Pros Remember FF Experience
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
BOSTON Many players have used Frozen Four performances to help catapult an NHL career. Three of these players are currently employed by the Boston Bruins.
Andrew Alberts, Mark Mowers and Tim Thomas all went to the Frozen Four in the respective college careers, and while each lost in the semifinals in their only appearance, they took with them the experience of one of the biggest games of their lives, and applied lessons learned to get them among the world's elite in the National Hockey League.
Mowers put up 56 points in his senior season at New Hampshire, helping lift the Wildcats into the Frozen Four. Ironically it was in the same building where he now plays his NHL home games, the TD Banknorth Garden.
"For me it was the most important game that I had played in to that point," said Mowers, who has 259 NHL games under his belt. "I had played in big games in high school and juniors, but you're one of the four teams to play for a National Championship — it was pretty special.
"I remember being pretty nervous and I remember most of the guys in our locker room being pretty nervous too. There was a lot at stake."
Mowers scored 85 goals in four years in Durham, and now that he is in Boston, he can keep a closer eye on his former team.
"I still keep in contact with the coaches up there," he said. "I do my best to get to as many games as I can up there; it's easier now that I am only right down the road. I don't see myself ever not following college hockey or UNH hockey specifically because it's such a great atmosphere to be in. It was fun to play in and it's fun to watch."
Like his current teammate, Andrew Alberts also had his Frozen Four appearance at the Garden, only his came in 2004, six years after Mowers'.
"We didn't have to travel far and played right here in Boston so it was pretty specialm," said Alberts, who was a standout defenseman at Boston College. "We just had one game against Maine, but to be a part of it, one of the best teams in the nation, it's an exciting time. I wish we had a longer run, we watched guys before us go four years straight which is really amazing.
"I wish I could watch the games coming up here with the guys but I have some games here with the Bruins so I am going to miss them, but I still watch and keep up with BC."
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had to wait six years between his Frozen Four (1996) and his NHL debut with the Bruins in 2002. His story with Vermont is quite exclusive, as part of one of the more infamous moments in Frozen Four lore.
"I had a unique experience out there at the Frozen Four," Thomas said. "We were in Cincinnati and right before warm-ups they were drilling the holes for the nets and they hit a refrigerant pipe so we had refrigerant flood the entire ice. Some of our guys were dressed, some were half-dressed and they told us that we weren't going to play that day. So we all went up in the stands with our parents and we were talking to them getting ready to leave and they came running up to us and told us to get back downstairs because we were going to play.
"It wasn't your common experience. Then we go out there and take Colorado College to double overtime. The ice was getting worse and worse because to stop the flow of the refrigerant they had to turn off the entire system. They told us before the second OT that if no one scored they were going to have us play the next day and finish the game then."
Unfortunately for Thomas, one of the most exciting games of his career didn't end the way he would have liked — and it only added to the infamy of the game, as anyone who witnessed it will never forget.
"With about 30 seconds left in the second overtime, Colorado College scores on a hand-pass that the referee didn't see," Thomas said. "This was back before they had instant replay in college, in fact that play was one of the reasons that they started with instant replay, there were a lot of factors but that play was one of them. So, that was the end of our Frozen Four run but we played great in that game and given everything we went through, it was a great experience."
As for advice, all three players echoed each other.
"There is no way that you won't be a little nervous, just live in the moment and remember that you might not get there again," said Mowers. "I would tell them that they really just have to work hard — you want to be able to look in the mirror after the game and now that you poured everything out."
Thomas made it to the Frozen Four just once, and says that this weekend might be the only chance that some of the players get at a National Title.
"Soak it in," he said. "Your college career is short, only four years, and in a case like mine you might only get there once. So enjoy the experience and try to have fun but remember that it might be the only time that you have that chance."
Alberts' Eagles have been to the Frozen Four in three of the last four years, but his message to the younger Eagles was almost identical to Thomas'.
"Take it one-game at a time," he said. "Realize where you are because it doesn't happen very often. It's tough to get there, it's tough to stay there, and it's tough to move on so cherish the opportunity to play."
As for picks, Mowers picked his former Hockey East alumni, and Alberts' former club.
"I would have to take BC because they are hot," he said. "Obviously North Dakota is playing pretty well but BC is probably the hottest team and that is usually what it takes to get it done."