Imagine if, say, the men’s basketball teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin both advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
(Hey, it could happen.)
Now imagine if the coaches from those teams decided they would try to save the NCAA a few bucks by flying on the same charter. Bedlam, right?
Now let’s step into the world of women’s college hockey, where that very scenario played out. St. Thomas and nearby UW-River Falls both advanced to the Division III Frozen Four in Plattsburgh, N.Y. They are in opposite semifinals, but they both play Friday and figured it would be easy if they just traveled together.
The NCAA had other ideas.
“We thought it would make a lot of sense with two teams going to the same place,” St. Thomas coach Tom Palkowski said. “But they have their way of doing things. The NCAA foots the bill for it, so we have to follow.”
For their part, players don’t seem to mind that the arrangement fell through.
“It was the rumor that teams had chartered together in the past,” senior Christina Rozeske said. “We were a little worried about it, but things shook out a little differently. It would have made the flight a little bit interesting if we had flown out with River Falls.”
That’s because the two have become rivals in recent years, Rozeske said. They played twice this season, with UW-River Falls taking the season opener in a 9-3 blowout while St. Thomas’ 2-1 victory in January sparked the Tommies to a strong finish.
“Ever since then, they started believing,” Palkowski said. “And they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
St. Thomas is in the NCAA field for just the second time in program history, and this is its first trip to the Frozen Four. Advancing to the title game — and perhaps setting up a third meeting against River Falls — will take some doing.
The Tommies face No. 1-ranked Plattsburgh in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Plattsburgh is first in the nation in scoring at 4.96 goals per game and first in defense at 0.61 goals allowed a game. River Falls faces Norwich in the second semifinal.
Forget about flying out together. Imagine if both teams win Friday and would have had to fly home together after an NCAA title game? Good problem to have, but still …
“The loser probably would have had a pretty bad flight,” Rozeske said with a laugh. “I guess we won’t have to worry about that.”