THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2014
10:04 a.m. Eastern (Jayson) – Wednesday was the kind of day the travel blog was made for.
The day started out as routinely as any postseason trip possibly could. A comfortable, roomy charter flight directly from Grand Forks to Cincinnati without a single issue, arriving mid-afternoon in the Queen City.
We de-boarded the plane, hopped on the bus and that’s when the adventure began.
It started early, as we took the wrong exit onto the interstate and found ourselves heading in the completely opposite direction of Cincinnati. One off ramp and one on-ramp and we were back in business.
After a short drive, crossing the river from Kentucky into Cincinnati, we found ourselves at U.S. Bank Arena. What we couldn’t find was the loading dock to unload the bus. When our first guess proved to be incorrect, the one-way road we were on took us back across the river into Kentucky. U-turn number two ensued.
After a quick phone call by equipment manager Andy Rannells to arena personnel, we located the proper loading dock on the next try. It only got worse from there.
After pulling slightly into the loading dock, the bus driver had to stop with the bus still halfway in the street because the angle was too tight to go any further. Making matters exponentially worse, the slight incline of the driveway caused the back end of the bus to get hung up on the pavement, with the rear tires no longer able to touch the ground. Several tries to move forward or backward were unsuccessful.
We were stuck.
Needing to still check into the hotel, a tow truck (for the bus) and several taxis (for the team) were called. After about a 40-minute wait, the first of about nine taxis arrived to take the players and staff to the hotel, four people at a time.
By 7 p.m. we had finally checked into the hotel and yet another travel chapter was in the books.
Now, on to the good stuff.
Dinner, which followed check-in at the hotel, was tremendous. We ate at a restaurant called the Yard House, whose claim to fame is the more than 200 beers they have on tap. We were told that for the Cincinnati Reds’ season opener on Monday, the Yard House will have more than 200 kegs running, with two additional trucks of beer outside the restaurant.
Also on the plus side, Cincinnati is a beautiful city with an old-fashioned, almost historic-looking, downtown that also features a smattering of modern architecture. I was also impressed by how pristinely clean the downtown area is.
Being a first-time visitor, my only previous Cincinnati-related experiences came from WKRP in Cincinnati and the exploits of Dr. Johnny Fever and the gang. The Reds’ upset of the hated Oakland A’s in the 1990 World Series was also pretty swell. But I had no idea how beautiful a city this is.
That, after battling bus adventures, uncooperative hotel wireless and wild goose chase to entry into the arena, is the first blog entry of the regional.
12:49 p.m. ET (Matt) -- I'm not sure what Jayson is talking about or where all these #4thSeedProblems are coming from. For us non-team staff, we hopped off the plane, walked right to the rental car and navigated the Kentucky and Ohio roads quickly and efficiently. Apparently there was also some contruction outside of the hotel window, but I didn't notice.
Great meal, great time sharing memories last night and so far a great trip. More to come from media day today.
2:08 p.m. ET (Jayson) -- The pre-practice obligations are taken care of. Stephane Pattyn, Dillon Simpson, Rocco Grimaldi and Zane Gothberg spent time with ESPN announcers Joe Beninati and Darren Eliot, plus producer Andy Bock to provide some insight into the team and the season.
Following a 60-minute practice (which is underway as I type this), we will take defensemen Nick Mattson (quotable), Stephane Pattyn (quotable General) and Jordan Schmaltz (Wisconsin native) to the press conference.
After that, a handful of us staff members will stay back at the arena for the NCAA's pre-tournament meeting to discuss rules, protocol, etc. It's a standard meeting held befor every regional and Frozen Four, and is attended by athletics directors, head coaches, SIDs and ESPN and NCAA reps.
The team will bus back to the hotel while we're in the meeting and then we will all meet up later tonight for Thursday night dinner.
4:31 p.m. ET (Jayson) -- Press conference is in the books. The gist of the questions surrounded around UND cheering for Wisconsin on one day, and then having to turn around and prepare for the Badgers as its next opponent.
Coach Hakstol was also asked about his minor league playing days with the IHL's Indianapolis Ice when he frequented Cincinnati as a visiting player.
FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014
11:19 a.m. ET (Jayson) -- The final Friday game day of the season.
UND will take the ice shortly for a brief morning skate that will last 30 minutes. The players seemed as loose as I can recall this morning before leaving the hotel, which is typically a pretty good sign with this particular team. Obviously the focus will continue to narrow as the game approaches, but for now it doesn't seem as if being too tight will be an issue.
After morning skate, the team will return to the hotel for the day. Intern Alec and myself will probably head over for most of the Ferris State-Colgate game, and get a bit of a jump on coordinating some of ESPN's pregame needs (locker room shots, goalie mask shots, etc.). It's always best to get as much of that stuff out of the way as possible before the team arrives.
Last night was a typical low key Thursday on the road, with team dinner following practice (a pre-tournament meeting for administrators and coaches was sandwiched in between). Later on the evening provided some free time for a few of us (Matt Schill, photographer Eric Classen and myself) to get together socially with our local media contignent, including the Grand Forks Herald's Brad Schlossman, WDAZ's Dan Corey and Midco Sports Network's Darren Lien.
Always nice to have a relaxing evening the night before the game day storm.
4:10 p.m. ET (Jayson) -- Back at the rink, with the Ferris State and Colgate 20 minutes away from dropping the puck.
I came early for two reaons: first, it's nice to relax and watch a hockey game in which you have no emotional investment. Secondly, ESPN wanted to grab a couple of photos of Zane Gothberg's mask for tonight's game. In chatting with Zane yesterday, they really liked that he has a picture of his grandmother Susan on the back of his mask. Expect that to come up at some point during the broadcast.
4:30 p.m. ET (Matt) -- Need a bit more to do before the game? Tim Hennessy and I broke down the match-up. I always love listening to Hennessy's take on teams and games. He's seen a lot of college hockey in his broadcasting career and always offers a good perspective.
It's been a good couple of day in Cincinnati, and so far, I've enjoyed this regional site. One place I've been told is a must is Skyline Chili, although some have warned to stay away. We stopped there for lunch today and was pleasantly surprised. For those that don't know, the most well-known dish is the 3-way, which is spaghetti noodles, topped with chili and cheese. Odd, but tasty.
SATURDAY, MARCH 29, 2014
10:45 a.m. ET (Jayson) -- Was that an incredible college hockey game or what?
In a classic North Dakota-Wisconsin battle, we were treated to everything: wide open chances, brilliant goaltending, physicality, punching and counter-punching and loads of drama.
A lot of people on that last night were asking about Dillon Simpson's status after he was blindsided just before Wisconsin's goal. Fortunately, Dillon only had the wind knocked out of him and apparently suffered no other ill effects from the hit.
After the game I had the chance to meet the fathers of Paul LaDue, Connor Gaarder and Drake Caggiula. Great people, all three, and it's always fun meeting parents and getting their perspectives. They were certainly on cloud nine.
We are at the rink now for morning skate. I'm in the media work room, pounding away at the ol' keyboard to get game notes and everything else updated for tonight's game. We'll be sure to keep you updated throughout the day and night.