Jan. 3, 2014
Boston, Mass. -
The Notre Dame hockey team overcame the weather obstacles that it has faced the last two days to take the ice at Fenway Park on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. When they hit the ice under Fenway's lights it was four degrees above zero with a wind chill factor of 16-below zero. The weather was nothing compared to what the team dealt with in just getting to Boston.
After the team's flight on Thursday was cancelled due to the winter storm that hit the Michiana area on New Year's Eve and New Year's day, the Irish had to sit at home one more day before leaving for Boston on Friday around 1:00 p.m. They landed at Boston's Logan Airport around 3 p.m. and moved to the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, Mass. for a quick snack before heading to the historic Boston ballpark.
Upon arrival at Fenway, the team was met by the equipment truck that left South Bend on Thursday at 9 a.m. The players and their equipment made its way down the stairs to their makeshift locker room that is set up in the Red Sox indoor batting cage, just 30 feet from the dugout of baseball's world champion Red Sox.
After putting on layers of clothing, the team hit the ice for a 45-minute practice just to get the feel of the rink and the ice.
Notre Dame is one of four teams that will meet in Hockey East action on Saturday, Jan. 4. Providence College and Merrimack College will meet at 4:00 p.m. while the 14th-ranked Irish and the sixth-ranked Eagles meet at 7:35 p.m. Both games will be telecast live by the New England Sports Network (NESN) while the Notre Dame-Boston College game will also be televised by the NBC Sports Network.
Temperatures on Saturday are expected to be warmer, with the forecast for sunny skies and a high of 24 degrees. The temperature at game time for the Irish is expected to be 19 with winds out of the southwest at 13 mph.
The staff at Fenway Park has worked around the clock to remove over nine inches of snow that hit the Boston area on Thursday and stopped around noon this afternoon. The ice crew has had its work cut out for itself as they have worked overtime to get the ice up to playing standards. The severe cold on Friday left the ice surface very brittle with large chips, something that everyone talked about at the post-practice pressers.
"The cold has really affected the ice," said Boston College head coach Jerry York after his team's practice.
"They are working very hard to maintain quality ice. Tomorrow will be warmer and the ice will be better."
"There were some spots out there were kind of dug up, but there were spots that were pretty good," said Irish team captain Jeff Costello.
While it was cold on Fenway's frozen infield, it didn't seem to have that much of an affect on the Irish players.
"It was a little cold out there, but I think we were ready for that," said Irish defenseman Stephen Johns.
"We just dressed a little warmer. We don't expect it to be 70 degrees out there. We know what to expect and we are going to have a lot of fun tomorrow."
Both players have lots of experience playing outdoors as kids growing up as they skated on ponds or homemade rinks where they grew up.
"It was always something that I looked forward to in the winter, getting out and skating on the ponds," said Johns.
"I would go before school and then get back out there after school or after practice."
"We had a pond behind our house too," said Costello.
"There were three boys in the family and I was the youngest. I always had to carry the buckets of water down to the rink after we were done because they would beat me up if I didn't. It was always like a sheet of glass the next morning."
Last season, Notre Dame got its first experience playing outdoors when the Irish played Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago. They learned a few things getting that chance a year ago.
"I think that I learned last year that when you play outdoors, you aren't going to have perfect conditions. So you just have to make simple plays, be strong on the puck, minimize turnovers and get pucks to the net," said Costello.
Johns remembers how important that game at Soldier Field turned out to be for the Irish.
"I think knowing that it's a league game and there are points on the line is important," said Johns.
"Last year, we beat Miami outdoors at Soldier Field and it was one of our biggest wins of the season. We can have fun with this but we also know how important the game is."
Getting the opportunity to play at Fenway Park is something that everyone mentioned in the press conferences.
"Our kids are excited about playing here at Fenway Park, it's a unique experience that coupled with our rivalry with Notre Dame makes for a really special event from our perspective," said York.
The chance to play at Fenway Park is incredible," said Costello.
"I was fortunate enough to come here in the fall and throw out the opening pitch at a game. It was the first time I was here and was one of the best sports experiences that I have had in my life. I will never forget it. It's awesome to say that we were on Soldier Field last year and on Fenway this year."
Johns added, "I think that if you told Jeff or me 10 or 15 years ago that we would be playing a sport at Fenway Park, we would have had to pinch ourselves. This is a dream come true in itself. You see the Yankees and Red Sox play here and then you have a chance to play in such an historic building, we will definitely remember tomorrow for the rest of our lives," said Johns.
"I'm a huge baseball fan, so for me it's a thrill," said Jackson.
"Unfortunately, I am from Detroit, so I don't have any bragging rights this year. I remember watching the years of Rice and Yastrzemski, so I have a lot of memories because there were a lot of bad years in Detroit, so I needed another team to root for, so the Red Sox were always a good team to cheer for."
FROZEN FENWAY NOTES:
Five players who played in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden have returned and will be in the lineup for the Irish and the Eagles. Sophomore left wing Thomas DiPauli and freshman Vince Hinostroza will play for Notre Dame while the Eagles will have the services of goaltender Thatcher Demko and defensemen Steve Santini and Ian McCoshen.