ST. PAUL, Minn. -- They came here from down the street and across the Minnesota and U.S. compasses, even a few from north of the border.
Most got an awe-inspiring look at the cresting mighty Mississippi; some crossed over to Minneapolis Friday for the Twins' opening-day win and the first-ever reunion of the Mauer-Morneau-Nathan trio at Target Field; a few clogged the historic entrance to the world-famous Mickey's Dining Car, waiting for the opportunity to do the same to their arteries.
All, however, came for one primary reason: the Frozen Four semifinal games Thursday, and the NCAA National Championship game Saturday night between the home-state Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines.
Duluth was seeking a first-ever title in its fourth Frozen Four appearance (they lost the 1984 championship game in 4 OTs to Bowling Green, the longest in NCAA history); Michigan, its 10th title -- most in NCAA history -- in its 24th Frozen Four, also an NCAA record.
A slap shot from Mickey's, college-hockey fans from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, skated Friday night on the Xcel sheet, sponsored by Bauer.
Saturday afternoon at the Fan Fest across on West 7th Street, the momentum continued toward the first faceoff.
NHL.com sent its microphone among the masses at both venues to get predictions about the game's outcome in the 10th annual NHL.com Frozen Four fan poll. A banner year for the prognosticators brought many close predictions.
On the opposite side of the outcome, Boston native and Chicago resident Dan Korn, who attended Michigan, nailed the final score. "Michigan, 3-2, in overtime and not a long OT," he said.
Sorry, Dan, about your alma mater.
In the end, only one fan interviewed came up with the exact outcome.
NHL.com congratulates Laura Korllman from Two Harbors, Minnesota, a short jaunt from the Duluth campus, for her prediction.
"UMD, 3-2, in overtime," she handicapped. "They're the best team in the nation; have an awesome power play and first line; just a bunch of fun guys."
Other fans coming closest to Korllman -- and best in the analysis department -- were two Yale fans, a father-and-son duo from North Haven, Connecticut.
"Duluth, 3-2, no OT," said Eric Sundermann. "They've put it together at the right time of the year. Michigan is riding a hot goalie, but if he slips up once, I don't know if they've got the gumption to come back without the lead."
Dad Fred followed with: "Duluth, 4-3, no overtime. I don't think the Michigan goalie can play as well as he did the other night. As long as Reiter gets a better start and doesn't give up early goals, they'll do fine."
One anonymous Lake State fan from Dowagiac, Washington said: "I'll give the edge to UMD 3-2 and no OT. They really have a nice power play."
"Bulldogs, 3-2, no overtime," said Korey Miller from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Among the throng of dejected fans from North Dakota, Bill Jacobson, a rabid Sioux follower quipped kiddingly, "I'm looking for a roof collapse! Duluth," he followed, "3-2 -- no OT. I'll go with the WCHA."
Kristy Crear from Cottage Grove, Minn. said, "3-2, Duluth, no overtime. They'll score early and keep the lead. They have a great first line."
Her husband, Rich had a 4-3 no-OT outcome. "Good fast team and hard-hitting," he commented.
Another pair of spouses echoed the Crear's.
Christi Bady from across the river in Minneapolis chimed, "3-2, no OT; I just feel good about it."
"4-3 OT Bulldogs," said husband Mike. "They're not from Michigan. They'll need to improve the goaltending and shore up the defense."
A bevy of puck pundits also had a 4-3 final, starting with the fan with the best last name.
"UMD, 4-3, in OT. They deserve it; they worked hard this year," said Mike Hocking from Gilbert, Minnesota.
The rest of the 4-3 gang included Mike Johnson from St. Paul, along with Yvonne and Steve Gemtzler from up the street in St. Paul, and Paul Beninga from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
NHL.com thanks all those fans for participating in the 2011 Frozen Four Fan Poll.