The first-ever Frozen Faceoff outdoor game Saturday left those involved sporting rosy cheeks and beaming smiles as well as lifetime memories.
Long after the final whistle in Adrian’s 3-0 victory over Concordia (Wis.), players remained on Michigan Stadium makeshift ice rink while family members and girlfriends snapped photos.
Everyone wanted to luxuriate in the outdoor experience at the 109,901-seat home of college football’s Michigan Wolverines. The early Saturday outing evoked childhood memories of playing on the pond and fueled an overall sense of awe.
Joel Workman, Kyle Watson and Brad Houston scored for No. 9 Adrian (8-2, 7-1), which completed a weekend sweep of Concordia (1-12, 1-7).
“It was the experience of a lifetime, something we will never forget,” said Adrian goalie Brad Fogal, who stopped 27 shots to raise his season record to 8-2.
“At first, it was kind of surreal,” Bulldogs defenseman Jeremy Klaver said. “You didn’t know what to expect. Then you come out and step into the stadium…. it was unbelievable.”
Added teammate Brad Houston, who scored a goal, “As soon as we walked through tunnel, the excitement level went right through the roof.”
The inaugural event drew 1,470 hardy folks, who occupied three sections of stands along the landmark stadium’s east side line. The attendance mark fell short of the D-III record of 5,600, which organizers had hoped to break. That mark was set at an NCAA semifinal between Plattsburgh and Elmira in Lake Placid, N.Y., on March 22, 2008.
D-I Michigan and Michigan State are expected to play before more than 100,000 in “The Big Chill at The Big House.”
“The attendance was secondary; there were a lot of things ahead of that,” said Fogarty, who put on skates and joined his team on the ice afterwards.
The thrill of playing outdoors in one of the nation’s legendary sporting venues exceeded expectations, Fogarty said.
“If you never experience something before, you’re not aware of how it’s going to be,” the fourth-year Bulldogs coach said.
“I knew it would be fun. After experiencing it … it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m really happy for our guys.”
Adrian struck early, scoring twice within 3:29 of the first period. Workman slipped in his third goal of season at 1:48, which rattled the Falcons.
Kyle Watson took advantage of Concordia’s confusion by netting a second goal 1:19 later. Sam Kuzyk and Quinn Waller assisted.
With the Falcons’ Jari Sanders off for interference, Houston scored with Mike Dahlinger and Kuzyk assisting.
Senior Jeremy Cross spotted Fogal for 6:25 in second period as Fogarty wanted to give the team’s 17 outgoing classmen a chance to savor the exhilaration. Cross, who made three saves, delayed surgery on an injured finger to dress for the highly anticipated contest, the Adrian coach said.
In Concordia’s camp, it was easy to point to missed opportunities on six power plays, which included a five-minute man advantage after Bulldogs defenseman Zach Galia received a major and game misconduct for checking from behind at 2:51 of the third period.
Adrian outshot Concordia, 34-30.
“We’ve got to capitalize on our opportunities when we get chances,” said Concordia coach Tony Hrkac, who described the outdoor experience as “a lot of fun.”
The Falcons coach said the 12-hour time lag between Friday’s night game and Saturday morning’s contest wasn’t a factor. Adrian won 4-1 the previous night at Arrington Ice Arena, with Dahlinger scoring twice and adding an assist for the Bulldogs.
“I think the adrenaline getting here and looking at the stadium, it didn’t even feel like 9:30 in the morning,” Hrkac said.
“They were so fired up at 9:30 a.m.,” the Bulldogs coach said. “It could have been a 7 o’clock in the morning. It didn’t matter what time we played.”
Blugolds silence doubters
During the past two weekends, No. 14 Wisconsin-Eau Claire has knocked off three ranked teams in No. 7 Adrian, No. 9 SUNY Geneseo and, most recently, Northern Collegiate Hockey Association-rival, No. 13 Wisconsin-Stout.
Not bad for an outfit that until this week remained unranked and picked to finish fifth in the seven-team NCHA in a preseason coaches poll. In sweeping UW-Stout over the weekend, UW-Eau Claire (7-4, 3-3 NCHA) made a strong case for a Top-15 spot.
The Blugolds relish their underdog status, said leading-scorer Ross Janecyk, who assisted on two goals in Saturday’s 5-2 home victory over the Blue Devils. The triumph extended UW-Eau Claire’s winning streak to four games.
The team hosts UW-Stevens Point (4-7, 2-6) on Friday and Saturday.
“We have other outside sources saying we’re not going to win the game and that motivates us to get more out of our play,” said Janecyk, who has seven goals and five assists for 12 points in 11 games.
On Friday, the Blugolds’ Kurt Weston scored the game-winner in the 4-3 victory over the host Blue Devils. Bryce Wilcox, Jordan Singer and Brian Nehring also scored for the visitors.
Sophomore goalie Brandon Stephenson has admirably backstopped the Blugolds during the four-game surge, raising his overall record to 7-1. In doing so, the Saline, Mich., sophomore has lowered his goals-against to a commendable 2.64 while his save-percentage (.903 pct) eclipsed the .900 percent standard for high-performing netminders.
“Brandon’s has really been keeping us alive in every single game and that’s what a goaltender needs to do,” said Janecyk, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, about his fellow Michigander. “Not only is he making the saves he should make, he’s coming up with saves a typical goalie may not make. It keeps us in the game.”
The Blugolds rebounded from a funk where they dropped four of five games after starting the season 2-0. The difference now is players all know their respective roles, Janecyk said. For the senior forward, that means not trying to do too much.
“I started out the season wanting to contribute offensively when I can and keep my game simple: get pucks on net, work hard, and go to the net hard,” he said.
UW-Eau Claire Coach Matt Loen is impressed by his senior forward’s sense of urgency.
“I think he’s playing like a senior and it’s his last game,” Loen said. “It’s nice to have him putting up some goals for us.”