PHILADELPHIA -- Mat Bodie stepped onto the Union College campus to a hockey program that had never been to the NCAA Tournament. Four years later, the pride of East St. Paul, Manitoba has been a key figure in four consecutive trips to college hockey's version of March Madness.
And now, on Saturday night, Bodie and his teammates will look to bring home the first national championship in school history.
Bodie is a terrific talent on the ice, but it's his leadership ability on and off the ice that earned the praise of his teammates and his head coach.
"Behind the scenes, the guy's a great leader and he calms everything down. We're down a goal, tied, whatever, just like that, leadership is a big part of why our team is where we are, because of that guy," said Union junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
It's a trait that Bodie has had well before he became an upperclassmen, according to Rick Bennett, Union's third year head coach.
"Just the way he carries himself. He has a tremendous amount of pride. Ever since his first year, just working with him when I was back with the defensemen, you could really sense that from the first practice on," said Bennett.
Union advances to championship game with 5-4 win
The Dutchmen were able to fend off a Boston College rally in the third period, and took down the Eagles 5-4 to advance to college hockey's national championship game on Saturday.
Even before he stepped on campus, Bodie has always had the passion to improve his game and do whatever it takes to help the team. "Even before he got to campus, he would call and ask 'what can I work on?'"
A lot of that passion and ability to spearhead a group of young men comes from his upbringing in the Manitoba suburbs, according to Bennett.
"I think the pride factor, he's got that Winnipeg, Manitoba pride going. I just love the pride he has," said Bennett, whose postseason record as head coach is now 18-2.
The constant desire to improve and work on his game is what's made Bodie such a good player on the ice. Bodie, the school's all-time leading scorer among defensemen, has always been more of a set up guy than a goal scorer.
"He mentioned one tonight, working on his shot. And he has. You've seen some beautiful goals the past few games here, but that's due to his hard work."
The talent level is obviously a major reason that Union will be playing in Saturday's national final, but a change in attitude throughout the program is as much a part of the winning ways.
"I think the biggest thing is the mindset. When I came in here as a freshman, you know, there were goals set, but our ultimate goal was not to win a national championship. And that bothered some guys. The next year was to win a national championship. And we took a step towards that. We won our league for the first time. And then it's just been growing each year," explained Bodie.
The Dutchmen have a chance to attain their ultimate goal on Saturday night, and Bodie's 'Winnipeg pride' is a major reason.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.