Miami prepares for N.D. and Hockey City Classic
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 21:02
On Oct. 6, 2001, an event was held at Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium when the home team took on rival Michigan in college hockey’s first outdoor matchup. The game, known as the “Cold War,” drew a then record-breaking 74,554 spectators, and the popularity of these contests has grown in the years since.
This Sunday, Feb. 17, the Miami University men’s hockey team will contribute to the legacy of outdoor games as it takes on Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) rival the University of Notre Dame at the first-ever Hockey City Classic. The event will be held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., and is comprised of two top 20 matchups, pitting No. 3/3 Miami (18-7-5, 13-5-4-4 CCHA) against No. 12/12 Notre Dame, and No. 2/2 University of Minnesota against No.18/20 the University of Wisconsin. The rink was constructed in the middle of the football field at the beginning of February, and according to Miami head coach Enrico Blasi, it provides a unique opportunity for the RedHawks to play on a national stage, one in which 50,000 people are expected to attend.
“To play in an historic building against a great opponent, Notre Dame, and to have such a big alumni base in Chicago, and fans from our community making the trip, it should be a special event,” Blasi said.
Blasi’s players are understandably enthusiastic, but none more so than senior captain Steven Spinell. It will be a homecoming of sorts for the Vernon Hills native, a town just 35 miles north of the Windy City’s center.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable experience,” the seasoned defenseman said. “I know – seriously – between friends, family, co-workers, there will be three, four, five-hundred people there that I’ll know of. My senior year, playing my first outdoor game with this school in Chicago, it is perfect.”
Notre Dame (18-11-1, 14-7-1-0 CCHA) has had a rough start to the new year, going 4-7-1 in the past five weeks and dropping from first to third in the CCHA. But the Irish are just three points back from the RedHawks in the standings, and are riding a two game winning streak, thanks in large part to junior forward Anders Lee. Lee has collected seven points in his past four contests, is the leading goal scorer in the league with 17 on the year. He sits at third among CCHA point getters with 29, just a single tally shy of Miami linemates Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, who top the list with 30 each.
Czarnik especially knows the Notre Dame will be gunning for his team, given the late-year situation and all that’s at stake.
“It’s a rivalry now … so they’re going to come out firing,” the sophomore said. “They’ve got a couple great guys and their goalies are hot. They’re probably one of the hardest teams to beat in the country.”
Sunday’s game will be the RedHawks’ second in a two-part series against the Fighting Irish, with the first being played Friday night on Miami’s home ice. Even with the Hockey City Classic looming, both Spinell and Czarnik both insisted that Friday’s contest is what’s on everyone’s minds and their coach was no different.
“We haven’t talked about the outdoor game [as a team],” Blasi said. “We went through the itinerary earlier in the week and the guys know what’s going to happen after the game Friday. But our focus right now is on Friday. We have to play well here at home … once Friday’s over, then we’ll worry about the outdoor game.”
Friday’s contest will begin at 7:35 p.m. at the Goggin Ice Center. The RedHawks will then travel to Chicago for a media and practice day on Saturday, followed by their appearance at the Hockey City Classic on Sunday. The puck drop is set for noon at Soldier Field.