ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Minnesota's hockey hopes come in size "husky" this year, as the St. Cloud State Huskies hockey team heads to its first-ever Frozen Four appearance this weekend in Pittsburgh.
St. Cloud State will wear the mantle of underdog in the semifinal matchup with the No. 1 ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats on Thursday night.
Being the underdog has not dampened the enthusiasm of the Husky faithful.
"It is making history!" explained one excited fan as she shopped for Frozen Four clothing at the Husky Bookstore on campus.
The store is ablaze with Frozen Four red and black T-shirts, hooded-sweatshirts, sticks and pucks.
But not everyone was coughing up the cash for Frozen Four wear just yet.
"Nope," said Ceclia Riley, Junior. "I will save that for when they win the whole thing."
The game is scheduled to start on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will air in front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPN2.
"I think we have eight watch parties for Thursday night already scheduled throughout St. Cloud," said Heather Weems, SCSU Athletic Director. "I think out of our direct stock (of tickets), we had between 500 and 600 (sold). We have a number of fans who went directly through NCAA Ticket Exchange or other resources over in Pittsburgh."
Weems expects a good turnout to cheer on Minnesota's only college hockey team still alive in the post-season.
"We actually do. We think we have a good following," said Weems. "We have a charter flight flying out on Thursday morning. We have some folks coming with the team (on Tuesday) and then we have a great number, I think who are jumping in their cars and road-tripping it."
One of those fans is Dave Heine, Class of 1984.
"We are heading out, my 14-year-old boy and I. Very excited! We are going to catch some baseball games en route," he said.
Linda Cooper was working hard Monday afternoon to keep the racks loaded at the bookstore with the merchandise that fans like Heine were picking up for their trip east. She said she had sold 600 items so far, with a big pep rally set for Tuesday morning yet to come.
In Downtown St. Cloud, there are billboards and electronic signs expressing Husky Pride and wishing the team luck in the Frozen Four.
The team practiced off campus for their last Minnesota warm-up to the big weekend. The ice surface at the Municipal Athletic Complex on the west side of St. Cloud features a smaller NHL-sized rink, like the one in Pittsburgh. The SCSU rink is the larger Olympic-sized.
When the University of Minnesota Gophers won the 2003 National Championship at the Frozen Four in Buffalo, New York's HSBC arena, they led up to the competition by working out on the women's Ritter Arena ice which is NHL-sized, compared to the Olympic ice at Mariucci Arena.
St. Cloud's pep rally is set for 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday on the plaza in front of Atwood Hall on the SCSU campus.
The rally will feature the team, cheer squad and pep band. It will serve as a send-off for the team as they depart on a charter flight to Pittsburgh.
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