Minnesota Duluth will travel Monday to Pittsburgh for the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four at PPG Paints Arena. That’s a day earlier than their traditional departure day for the last three consecutive trips to the Frozen Four, but in line with what UMD has experienced throughout a postseason played during a pandemic.
The NCAA’s postseason COVID-19 testing protocols have required teams to arrive three days prior to their first competition instead of two days ahead of time. That was the case for the NCAA women’s tournament in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the NCAA regional in Fargo, North Dakota.
For the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the team traveled two days before their first game.
“This is certainly a different year,” said coach Scott Sandelin, who has the Bulldogs in their fourth-straight Frozen Four for the sixth-time overall during his 21 seasons. “Even going through the regionals, getting there earlier, with all the protocols and just how things were done in the past versus this year, it’s a little different, but similar.”
Despite arriving in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Bulldogs are not scheduled to take their first COVID-19 test until Tuesday afternoon. A second test will come Wednesday morning before their first practice at PPG Paints Arena — home to the Pittsburgh Penguins — and then UMD will be tested a third time Thursday morning prior to their morning skate and 8 p.m. national semifinal against Massachusetts.
The back-to-back defending national champions are the last team scheduled to arrive at PPG Paints Arena on Monday night for equipment dropoff. They’re the last to get tested on Tuesday evening and will practice last on Wednesday from 3:15-4:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, with a virtual press conference to follow from 4:45-5 p.m. ET.
Teams will quarantine at their hotel all day Tuesday — no one will practice that day — and they can’t practice or compete until receiving two consecutive negative test results.
Access to teams limited for fans, media
One of the highlights for fans — and even reporters — at the Frozen Four is the increased access to the players and coaches from various teams. There will be none of that this year in Pittsburgh due to COVID-19.
All practices this year will be closed to media and the public. Reporters will also not have traditional access to the team locker rooms after practices and games like in previous years. Instead, all press conferences at the Frozen Four will be done virtually over Zoom. Teams will meet with ESPN and Westwood One radio on Tuesday while quarantined at their hotel, and then hold virtual press conferences with the rest of the media throughout the day Wednesday.
Additional events fans will notice missing from the itinerary this year include the red carpet arrivals for teams and the Friday autograph sessions.
The presentation of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, Hockey Humanitarian Award, Mike Richter Award and All-American teams will also be closed to the public and instead announced during a show on NHL Network at 5 p.m. Friday.
Limited tickets to Frozen Four sold out
Approximately 4,500 fans will be allowed inside the 18,387-seat PPG Paints Arena for the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four on game day.
The limited amount of tickets were sold as all-session tickets for Thursday’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. No single-session tickets were sold this year.
The NCAA is not allowing any re-entry in between semifinal games on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols. Tickets were distributed in seat blocks or pods of 1-4 seats to maintain social distancing between groups of people.
Each of the four schools was allotted 300 tickets each — 200 in the lower bowl and 100 in the upper — and the Bulldogs have already filled their allotment for sections 114-16 and 221-222.
How to watch, listen back in Duluth
Thursday’s NCAA Frozen Four semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN2, while Saturday’s national championship is scheduled to air on ESPN, with John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and Colby Cohen on the call for all three games.
All three games will also be streamed online on ESPN.com and the ESPN App, however, a cable, satellite or streaming TV subscription is required.
KDAL 610 AM and 103.9 FM radio in Duluth — as well as KDAL610.com and the KDAL app — will also be broadcasting the Bulldogs with Bruce Ciskie on the call covering the game virtually from Duluth.
In addition to KDAL, 106.5 FM in Duluth and SiriusXM Channel 84 will have the national radio broadcast by Westwood One Sports, with Brian Tripp and Dave Starman on the call.