Grant Potulnys of the world who were fortunate enough to be on the Buffalo ice that April and soak every little detail in real time. They know what it's like to see the clock slowly tick down to zero. What it's like to be in the trenches with twenty other teammates for over six months and be rewarded for that work with a physical representation of it no one can take away.
When the majority of the 2003 University of Minnesota team came back to Mariucci Arena a couple months ago to be honored, joining Potulny (now an assistant coach with the Gophers), Mike Guentzel and Don Lucia (coaches on the team) on the ice, nothing changed. They were still champions.
That Gophers team accomplished something that, ten years later, both Quinnipiac and Yale are trying to replicate. One of these two ECAC teams will replace Boston College as college hockey's newest national champion and join the same club. No matter how Saturday's championship game ends up, there will be a team that knows firsthand what that is like along with a fanbase in Connecticut that will never forget where they were on that April night in 2013.
I wish them the best.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey writer for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.