PHILADELPHIA -- There is a different feel to the Frozen Four this time around for the Union College Dutchmen than two years ago in Tampa when the team might have been just happy to be there.
Union, the only 30-win team in the field, is considered the underdogs by some because of the size of the school and the lack of a name brand unlike the other three schools in this week's Frozen Four.
The small liberal arts college from Schenectady in upstate New York might not be a known commodity to outsiders who don't pay attention to NCAA hockey, but Rick Bennett's program has become a household name within the sport.
The Dutchmen have made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 2012 Frozen Four, and has made it to three consecutive regional finals. Union lost 3-1 to Ferris State in the 2012 NCAA semifinals in Tampa, but the players and coaching staff believe it will be different this time around.
"I think we're focused, and more understanding. We're here to play hockey and it's more a business trip than last time. We're just trying to focus on tomorrow," said senior Daniel Carr, the school's all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.
Union lacks the NHL Draft picks of the other three teams in the field, having just one -- Philadelphia Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere. Boston College, Minnesota and North Dakota have a combined 39 NHL selections on their rosters.
"I think our first time to the Frozen Four we were just happy to be there. Of course we wanted to win. It didn't end up our way, but this year is more business approach, and we're just looking to do some damage better than we did the last two years or two years ago," said Gostisbehere.
Senior captain Mat Bodie, one of the best puck-moving defensemen in college hockey, has been a tremendous leader for this year's team. He believes the upperclassmen have done a good job imprinting a winning mindset on the underclassmen.
"I think guys were a little bit awe struck with everything in Tampa, but definitely not so here. I think the upperclassmen have done a great job of preparing the younger guys. We're just treating it like it is just another hockey game. The net is the same, the puck is the same and we'll be ready to go," explained Bodie.
Bennett, the 2014 Spencer Penrose Award winner as the best coach in college hockey, has noticed the difference in his team's attitude as it enters the Frozen Four for a second time.
"You can tell by their approach up here from the press conference in Tampa until now, just their demeanor in practices, and demeanor today. We had a better practice than we did in Tampa. We were just out there. We were just playing. That's what we're going to do tomorrow," said Bennett.
"We're an attack type of team, and that's how we're going to approach it. I think through that, you don't worry about how much people are here, where you are. As far as I'm concerned we're back playing a home game at Union, and that's how we're going to have to deal with it. That's kind of how our feeling is going into it," added Bennett, who came up just short of a Frozen Four bid as a player at Providence in 1989.
Union will go for its first trip to the NCAA Championship game Thursday evening at 5:06 p.m. against Boston College, the team the Dutchmen knocked out of the tournament last year in the East Regional semifinal.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.