For hockey fans this is the elite field of collegiate hockey teams that remain alive to battle for the National Championship April 8-10.
The ice action will be fast and furious at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Players and fans alike were frozen out last year as the 2020 championship was canceled due to COVID-19.
Now, a year later teams from Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and the U-of-Massachusetts.
Minnesota-Duluth enters as the defending national champions.
The first three entries come from the State of Hockey, that being Minnesota.
The Gopher state lived up to that coined slogan, having all five D-1 teams alive in the regional level of play.
That also included Bemidji State and the University of Minnesota.
Absent from the big event include the Gophers and the Badgers from the state of Wisconsin, while North Dakota saw its lone entry fall to Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in five overtime periods.
It was Bemidji State putting an end to play for Wisconsin in earlier play.
SPOONER AT MANKATO
The overall field gets a taste of North Dakota as Williston native No. 11 Jared Spooner is in his senior year skating for the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks.
This is a special time, with this being the first-ever appearance in the Frozen Four for the Mavericks.
Spooner, featured in a video piece on the school network, was given high praise from the Mankato head coach, for the skater who got started right here in Williston.
We learned that Jared is the youngest son of six children for Jan and Brian Spooner.
That word comes from Nan Spooner Kennelly, who makes her home in Fargo.
On the other hand Brian, is the oldest son of Maureen and Bob Spooner, in a family of six that included five boys and Nan as the only girl.
Maureen now 92 and Bob 93, made a move to Fargo back in 2012, after 48 years residing in Williston.
Meanwhile, Jared grew up in Williston and made the move to attend Bismarck High School.
Along with Nan and her family now in Fargo we can tell you two of her brothers, Jay and Tobin also make their home in Fargo.
She noted that Kevin lived in Fargo half years until he passed away in 2013.
Brother Tim is in Phoenix, while Brian still lives in Bismarck.
MORE ON JARED
We also learned Jared is a great tennis player, thanks to a work ethic that is “unmatched.”
While in Bismarck he skated on a state championship hockey team.
Reports indicate he went on to the junior hockey level with the Bismarck Bobcats, along with two years with the Green Bay Gamblers, honing his hockey skills before jumping at Mankato.
During his senior play at Mankato Jared has been a big asset, on and off the ice.
Nan tells us her nephew is a “man of strong faith, self-discipline, and love for his family.”
A PROUD AUNTIE
Jared has also been involved with service and mission work, along with his time on the ice.
She added, “he is all around an amazing guy who has worked tirelessly, came back from injury, and is now on a team going to their first Frozen Four.”
Indeed, the high praise comes from “his proud Auntie.”
FAMILY OF FANS
Plans are being finalized for the trip aboard the Minnesota State-Mankato airplane charter.
Meanwhile, we understand Maureen and Bob will be pulling for Jared from home.
That leaves all of Jared’s siblings, including Angie, Brent, Allison, John and Brady to be on hand in Pittsburgh, along with parents Jan and Brian.
Nan had two tickets on standby for the charter plane, and while her family is made up of die-hard Gonzaga fans, Nan and her son Ryan will be on hand to add to the family ice support.
That basketball support for the Zags is engrained with Kevin attending Gonzaga law school, with the family living out there for three years.
In addition Ryan will be attending Gonzaga next year, seeking a degree in engineering.
We should add that three of Tim’s boys from Phoenix are also making the trek to Pittsburgh.
One thing for certain when the Mavericks from Mankato take the ice the other folks in attendance will know where the support comes from.
“We have a Spooner crowd going to Pittsburgh, it should be a fun time,” concluded Nan.
Leading up to the game, media support has reached back to Fargo, as Jared was featured on the Izzo Hot Mike show on WDAY radio.
CHEER FROM ALUMS
Along with cheering from afar for the Mavericks, you can bet Minnesota Vikings standout Adam Thielen will be lending his support.
Hey, this scribe goes way back, attending Mankato long before hockey was thought of at this level.
Back in those days the college athletic teams were known as Indians.
We had the pleasure of doing play-by-play for the MSU baseball team.
While we have you thinking about Fargo we can tell you the North Dakota State University Bison is slated to host South Dakota State University in a conference clash for all the marbles on Saturday (April 3).
But, like most fans, we can only wait and see what kicks off.
Last week fans were excited as play was slated against South Dakota, only to have the game cancelled at the pre-game breakfast on game day.
That came, of course, due to COVID-19.
Thomas A. Kvamme is a former resident and long time sports editor and columnist for the Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.