PITTSBURGH, PA -- With Frozen Four banners all around it, it seems very fitting that the Epiphany Catholic Church sits mere steps away from the Consol Energy Center.
After all, the Frozen Four is the Holy Grail of collegiate hockey and the semi-final match-ups - the precursor to Saturday's sermon, in the form of the National Championship game - are less than 24 hours away; Yale takes on Mass.-Lowell at 4:30 PM EST on Thursday and St. Cloud St. squares off against Quinnipiac at 8:00 PM EST.
"It's a great atmosphere," said Tom, who politely requested his last name not be used as his reasoning for his absence at work this week may not be 100 per cent accurate. "It doesn't even matter if your team isn't in it. It's just really fun to watch. The city is really into it too.
"And the Hobey Baker winner is announced ... that's pretty cool as well."
The tournament features a vast array of fan-centric, interactive events that integrates spectators into the framework of the four-day affair. Team practices on Wednesday were open to the public, pep rallies are held prior to both games on Thursday, Frozen Fest (running on Thursday and Saturday) takes up the parking lot across the street from the rink, open skates run at the Consol Energy Center run throughout the tournament and autograph sessions take place on Friday.
"It's really cool to be apart of it all," was Tom's assessment of the event.
While all four teams want to be dialed in as they prepare for tomorrow's games, they aren't immune to the excitement surrounding the Frozen Four. They have been soaking in the experience since arriving in Pennsylvania.
"We're excited to be here," Calgary Flames prospect and St. Cloud captain Ben Hanowski said. "We drove in and you see Heinz Field and PNC Park, pretty cool view, and driving in on the bus, and seeing the St. Cloud State logo up there next to the Frozen Four pin and everything like that is pretty special, something I know I'll always remember being a part of it.
"Just getting through the day, and once tomorrow morning rolls around, it's go time. Later on tonight, guys will be ready to go and focused and we'll be excited to get on the ice and play."
According to Yale head coach Keith Allain, the key to keeping his club from getting distracted by all of the hoopla that goes along with a major championship tournament is a season's worth of preparation. He feels his squad has been working towards this moment throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
"We establish a routine in how we prepare and we do it all year long," Allain said on Wednesday afternoon. "We treat every game like it's a huge game because it is.
"And another reason we do that is so that when you get into championship environments, you've prepared in a certain way, and that's what we do with ... all of our players."
CalgaryFlames.com will be covering the Frozen Four and Hobey Baker Award announcement on Friday. Watch for daily updates from Pittsburgh!
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