03/26/2013 2:59 PM
March 26, 2013
by Alan Cross - griffinshockey.com
NCAA hockey is coming to Grand Rapids, as Van Andel Arena will host the West Regional of the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament this Friday and Saturday! Four of college hockey’s top teams -- Minnesota, North Dakota, Niagara and Yale -- will compete in West Michigan to secure a spot in next month’s Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, and fans can purchase a two-day, three-game pass for just $65 by clicking here. Several Griffins have participated in the NCAA tournament, and we’ll highlight their experiences throughout March.
The single-elimination stakes of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament offer a unique and thrilling environment for players and fans alike, in a setting where one shot of the puck can determine the fate of an entire team.
Current Grand Rapids Griffin and former Michigan Wolverine Luke Glendening had his fair share of NCAA appearances while with the University of Michigan. Familiar with the full spectrum of experiences that the tournament has to offer, Glendening understands the mentality the players need to adopt as they hit the ice this weekend at Van Andel Arena.
“You try to deal with the stakes as a team,” he said. “You’ve been playing the whole season and you’ve been playing your whole life. You don’t want to overthink it and make a stupid mistake.”
During his collegiate career, Glendening took part in four NCAA tournaments as a Wolverine. Highlighting his experience at Michigan was his 2010-11 season where, as a junior, he co-captained his team all the way to the Frozen Four championship game. The Wolverines were matched against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, spawning one of the most high-stakes experiences Glendening has ever had on the ice.
“We were in a pretty hostile environment,” he recalled. “We played Minnesota-Duluth in Minnesota, but it was a surreal experience, one of my best hockey experiences.”
The championship environment was taken to new heights by Michigan’s loyal fan base that followed the team all the way to Minneapolis. Lost in a sea of their opponent’s colors, the dedicated Wolverine fans made all the difference for the spirits of the team. What they lacked in number, they made up for in heart, helping the players to focus on the magnitude and importance of the game at hand.
“We have great fans at Michigan,” said Glendening. “(For the semifinal game) there was a group of yellow jerseys in the crowd and then the rest of the entire stadium was green for North Dakota. I just think stepping out onto that ice and seeing them was incredible. We were the underdogs, and [North Dakota] was supposed to be unbelievable. Standing there for the national anthem was made me realize this is really it, this is the big time.”
Although the Wolverines suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game, the team’s successes throughout the tournament were undeniable and created lasting memories that will stick with Glendening for a lifetime.
“Obviously, it would be cool to have a national championship under my belt, but that didn’t happen so what am I going to do about it now? Nothing. You just have to enjoy your time. I look back on it fondly. It was a great time and it was a great run and we had fun.”
Now a professional himself in his first season with the Griffins, Glendening recognizes the role that the NCAA tournament has in the recognition of blossoming professional prospects. The tournament draws attention on a national scale, meaning that successes as an individual and team can have lasting effects for players looking to play at a professional level.
“You’re on a bigger scale, there are fewer teams so it’s easier to focus in on people,” he said. “You’re playing on a big stage and that’s what people want to see, how you act and how you play in those moments.”