2021 Frozen Four hosted by Robert Morris deemed success

The+Frozen+Four+came+to+Pittsburgh+and+was+hosted+by+Robert+Morris+for+the+first+time+since+2013.+Photo+Credit%3A+Allison+Breisinger

The Frozen Four came to Pittsburgh and was hosted by Robert Morris for the first time since 2013. Photo Credit: Allison Breisinger

By Nathan Breisinger, Sports Multimedia Editor

After a year hiatus, college hockey returned to the greatest stage last weekend when the Frozen Four, hosted by Robert Morris University, was held at PPG Paints Arena in downtown Pittsburgh.

With all the dust settled following the tournament, let’s take a closer look at how the tournament unfolded from an RMU perspective.

As fans, players, and coaching staffs laid their eyes on the pristine ice painted with the logos of the four teams – Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Massachusetts – many may not understand the process that goes on behind the scenes to allow for the Frozen Four to be held in Pittsburgh.

It may seem like eons ago, especially with the draining global pandemic, but this was not the first time RMU and Pittsburgh hosted the Frozen Four, as they earned the job back in 2013.

While four teams converged on the then Consol Energy Center for the NCAA men’s hockey National Championship in 2013, it was five years before that when the ball started rolling to get the esteemed event to the Steel City.

Inside RMU Athletics, Senior Associate Athletic Director Marty Galosi became the principal member in getting the games to Pittsburgh and served as the co-tournament director once the tournament came to the city.

“The first time I ever went to a Frozen Four was 2008, and I remember going to it, and I didn’t know much about it,” Galosi said.

Traveling to Denver, Colorado for the three contests, Galosi was presented with some issues that most people seem to luck into when trying to experience something new. It took a six-hour flight due to a delay and arriving in a blizzard for Galosi to finally arrive at the host hotel.

While there, Galosi was in the midst of networking and making relationships when someone mentioned the future hosts’ meeting. With the opportunity to attend the conference, Galosi made sure he was present as he wanted to make it clear that the city wanted to host the event someday.

“They asked if anyone else in the room was interested, and I stood up and said ‘I’m Marty Galosi from Robert Morris, and I’m here on behalf of Pittsburgh.’ I stopped myself at that point and said, ‘what did I just do here.’”

Lo and behold, that decision made by Galosi to attend the 2008 Frozen Four translated into Pittsburgh holding the event two times over the course of eight years with the help of connections and going through two different bidding cycles.

“[Building] contacts, putting in the bid [and] developing relationships with the NCAA, making sure they know Pittsburgh wanted to be a stop. We were lucky enough to get it once, and then they came back a second time in [2017], and we bid on it again, and little did we know we’d be hosting in a pandemic.”

As Galosi mentioned, the university was fortunate enough to move forward with the 2021 tournament in Pittsburgh after last season’s event was canceled in Detroit, Michigan.

When hosting the Frozen Four, schools and the host cities typically have years in advance to plan for the event, however, with last season’s games canceled, RMU and its partners were unsure of how things would shape up.

“We were a year out, and one was canceled, and we didn’t know what would happen,” Galosi said. “Even up until after the first of the year we were still in limbo of what was going to go on.”

With the pandemic continuing to ravage the country, the NCAA went through a different experience this time around when dealing with COVID-19 protocols.

“They never had to do it with COVID testing, and hats off to them with the way it went,” Galosi said. “The NCAA puts all the details together, and when you layer COVID in on top of this, it’s a whole different matter.”

Part of the protocols was dividing specific individuals into tier one and tier two members. Some groups were only allowed in particular areas of the arena. On top of that, SportsPITTSBURGH became another critical partner in getting this initiative moving as they helped divide separate team rooms in the hotels with amenities like games, workout equipment and food.

Additional protocols were put in place with fans hoping to catch their team’s play as only 5,000 people were permitted inside the arena throughout the three-game slate. Despite the limited number of spectators, they still did their part to make it an enjoyable experience.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Galosi said. “The Frozen Four fanbase is loyal and tight. We were primarily open up to fans of the schools.”

Although the Robert Morris men’s hockey team has never reached the Frozen Four in program history, hosting the event for RMU has been a significant initiative for the university.

“It’s very important,” Galosi said. “That little logo says a lot and means that you were enhancing experiences for schools. I think the exposure was more than just the logo or the brand being seen, but the effort of stepping forth and developing partnerships with people in town and outside of town. I think we are on the NCAA radar now.”

Robert Morris also provided additional support with supplying materials and having their athletic trainers on-site for the games.

With Robert Morris being the lone Division I college hockey team in a hockey hotbed like the City of Pittsburgh, the university has the luxury of making connections they might not have if they were not in that situation.

“It’s helped us develop relationships with people in the city,” Galosi said. “It is unique. [Hockey] is not a sport that everyone can start and play. Our administration took that chance 18 years ago, and now we have two Frozen Fours under our belt, and it’s exciting.”

In the end, it was Massachusetts that pulled away in the title game, winning 5-0 to claim their first-ever national championship.

Spending time in the arena and taking in the games, Galosi recalled the UMass crowd’s passion for their championship-winning team.

“If you ask any UMass fan that was there, they probably wouldn’t have traded it for the world. They were making a lot of noise, and they were excited about winning,” Galosi said.

Despite being behind the event’s operations, Galosi was excited for a team like Massachusetts to come into Pittsburgh and raise the NCAA Championship trophy.

“This is their time. This just happens to be where they landed in Pittsburgh,” Galosi said. “There is a national champion every year, but the kids on that team will remember that for the rest of their lives. Pittsburgh will forever be an important part of their life where they won a National Championship.”

A sense of relief ran through Galosi as the final buzzer rang as he watched the UMass players race to the netminder with the in-arena pyrotechnics going off.

Following the games held at PPG Paints Arena, many people, including Galosi, have viewed the tournament as a success.

“You can tell by the scarcity of problems that you hear about that it went right,” Galosi said. “We are getting lots of compliments from teams, administrators, and fans. By and large, I think it was very successful.”

As the tournament has come and gone, Robert Morris now looks ahead to potentially holding its third Frozen Four soon.

“It’s fulfilling and exciting for our school to be involved in it,” Galosi said. “Any time we can promote our city and our school, to me, that is the apex of what we can do,” Galosi said.

For a more in-depth look at the tournament, you can watch the video found at this link.