PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With one shot against North Dakota, Mount Lebanon’s own Jesse Root found the net in what proved to be the game winner sending his Yale Bulldogs team to the Frozen Four.
“It was great. It was an unbelievable experience for the team just to get into the Frozen Four,” said Root. “I don’t think it sunk in until the plane arrived at the jetway, and at the airport – I’d been to the airport so many times – but usually my mom’s picking me up there, but to go on a bus to a hotel, that’s when it sank in.”
On Wednesday morning, Root skated onto Crosby and Malkin ice to prepare for Thursday night’s game against UMass Lowell before a sellout crowd.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” Root said.
From the time they landed, Root’s teammates turned to him for the lay of the land, so he played tour guide on the bus into town.
“Right as you come out of the tunnel and see the skyline, everyone was oohing and awing,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
And if he gets a chance to get the guys out on the town, he knows what the first stop will be.
“Probably take them to Primanti’s cause everyone’s heard about that, so I’ll have to take them there,” Root said.
They may be Bulldogs, but Yale would have to be considered the underdogs of the Frozen Four. Yet, Root says they’re ready and capable. For Root, it’s a performance before family and friends.
“I can’t really even put it into words; it’s so special to be in my hometown with all the hometown fans that came out even to watch us practice,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the Yale Bulldogs worked out on the CONSOL Energy Center ice, fans of college hockey from both near and far are soaking up the scene.
Dave Dopson brought young Trey up from Canonsburg.
“Mostly for him,” said Dopson. “He loves hockey. He loves the game. It’s a great experience to see the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh and he’s excited.”
Kim Beaver, of Robinson Township, came over to the arena during lunch to get a Frozen Four hat and shirt.
“It’s in Pittsburgh; it’s just another feather in the hat for the city, and just shows you the popularity of hockey in Pittsburgh with the success of the Penguins and everything else,” said Beaver.
Beaver and the Dopsons are the exception. Most of these fans have journeyed here from coast to coast, like Bob Ivey from Southern California.
“We’ve been coming to the Frozen Four for the last 14 years,” said Ivey.
Jeff Warner is from Moretown, Vt.
“This is big,” he said. “We go every year. I meet my older brother from Wyoming and his boys. Wherever the Frozen Four is, that’s where we go.”
It means 18,000 ticket holders, mostly from out of town, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.
“It generates about $10 million in direct spending,” said Jason Fulvi, the executive vice president of Visit Pittsburgh.