NCAA Hockey brings different experiences for different people. With this weekend's Frozen Four kicking off Thursday night at Ford Field in Detroit, and next season's taking place at the Xcel Energy Center, Wild players look back on memories from their college days.
Defenseman Greg Zanon has a unique point of view on the college perspective. He played at Nebraska-Omaha for four seasons, beginning in 1999-2000 -- the first season the Mavericks played in the CCHA.
"We hadn't established much," Zanon said. "That year, we accomplished a lot: We beat Michigan, got to the CCHA Tournament. We didn't prevail but it was a great experience for our school. You're not always able to be a part of something like that."
Zanon's experience was special off the ice too.
"It's where I met my wife," Zanon said. "It brought new things to the school, new sports. The school had never had dorms at the time, so it was a neat experience to help build a program."
Fellow blueliner John Scott spent four years at Michigan Tech. While the Huskies didn't win much when he was there, playing in Houghton, Mich. offered him a chance to play somewhere that felt like St. Catherines, Ont., Scott's hometown.
"Just like Canada, lots of trees, lots of outdoor activities," Scott said. "They probably get about 20 or 30 feet of snow every winter, so its cold and snowy, just like where I was from."
Although the Huskies "weren't very good when I was there," Scott said it was a thrill playing against guys on other WCHA teams who are now some of the NHL's biggest and brightest names.
"[Thomas] Vanek, [Keith] Ballard, [David] Backes, [Paul] Martin, all those guys," Scott said. "It was cool going around and playing all those big teams and big names and trying to compete with them. It was a challenge everywhere we went."
Casey Wellman and Nate Prosser
played with college teams earlier this season, so their memories are fresh.
"I had an overtime goal against Boston College in a packed house at UMass," Wellman said. "That was pretty awesome to get the game winning goal."
For Prosser, growing up in Elk River meant dreaming about playing in the WCHA. He played four years at Colorado College and went to the Final Five his sophomore season.
"It's a big party down here," Prosser said. "Great atmosphere, fans are everywhere. I only had one opportunity, but it was a great time."