From the ninth in the CCHA to National Runner-up

It all started as a joke.

Before leaving for Florida, Bulldog junior forward Kyle Bonis made the comment via his twitter account that he couldn’t believe the team was actually headed to the Frozen Four. Apparently, the “road to Tampa” had been a running joke among the players since early in the season. The idea that the FSU hockey team would ever make it to the Frozen Four was so far-fetched not even the players themselves thought it possible. And who could blame them? Picked to finish ninth in the CCHA, to say the Bulldogs were an underdog was an understatement.

Despite being underdogs, the Bulldogs carried themselves with the poise of seasoned champions. The veteran-led roster didn’t allow themselves to get caught up in the media or fan attention brought on by their No. 1 ranking. Even with the national spotlight on them, the Bulldogs never stopped playing their game.

Simply playing their game took the Bulldogs from Big Rapids to Green Bay and finally to Tampa. Three buses of fans followed them to Florida while thousands more tuned in so not to miss a minute of the action as this team made their mark in FSU history. The Bulldogs’ 26 wins are the second-most in school history, and the season highlights include the program’s second-ever CCHA Regular-Season Championship and its first-ever Midwest Regional Crown.

It may have all started as a joke, but no one is laughing now. Not Notre Dame who was picked to win the CCHA and beaten by FSU three times this season. Not Boston College (or any of their eight N.H.L draft picks) who was pushed to the limit by the Bulldogs in the Frozen Four title game. Certainly, no one at this university is laughing.

In September if I had been asked where I’d be seeing the hockey team in April, my first guess would have been Shooter’s. Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that I’d be watching them on ESPN. But as I sat at Buffalo Wild Wings surrounded by fellow Bulldog fans, there was not a shred of doubt in my mind that this team deserved to be out on the ice competing for the national championship.