Are you ready for the invasion?
This week thousands of hockey fans will descend on the District for the NCAA Frozen Four. And if you thought Caps fans were a rabid bunch, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
You will recognize them by their sweaters and tuques. You will hear their chants. And you will see them almost nonstop around the Verizon Center throughout the weekend.
The Frozen Four, if you didn't know, is the NCAA men's ice hockey championship. By all accounts, it is the first NCAA championship of any kind decided within the District, and it will be held this week at the Phone Booth.
While college hockey isn't big in the D.C. area, the tournament is bound to show hockey novices across the region what they're missing out on.
And now, a primer on what we can expect:
First, download your bracket here. It's no March Madness office pool, but it gives you an idea on where these teams came from.
After all the early rounds, we're now down to four teams. Here's the who, what, where, why and how on each...
The only top seed left in the tournament is the team many expected to be here -- the Boston Terriers.
BU was the No. 1 seed headed into the tourney, and while the other top seeds cracked, the Terriers made it to D.C. After trouncing Ohio State in the first round, 8-3, they found things a lot tougher in Round 2, barely squeezing by New Hampshire, 2-1.
The Terriers will be playing in their 21st Frozen Four, but it's been a while. The last time they made it this far was 1997.
Who To Watch: Hobey Baker Trophy finalists Matt Gilroy and Colin Wilson.
Gilroy, a defenseman, was a walk-on at BU who eventually became the team captain. After not being drafted, Gilroy will sign with an NHL team as a free agent after the season ends. He wears No. 97 in honor of his brother, who died at the age of 12.
Wilson is a slick passer and big-time scorer. His dad, Carey, played 12 seasons in the NHL, including some time with the beloved Hartford Whalers. Colin was drafted in 2008 by Nashville (first round, seventh overall).
University of Vermont (22-11-6)
(No. 3 in USAToday Poll)
Vermont's route to the Frozen Four was a bizarre one. After dismissing Yale in the first round, they took on surprise Air Force in Round 2. Air Force knocked off No. 2 Notre Dame the opening round, and wasn't going down without a fight against Vermont.
The game went to a second overtime. That's when Dan Lawson's shot from the point got past the goaltender, actually went through the net and hit the boards. Play continued for several minutes before a video review showed the puck actually went over the goal line. Catamounts win. Their reward: taking on No. 1 Boston University.
Who To Watch: The big Swede Viktor Stalberg leads the team in scoring with 45 points in 38 games. And he has his own Web site, PickVik.com.
Also keep an eye on freshman goaltender Rob Madore, who posted a 2.25 GAA and a .916 save percentage in his first year.
Miami (Ohio) (22-12-5)
(No. 4 in USAToday Poll)
There's a first time for everything, and despite having the best winning percentage of any D-I team over the past four years (.691), this will be the RedHawks' first trip to the big dance.
The RedHawks road from Ohio to D.C. went through No. 3 seed Denver. After that upset Miami beat Minnesota Duluth to advance.
Who To Watch: Justin Mercier. This guy just seems to score big goals when the RedHawks need them most. The senior from Erie, Pa., is one of the top forwards in college hockey.
Bemidji State (20-15-1)
(No. 12 in USAToday Poll)
First of all, for those of us who have no idea, Bemidji State is located in northern Minnesota. From the university's Web site:
Located on the western shore of Lake Bemidji, our north woods campus environment reminds us daily of the need to be in tune with our world. Similarly, the American Indian culture of our region beckons us to begin our global journey by understanding our past as we prepare for the future. See for yourself by visiting us soon.
You learn something every day. On March 28, Notre Dame learned just how tough of an opponent the Beavers can be. The Beav pounded the Irish, 5-1, sending the No. 2 team in the land home early. BS then knocked off Cornell, this time 4-1. They became the first No. 16 seed to win a regional championship.
Can the Cinderella story continue in the Frozen Four? Giving up just two goals in the first two games is a good sign. The RedHawks better watch out...
Who To Watch: The line of Tyler Scofield, Matt Read and Matt Francis. Scofield leads the team in goals (22) while Read leads the team in points (39).