BOSTON -- North Dakota knows a thing or two about advancing to the Frozen Four, but getting over the hump has been a challenge for the boys in green in recent years.
UND lost a shot at playing in last year's national championship game in Philadelphia as it lost to Minnesota on a goal with a mere second remaining in the third period, leaving it with a bitter taste in the mouth entering Boston and their second straight Frozen Four.
"You know, as far as how things ended last year, I think we kind of put that behind us," senior defenseman Nick Mattson said. "But, again, I think this weekend is pretty unique from others, and it's really easy to kind of lose touch of the fact that it's still the same game."
Thursday night's 8:30 p.m. semifinal with Boston University will mark the beginning of UND's 21st all-time Frozen Four, but it has not won a championship since 2000 when it topped Boston College in Providence, R.I.
With a core of seven seniors and six juniors that felt bitter defeat to the archrival Golden Gophers last season, this year's team will not be as awestruck come game time. The UND contingent at Wednesday's pre-tournament news conference made the team's business-like approach to this Frozen Four clear.
While getting to this point in the season is an accomplishment in itself, there is still lots of work to be done in achieving the ultimate goal of winning a national championship and completing a season during which UND has amassed 29 wins.
"We've had success, up and downs and stuff, so to be back at the Frozen Four obviously has been our goal all year," senior Stephane Pattyn said, "and I really like the way our team has come into this weekend focused and just ready for business."
The Beantown trip is a bit extra special for junior goaltender Zane McIntyre who is one of two Boston Bruins draft picks competing at the Frozen Four, along with BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk who will be sitting on the opposing bench for the second of Thursday's semifinals.
The two maintain a strong relationship from attending Bruins development camps together over several years for which he is fortunate.
"Yeah, Grizz and I went to camp I think the past couple years. I think it was his third camp this summer, my fifth," McIntrye said. "It feels like a long time, I guess. We got to know Grizz pretty well over the past couple summers, and it's been pretty cool to see him grow and develop."
The friendships and Bruins connections are all well and good, but again, there's a job to do when the puck drops.
"Yeah, it's hard not to notice the big B in the middle of the (locker room) floor and stuff," McIntrye said. "But I think obviously as (Nick) Matt(son) said, the focus is narrow and stuff, and all my energy and all my effort is for this weekend here."
Head coach Dave Hakstol said the trip got off to an exciting start as the team was escorted from its hotel to TD Garden with a Boston Police Department escort.
"With the guys next to me, they've got a smile and they're chuckling a little bit," he said. "I'll tell you what, we had five guys today that got us to the rink with a police escort that was absolutely phenomenal. Those guys taking their day, spending the day, taking care of us. The bus was actually hooting and hollering. It was a real deal."