It started with St. Lawrence having to withdraw from its NCAA Division I tournament automatic bid. After winning the ECAC tournament and an automatic bid on March 20, the Saints were forced to withdraw after coach Brent Brekke tested positive for COVID-19 on March 21.
Then on March 25, Notre Dame had to withdraw. On March 26, Michigan was out and all three teams before they were able to play a national tournament game due to positive tests.
Minnesota State University-Mankato coach Mike Hastings said that it gave his team a scare and also put, if possible, an even higher priority for his team on trying to stay safe. The Mavericks (22-4-1) won the West Regional in Loveland, Colo., and are preparing for their first Frozen Four.
MSU-M will play St. Cloud State (19-10-0) at 4 p.m. April 8 (ESPN2) at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., in the national semifinals. But there is still COVID-19 tests that need to be passed before that game. Hastings was asked Monday how important staying safe is to his team.
"It's paramount. Without us being able to manage that, we don't have the opportunity to play," said Hastings, who has coached the Mavericks since 2012. "This last weekend, all of a sudden Notre Dame has what happens to them — we happened to be getting back on the ice and practicing for the only time we were able to in Loveland. All of a sudden, we're out practicing and Michigan pops and all of a sudden, they're out.
"The anxiety level every time you walk into that testing center rose from there on out. We didn't know what the process was or what happened to Michigan, but we had a little bit of an idea of what happened to Notre Dame. It's something that we addressed when we got back here immediately. We've addressed it a couple times with our leadership group since and we're talking about it every day and trying to mitigate risk."
The Mavericks had two run-ins with pauses during the regular season due to a false positive COVID-19 test on their team and then had a series cancelled against Lake Superior State due to positive tests for the Lakers..
St. Cloud State has not had any pauses during its season, but that has not kept the Huskies from being on edge as they prepare to head to Pittsburgh.
"We're going to quarantine as best we can," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "Guys will either be at their apartment or the rink. We've asked them not to have any friends over. They're, obviously, not going to be going out in public much other than running to the grocery store and doing things that human beings need to do.
"We're testing every day at the rink. We're in a pretty tight bubble here at the rink. Health and safety is a major concern, considering what's happened in the last couple of weeks. We want to do everything we can to mitigate that and make sure we're doing the best we can. We know those other teams did the best they can, too. That's the one thing about this: You can do everything right and still get it."
- SCSU notebook: Coaches Brett Larson, Scott Sandelin, Mike Hastings are long-time friends each looking for NCAA title next week
- The Rink Live podcast talks Frozen Four with Matt Wellens, Jason Feldman, Dave Starman and Mick Hatten
- 'We're going to Pittsburgh!': Minnesota State beats Minnesota to earn first trip to Frozen Four
Minnesota Duluth (15-10-2) plays Massachusetts ( at 8 p.m. April 8 (ESPN2) in the other semifinals game. The championship game will be at 6 p.m. April 10 (ESPN).
The Bulldogs are looking to play in their fourth straight national title game and win their third straight national championship. The experience of their upperclassmen is helpful as they head to the Frozen Four, but then again, this will be a different experience.
"Even going to the regionals and getting there earlier with all the protocols and how things were done on the past compared to this year, it's a little bit different," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "But I do think it's important that guys have gone through this before, so they kind of know what to expect once you get there. And, more importantly, they know how hard it is to win two games there."
Teams will fly into Pittsburgh on Monday, get tested and then spend Tuesday in quarantine. Then the teams will practice Wednesday and play their semifinals games Thursday.
Practices at the Frozen Four are typically open to the public and media members typically have access to team members in the locker room on the days of the practices. The public and media will not be allowed in the arena for either the practices on Wednesday or the practices on Friday for the teams preparing for the national championship game.
All interviews at the Frozen Four will be conducted on Zoom.
- UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs beat North Dakota in longest NCAA tournament game ever to reach fourth-straight Frozen Four
- SCSU has big 2nd period, beats Boston College 4-1 to advance to Frozen Four