ST. PAUL - On its road to Saturday night's national championship game, the University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team traveled all over the country - and fans have been on hand to cheer on the Bulldogs every step of the way.
One of those fans is Dan Jacobsen of Duluth, who has been traveling to see the team at venues near and far for years, and also is pursuing a goal to visit all 60 Division I hockey arenas in the country.
"Some of (the arenas) look pretty similar but they're so unique of a place to watch hockey that every place is different," Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen said every year he tries to travel to places he hasn't before. This year he went to Maine to see the Bulldogs play and took a day to see a Harvard game, too, while he was out there. He also attended the Dartmouth tournament in December and saw games at Connecticut and Providence as well. He was able to attend the NCAA regionals in Sioux Falls this year, and is now in St. Paul for the Frozen Four.
Jacobsen was at the UMD game Thursday night - the Bulldogs beat Ohio State 2-1 to reach Saturday night's title game against Notre Dame at Xcel Energy Center - and he said it was one of the better experiences.
"It was very nerve-wracking with how close of a game it was. Especially in the third period when (Ohio State) got on the board," Jacobsen said. "It was just all nerves, but it was really cool to see how many UMD fans were there and addition to that, all of the conference members like Denver, North Dakota and St. Cloud, who usually root against us are rooting with us. And just to hear the crowd in the last five minutes when they were cheering UMD, was just amazing."
Though Thursday's experience was great, Jacobsen said his favorite trip was Maine. That's because of the weather, and the scenery - and because while Jacobsen was there, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, and she said yes.
So is he more nervous for Saturday night's championship game then he was when he proposed to his girlfriend?
"Probably for the game, actually," he said, "because before we got engaged, we'd been together for 11 years, so I kind of knew the outcome of that going into it, where going into games you never really know the outcome."
Jacobsen regularly travels with his fiancée, but if she can't make it, he goes with a one of his friends. Most often David Cummings or Rachel Jacob.
Jacob, of Duluth, only went to Maine and Sioux Falls this year, but got out to Denver, Colorado Springs, St. Cloud and Fargo last year.
"The group that I travel with actually met David on a road trip in Madison when we were still in college," Jacob said. "So every year we've decided to take a trip somewhere we haven't been to yet. It's just something fun to do with friends."
Jacob's family has had UMD season tickets since 2001, which is how her fandom of the Bulldogs began. Then she became a UMD student.
Traveling is something Jacob enjoys, she said, and hockey is a bonus.
"I've met a lot of people doing road trips," Jacob said. "It's nice to meet new people and fans from other places, and it's fun to have them come to Duluth and visit them where they are."
Cummings, from Crystal, Minn., said he also enjoys traveling.
"It's just fun to do. I also love hockey, so it's nice to see new arenas," he said. "It's nice to go to new places and try new foods and different beverages. I'm a big brewery guy, so I like checking out the breweries and trying to find cool cocktails in places. It's also fun to say that I've been at that rink or that town."
Cummings became a Bulldog hockey fan his freshman year at UMD, when he was in the pep band.
"I heard the student section do some cheers and I was just kind of floored at how everyone was into it," Cummings. "It was just kind of built from there."
Jacobsen, Jacob and Cummings all will be at the national championship game Saturday night. Jacobsen and Cummings are nervous going into the game, but Jacob isn't.
"I know a lot fans came down Thursday, but I think a lot more fans will be down there Saturday," Cummings said. "I'm just looking forward to seeing how full the Xcel gets with UMD fans specifically, and how loud we can get to rally behind them and cheer them on to hopefully a victory."
UMD grad takes red-eye to make title game
University of Minnesota Duluth hockey fans will be converging on Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday to watch the Bulldogs take on Notre Dame for the national championship. Some of those fans are coming from far away.
Anthony LaPoint was set to hop on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis at 12:30 a.m. PDT Saturday to make the game Saturday night.
"I'm pretty pumped. I was nervous all week because I put all my eggs in a basket by booking this flight," said LaPoint, a 2016 UMD graduate. "I was at the national championship last year, so I'm hoping for a different result, obviously. I have a lot of confidence in this team. They took it to Ohio State and they're a great defensive team. I don't know, but I'm feeling pretty good."
Lapoint said it was a tough decision because he didn't have a lot of vacation days left and he is flying back to California on Sunday. But he said it will be worth it.
"This will be the second year that I'm attending, so I'm pretty stoked. It's going to be fun to because all of our college friends are meeting back up again," LaPoint said. "It's just kind of fun that we can all get back together because of a hockey team. It's awesome - I'm excited."