Every year in the NCAA tournament we see upsets. It's a given. In a single-elimination tournament, no team is safe, no matter how rich your history is or how good of a season you had.
It's tough to call Union College a "Cinderella" considering their 24-7-7 record, which was good enough to finish third in the polls right before the tournament began. But in many eyes their opponent on Thursday, Ferris State (another top-10 program), wear the slipper because on the other side of the bracket are Boston College and Minnesota, two college hockey power houses.
Union goaltender Troy Grosenick doesn't see the "Cinderella" comparison.
"We see ourselves as programs on the rise that can compete night in and night out with the big guys that everyone else has heard of before," said Grosenick during a phone interview last Thursday. En route to the Frozen Four, Grosenick and Union dispatched Michigan State and UMass-Lowell.
Grosenick, a sophomore, has been a big reason for Union's success this season posting a 22-5-3 record with a 1.64 goals against average, .936 save-percentage and five shutouts. He was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and a two-time ECAC goaltender of the month this season in his first season as a starter.
We spoke with Grosenick last week about competing for the starting job, how playing in the USHL benefited him, what he took away from Ken Dryden's "The Game" as a goaltender, and more. Enjoy.
Q. Has making the Frozen Four sunk in yet or will that happen once we get closer to Tampa?
GROSENICK: I think it's kind of sunk in. Now we're just focused on working hard in practice and getting back down to business. Now we're putting in the hard work so we're prepared to go there and get the job done.
Last year you play three games and now you've taken over the starting job, you were a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and now you're playing in the Frozen Four. Have you been able to sit back and process everything you guys have been able to accomplish thus far?
Not really. We've just been focusing on our process and working hard day in and day out and just taking things in stride. We're just going to keep doing that because it's brought us success and that's what going to continue to bring us success.
After last season, seeing Keith Kinkaid move on to New Jersey and knowing the starting job was up for grabs, was there something in your game you knew you had to improve in order to compete to be No. 1?
Just working hard on my game as a whole. You can really never be good enough. You've just got to keep striving to improve and that's just what I focused on over the summer: getting in the weight room, getting stronger and improving my conditioning, and then getting on the ice 3-4 times a week and just working on something new every day [and] running through every goaltending situation you can run into. It wasn't really one thing I necessarily focused on, I just tried to make myself a better goalie.
How did the two years with Cedar Rapids of the USHL prepare you for college hockey?
It was unbelievable. The USHL is a great league to come from and develop in. I learned how to become a better hockey player. The experiences I had there with Coach [Mark] Carlson, I felt like that really prepared me for the college game. It really was pretty critical for me to develop in the USHL, especially in Cedar Rapids with a coach like Coach Carlson.
The last decade for the program has been one of consistency and steady improvement. Now with two straight tournament appearances do you see that continuing with the young guys on the squad right now?
Oh yeah, definitely. It's the culture that's been built here, just to work hard and continually improve. I think our younger guys have definitely bought into that. You see it in the playoffs so far, our freshman have really stepped up. The coaching staff recruits guys coming in with good character and once they get on campus they learn from the great leadership we have. It's just a continual process that's been set up long before I was here and it'll continue long after I'm gone.
Since late-January, other than that tie and loss to Cornell you guys haven't dropped a game. What can you attribute that consistency to?
We've just been sticking with the process. Working hard, day in and day out. Not getting too high or too low and continuing to realize there's still bigger goals to achieve and in order to achieve those goals we have to work hard. It's not focusing on past successes instead of worrying about what's to come in the future, just sticking to the process that we can in the present day in order to fulfill those future goals.
Take me through those two crazy saves against UMass-Lowell. Are you still wondering how you were able to keep them both out?
When they happened, I just did the best to keep the puck out of the net, just battling. And do whatever it took because the guys in front of me they do a great job blocking shots all the time, so I need to do my job and at the end of the day I've got to keep the puck out of the net however you can.
As a goaltender who's read Ken Dryden's book "The Game", is there anything you took away from it that you brought to your approach?
The one thing I really took out of that was how to stay focused and stay in the game. It's pretty easy to be involved in a game when you've got 45 shots on you in a night, but just as importantly you need to be focused even if you're only getting 15 shots. That's what you have to do. Your teammates expect you to always be ready. I know Ken Dryden announced the game in his head in order to stay focused on what was happening and stay in the moment. That's probably the biggest thing I took out of it.
Coming up Thursday: Taylor Nelson of Ferris State
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
- Ken Dryden