Kings’ prospect Kevin Gravel talks pressure of Frozen Four

Frozen Four NCAA hockeyLater this afternoon St. Cloud State will be competing in their first Frozen Four. And for junior defenseman Kevin Gravel (2010 Kings draft pick), it’s a dream come true. For the past three years he’s talked about his Huskies hockey team being a true up and coming program. Now, they sit on the steps of their biggest stage to date, with a possible NCAA hockey championship hanging in the balance.

Earlier this week we posted his thoughts on several other Kings’ prospects who played college hockey this season. Now, we turn to the bigger topic at the moment, as he opens up about what lies ahead…

– On the buzz around campus about St. Cloud being in the Frozen Four: “Hockey’s a big deal at St. Cloud, but this is on a new level. We’ve never really had the exposure like this on a national level, especially with us being the only WCHA team still playing, and the only team in Minnesota playing. So, we’re getting a lot of media attention, which is good. I think our guys are having fun with it and I think it’s ultimately good for the program. It’s gonna put St. Cloud on the map a little bit – we’re on the rise, and we’re hopefully here to stay.”

– On being recognized by other students on campus: “Maybe somebody will say something to me in class, like ‘good luck’ or something like that. It’s kind of cool when you get recognized. But, at least for me personally, it doesn’t happen a whole lot.”

– On if he’s been able to reflect on the experience so far: “We had last week off, and you kind of got to realize that you’re still playing. At the same time it really hasn’t sunk in. The Frozen Four’s a pretty big deal, and you don’t want to let that get to you at the same time. So, we just have to go about a normal routine, and try not to let it get to us. Again, relating back to that media attention, we haven’t really received attention like this. You know what’s happening, you know what a big deal it is, but at the same time you try to go about your same routine.”

– On if he’s embracing the experience of being on a national stage: “Yeah, it’s fun. I don’t think you’ll talk to a guy on the team right now who’s not enjoying all this. Obviously to get the chance to play for a national championship (is great), and it’s cool to get exposure for the program. You work every day as hard as you can, you put everything you have into this program – your whole summer, your whole season, your whole school year and everything like that. And to see you kind of get something out of it, it’s a rewarding feeling.”

– On if he models his game after a certain NHL player: “I think you can start looking at LA there and Rob Scuderi. I think I model him a little bit. He’s solid defensively. Basically when he’s out there, you don’t wanna get scored on. That’s kind of my role out there at St. Cloud too. I think he does his job well. If I am able to do my role as good as he can do his role, I think I’ll end up being alright.”

On Scuderi being more of a machine, not a man: “Yup and that’s probably the ultimate compliment you can give a guy too – just that he’s there every night. You know what you’re going to get out of him. He’s always gonna leave it out there.”

– On what they need to do to win their first game (Thursday vs Quinnipiac): “I think we played maybe our two best games of the season last week, or two weekends ago, against Notre Dame and Miami. So, we just need to keep getting the puck behind their defensemen. When we do that, our forwards are so good, and it makes it easy on defensemen because we don’t have to work so much. At the same time, Quinnipiac has a great team, and they’re going to make our D work. I think when we’re good, we’re limiting teams to under 20 shots, and we did that to both Miami and Notre Dame. So when the defense is playing well – not just our defensemen, our forwards are playing good defense as well – we’re a pretty tough team to beat. Because we have big guys up front who can put the puck in the net, that’s never been our problem. When we’re clicking on defense, we’re a pretty good team.”

– On focusing on the first game and avoiding looking ahead to a potential championship game on Saturday: “I think you just have to remember that if you lose, your season’s over. All the work you’ve put into it, how far you’ve come; one loss could take it all away. As great of a season as it’s been so far. And as nice as it is to think about moving past Thursday, playing on Saturday, you have to remind yourself that one slip up could cost you your season, and you could be on a flight back home Thursday night. You could be watching the game on Saturday night instead of playing it.”

– On if he’s been reflecting on things that helped get him here: “It’s funny you say that. I was just talking to my dad three or four days ago about something. It’s kind of pretty cool right now, because my dad and I used to watch, before I moved out for juniors and stuff like that, my dad and I used to watch every Frozen Four together. So he kind of made the point that it’s pretty cool that I’ve watched however many over the years with him, and now he’s coming to Pittsburgh to watch me play in one. It kind of put it in perspective. It’s pretty cool to realize that you’re actually playing in something you’ve grown up watching.”

RELATED CONTENT: Gravel talks fellow Kings’ college prospects

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