The city of Duluth has hosted the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four three times — twice at DECC Arena in 2003 and 2008 and most recently at Amsoil Arena in 2012.

Laura Bellamy, the Minnesota Duluth associate women’s head coach and Duluth native, was in the stands for two of those three.

“I still have a bone to pick with my dad. I missed the ‘03 championship,” said Bellamy, who only came home with a seat cushion from the event. “I missed it for a youth hockey practice.”

Bellamy has no intention of missing the next NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in Duluth, which the NCAA announced Wednesday will be back at Amsoil Arena in 2023 after over a decade away from the shores of Lake Superior.

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The Frozen Four has returned to the State of Hockey three times since 2012, but all three were held at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, which will host the 2025 Frozen Four.

Bulldogs head coach Maura Crowell, who has attended several Frozen Fours, said she can’t think of a better place for a Frozen Four than Duluth and Amsoil Arena. It checks all the boxes.

“Being walking distance to hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping — that's really important. People want obviously to come for the game, but they want to have some fun, too,” said Crowell, who was on the Harvard coaching staff along with Bellamy when the Crimson lost to the Gophers in the 2015 national championship at Ridder.

“And our rink — obviously I'm biased — but I think it's the best rink in the country,” Crowell said.

“There's not a bad seat in the house, the sightlines are great, acoustics are great. We put on a great production so I know the fans in the building are going to have an amazing experience. I can’t think of a better spot.”

In addition to UMD and Minnesota, the NCAA on Wednesday also awarded the 2024 Frozen Four to New Hampshire, who last hosted in 2016, and Penn State will get the 2026 event after hosting it for the first time coming up in 2022.

The 2021 Frozen Four is scheduled to be hosted by Mercyhurst in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“This is a credit to our women's hockey program, our great university, our strong community and the first-class facility that is Amsoil Arena,” Bulldogs athletic director Josh Berlo said. “We appreciate the partnerships that came together to make this event a reality and look forward to hosting an exceptional national championship that will put a spotlight on UMD and Duluth while generating significant economic impact.”

The last time the Frozen Four came to Duluth, Minnesota defeated Wisconsin 4-2 for the national championship when Amsoil Arena first hosted the event. The 2012 Frozen Four — which also included Boston College and Cornell, but not the Bulldogs — drew a total of 5,879 fans over three games.

Amsoil Arena will host the 2023 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Amsoil Arena will host the 2023 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

The Bulldogs were part of both Frozen Fours at the DECC Arena in 2008 and 2003, with UMD defeating Wisconsin 4-0 in 2008 — a year after losing to Wisconsin in the title game in Lake Placid, New York — for the program’s fourth of five NCAA titles. That tournament, which also featured New Hampshire and Harvard, drew 10,215 for the three games.

The most memorable Frozen Four was the first in Duluth in 2003 when the Bulldogs defeated Harvard 4-3 in double overtime before a sellout crowd of 5,167 at the DECC, with Dartmouth and Harvard playing earlier in the day in the third-place game. A total of 9,968 fans came that weekend to see the Bulldogs win a third-straight national championship.

“People still talk about them,” Bellamy said. “The atmosphere was incredible and such good games. To come home with two championships in ‘03 and ‘08 was just incredible, especially for me growing up here. I was a young age then and it was just so inspiring to see our team not only host some something like this, but also to win it. There's strong history here, good tradition and we're excited that it's going to be back in Duluth.”