A former St. Viator center fielder was front and center on the United Center ice April 8 when the finals of the NCAA hockey Frozen Four took place in Chicago for the first time.
Colin Kronforst, 30, who grew up in Prospect Heights and now lives in Chicago, was one of two referees in the four-official on-ice crew that worked the game in which Denver defeated Minnesota Duluth 3-2.
Kronforst dropped the puck to start the game, too.
He was admittedly a bit nervous, pre-game. However, once play started, "I felt real comfortable and confident in terms of my decision-making and positioning, which gave me great sightlines," he said. "The game had a great pace. The intensity and sense of urgency reminded me of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It definitely required my crew to be on top of our game physically and mentally.
"Emotions on that stage are always extremely high. I love working those kinds of games because you can really talk to the players throughout the game and guide them to play within the rules. You can let them figure it out and determine the outcome of the game when everyone is informed as to where your standard is going to be."
Kronforst, who has been officiating hockey for 18 years, has had two high-profile, championship-game assignments over the years at the United Center. He officiated the 2012 Illinois High School State Championship game.
The Frozen Four Championship was the highlight of his officiating career thus far, without question.
"I was extremely fortunate and honored to work the game, (especially) since it was in Chicago," said Kronforst, a 2005 graduate of St. Viator High School. "Being a Chicagoan and having my friends and family at the game made it all the more special."
Kronforst's ice adventure has been memory-filled. Just consider some of the games Kronforst has officiated over the last two years:
• North Dakota vs. Quinnipiac (2016 Frozen Four Championship in Tampa Bay, Fla.).
• Michigan vs. Penn State at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2016.
• Michigan vs. Michigan State in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field in 2015.
In the Frozen Four National Championship, Kronforst was in perfect position to spot a high hit in the second period -- and the television broadcast used his helmet-cam during replays. "You could see, based on the angle, that I was the only one on the ice who was able to see it," he said. "If the crew misses that kind of hit, not only do we lose credibility, but it sends a message to the players that they're going to get away with illegal or punishing tactics throughout the rest of the game."
Kronforst, who graduated from Northeastern Illinois in 2010 and is now a supervisor for Mediavest Spark, has been officiating Big Ten hockey for four years. He worked 32 games this season, including the Big Ten Championship game at Joe Louis Arena (Penn State vs. Wisconsin).
Kronforst was joined at the United Center by fellow referee Barry Pochmara, with linesmen Johnathon Morrison and Nick Bradshaw.
"The strategy we employ in every game is pretty simple: maintain the flow of the game and intervene when there is an illegal tactic that, one, gives a team a distinct competitive advantage, or, two, compromises the player's safety," he said. "I thought the standard we set and stuck to throughout the game not only maintained a fair contest, but provided everyone in attendance and at home the most exciting game possible between the two best teams in the nation."
Kronforst has one more game on his officiating wish-list: an outdoor game at Lambeau Field, as he is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.