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25th year of "Frozen Four" keeps Utica Aud busy

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The NCAA has the "Final Four" which moves to a different arena across the country every year, but here in Utica we have the "Frozen Four," and it's held every March at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

This weekend the best high school hockey teams from across the state are in town, and so are their families. Paula Pezpatzhenko came from Williamsville, near Buffalo to watch her son play this weekend for Williamsville East. She said, "They dream of coming here every year, this is the first time in our history that we have come up the ranks and won, so this is a big deal for Williamsville East."

Yes, if you play hockey in New York State, there's only one place you dream of playing at least while you're in high school. Williamsville East defenseman Sean Mahon says teammates talk about it all season. He said, "Utica, going to the Utica Aud. It's just that's where we want to go to, everyone that plays hockey in New York State, that's their goal, they want to get to Utica."

Sean's mom Carol Mahon says Utica has been embedded in her mind for about a week. She said, "Actually when we won our last game in Buffalo, the kids were yelling Utica, Utica."

But here in Utica, this is more than a weekend of games, it's a weekend of cash. Utica Memorial Auditorium General Manager Will Berkheiser says the economic impact can be huge. He said, "You get this many teams coming to town, a lot of them get hotel roms, motel rooms, they're eating here."

Berkheiser says besides the quality of the city and the building the Frozen Four is played in, a big reason the state keeps the big event here in Utica is location, location, location. He said, "When we say centrally located, we really are centrally located in New York and it makes it very easy, or fair for everyone in New York to drive."

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