Ford Field in Detroit might be the site of Thursday night’s Frozen Four semifinal matchup between No. 1 seed Miami (Ohio) and No. 4 seed Boston College, but the contest will have a distinct Pittsburgh flavor when the puck is dropped at 8:30 p.m. in a nationally televised affair on ESPN 2. The winner will take on either Wisconsin or Rochester Institute in Saturday’s championship tilt.
Three players from just outside Pittsburgh, Miami senior forward Dane Hetland (Bridgeville, Pa.) and a pair of Boston College freshmen, defenseman Patrick Wey (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and goaltender Parker Milner (Mt. Lebanon, Pa.) will be in action, as well as Penguins prospects Carl Sneep
and Philip Samuelsson
This marks the third time in Sneep’s four seasons that the Eagles have advanced to the Frozen Four, while Hetland is making the trip for the second-straight season. Wey, Milner and Samuelsson are each making their Frozen Four debuts.
“It’s a special experience even though this is my third trip,” Sneep said. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out besides winning another championship.”
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for us,” Hetland said. “Not too many teams get to go to the Frozen Four, let alone two years in a row. It was hard because we had a target on our back getting there last year and with the way we played this year.”
That three players with ties to western Pennsylvania have made it to the pinnacle of college hockey is just the continuation of what has been a great run for amateur hockey in Pittsburgh over the last few seasons.
Hetland, Wey and Milner are all three products of the Pittsburgh Hornets Midget AAA program.
“You can’t say enough about that program,” Hetland said. “Everybody seems to know the amount of talent that is produced by that team throughout the country. That is great for hockey in Pittsburgh.”
“It has been incredible to see the steady increase of players coming out of Pittsburgh,” Milner said. “When I was younger it was a huge deal for somebody to make it Division I. Now you see it all the time. It’s incredible how good of a job the Pittsburgh Hornets and some of the other midget teams have done growing the game in Pittsburgh.”
While the younger guys will have three more chances to get back to the Frozen Four no matter what happens this season, this is it for Sneep and Hetland.
If the Eagles are able to win these next two games, Sneep will add a second NCAA Championship to his resume. He was also a key component during Boston College’s 2008 championship.
Hetland and the Red Hawks nearly skated away with the title last season, but Boston University overcame a 3-1 deficit with two goals late in regulation before completing the comeback in overtime. Hetland says the team has learned from that heartbreak.
“We just have to play our game,” Hetland said. “I know that sounds cliché. We played really well last year but just lost our composure at the end. Things like that happen. We just have to play our game.
“I have had a tremendous time here at Miami, especially the players and the coaching staff. It would be an incredible feeling to finish it off with a national championship.”
Although Milner and Samuelsson have long college careers in front of them, neither one is taking this opportunity for granted.
“It has been a unique experience to be embarking in as a freshman,” Milner said. “From the Fenway game to the Beanpot Tournament to this, it has been pretty incredible. It’s just amazing that with two more wins I could be experiencing the best feeling of my life. This year is just surpassing all the expectations I had for it.”
“It is an unbelievable feeling to still be playing hockey in April,” Samuelsson said. “Not many teams get the chance to do that. We know they are a talented team with a lot of great forwards. If we are able to play our type of game this is going to be an exciting weekend for us.”