Worth the trip

Michigan Tech NCAA?berth a memorable experience

Michigan Tech's Gavin Gould, second from right, celebrates his goal on Denver's Tanner Jaillet (36) during the second period in the regional semifinals of the NCAA college hockey tournament, Saturday, March 25, 2017, in Cincinnati. Denver won 5-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

For the second time in three years, the Michigan Tech Huskies’ hockey team made it to the NCAA Tournament, something that had not happened with any regularity since the late 1970s.

After the Huskies won the WCHA Playoff title in double overtime, I knew that I was going to want to be there to cover their game(s), as long as the drive was reasonable. When it was announced on Sunday that they would be heading to Cincinnati, I immediately set to work on finding a hotel close to U.S. Bank Arena.

As I was beginning my search, my mother stopped by and informed me that she wanted to go cheer on the Huskies as well. Knowing that she missed the chance in Fargo two years ago, I was not surprised and pleased to know that I would have a second driver to help with the length of the journey to Southwestern Ohio.

We looked into hotels together and settled on one that appeared to be within walking distance of the rink, something I really wanted, because then I could just leave my car there and walk back and forth without worrying about it. We settled on a place called the Aloft at Newport on the Levee.

About two hours or so after feeling pretty good about the booking I made on Expedia, I checked my receipt and noticed a problem: I had made the reservation for this coming weekend! Twenty or so minutes over the phone with Expedia later, we had a reservation for the proper weekend.

During the drive down, my plan was to get to Indianapolis and stay on the southeastern side, so that we would be less than two hours from Cincinnati Saturday morning. What was supposed to be about a 9.5-hour drive turned into a 13-hour ordeal when we were delayed due to construction in Chicago for one hour, West Lafayette for another hour and Indianapolis for about 30 minutes.

We ended up driving further than we intended, but found a room in Shelbyville, which looked kind of seedy, but worked out better than I ever expected. It turned out to be easy to get to, and easy to get back on the highway from in the morning.

The remainder of the drive was easy until we got to Cincinnati, where construction caused us to miss our exit for the hotel and required a pair of u-turns to navigate properly. The hotel turned out to be amazing and part of a larger complex of buildings that included the hotel, apartments, restaurants, bars, a movie theatre and an aquarium.

The walk over the Ohio River to the U.S. Bank Arena turned out to be a very simple experience over what was called the Purple People Bridge. I will happily admit I actually called it the Purple People Eater Bridge when repeating the directions back to the hotel desk clerk before I left and ran the song through my head as I crossed the bridge for the first time.

U.S. Bank Arena is now an older rink. Opened in 1975, it looks its age, but that did not deter from an exciting Midwest Regional. Michigan Tech’s first period did.

After the game, I was one of about three people in the press area for the postgame conference with coach Mel Pearson, Gavin Gould and Jake Lucchini. I essentially had the run of the conference, able to ask all the questions I wanted to. Afterwards, the representative from Miami University, the team who hosted the tournament, thanked me for carrying the press conference. I just smiled and remarked that I am used to it, as I am sure you the reader have become used to hearing my voice during Michigan Tech’s postgame pressers after every home game.

My mother and I stayed to enjoy the rest of the tournament and wrote stories on the other games for other outlets. It was fun to watch U.S. World Juniors hero Troy Terry put up five points in a win over Penn State on Sunday after seeing Penn State post 10 goals in a win over Union on Saturday.

Denver looked better against Penn State than they had against the Huskies on Saturday. They will represent the Midwest well in the Frozen Four in two weeks.

The drive back on Monday was much less interesting and eventful. After a weekend like that, however, I did not mind a simple drive. The entire trip was worth it to see and cover Michigan Tech’s second trip to the NCAAs in three seasons.