By Karl Henkel/At the Frozen Four
Detroit – Mission accomplished.
The Frozen Four, put on by the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the NCAA, set the record for the largest indoor crowd to see a hockey game. An estimated crowd of 34,954 packed into Ford Field’s condensed dimensions and watched Wisconsin rout RIT, 8-1 and Boston College defeat Miami (Ohio), 7-1.
The mark beat the previous indoor high of 28,183, when the Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the Philadelphia Flyers in playoff action at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves looked at the record-breaking event from two different perspectives.
“When you look up from above, it definitely has a wow factor,” Eaves said. “It looks awesome. But being on the bench, the crowd noise, it seems so distant."
“At the end of the game the RIT fans were chanting for their team in appreciation. I heard that. But a lot of the noise, it really wasn’t a factor, which is fine, because on the bench the players can hear us.”
It was the second time the Badgers played in a specially designed game this season. In February, Wisconsin beat Michigan, 3-2, in front of an estimated 55,031 fans at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc.
Wisconsin forward Blake Geoffrion thought the outdoor game was beneficial to his team.
“Just knowing what to expect with the temperature and all that was a little different,” he said. “But as far as the mindset about the ice and adapting to that, definitely helped us.”
RIT goaltender Jared DeMichiel said the ice conditions were subpar.
“The ice wasn’t ideal, but it was the same ice for both teams,” he said. “It was snowy up against the boards. But both teams had to battle that.”
DeMichiel did relish in the opportunity to play in a football stadium.
“How many times do you get to play hockey in a football stadium,” he said. “There’s not too many people that can say that.”
RIT forward Cameron Burt said he, too, wouldn’t forget Thursday’s game.
“I’ll cherish it and I’ll tell it to my grandkids. Hopefully I get that far,” he joked.