By Emily Simanskis, For The Miami Student
With 1:30 remaining in the third period of the last home regular season hockey game, Steve "Coach" Cady Arena thundered with rhythmic chanting.
"Thank you seniors" echoed throughout the stands as the 3,200-person, sold-out crowd joined together Saturday night to thank the nine graduating RedHawks.
Giant cutouts of the senior players' faces lined the glass of the student section during Saturday's warm-ups, taunting the Colorado College players after their stinging 3-0 loss Friday night.
After a video of Miami hockey parents thanking the fans and players for their four years as part of the organization, the seniors -- Jay Williams, Sean Kuraly, Taylor Richart, Kevin Morris, Matthew Caito, Alex Gacek, Chris Joyaux, Andrew Schmit and Michael Mooney - took the ice one by one.
Video highlights played on the big screen and arena announcer Scott Shriver read off each players' accomplishments.
Each senior individually took a lap around the ice, and the cheers of fans, family and friends increased when a player tapped his stick on the glass - it was a way for each player to add his own flare and communicate his enthusiasm one last time.
Richart was equally excited and nervous as the fans were about his last game at "the Goggin."
"It's always a good feeling playing in Oxford in front of the fans, but also sad at the same time knowing that it's my last regular season weekend," the defenseman said after practice last Tuesday. "I'm going to miss the whole culture, the guys, the coaching staff, everything - the fans."
Though the night began with heightened emotion, head coach Enrico Blasi emphasized earlier in the week that the weekend was an important one, for reasons other than it being the last weekend series at home.
"I think for us, it's about playing for each other and certainly our seniors are a big part of it. They have to lead the way for us," Blasi said. "It's business as usual and we have to go out and play our game and play our best."
As the nine seniors stood together at center ice, it was obvious they were ready to play their best for the team and the program they say has shaped them into the players and characters they are today.
"Sometimes you don't know how it's going to work out," Blasi said in his post-game press conference. "Sometimes it's too emotional and the guys are a little bit down after the [senior] ceremony, so we've gone both ways. I thought tonight we started a little bit slow but we came on and we stuck to it and we had good contributions from a lot of guys tonight - little things that maybe everybody doesn't see."
The game began with the standard vulgarities aimed to distract Colorado, but the cheers were louder and more emphatic than a typical Saturday game. Hands stung a little more than usual after clapping harder for the all-senior starting lineup, and voices cracked more often.
Afterward, the crowd thanked the team and the team thanked the crowd. Cady Arena remained full until the team performed its ritual center ice stick salute. Several seniors lingered on the ice longer than customary, soaking in the energy and the camaraderie that regularly fills the arena.
"It'd be hard to sum up in a couple sentences, it's been an experience that I obviously wouldn't trade for anything," team captain Kuraly said. "A group of guys that have come a long way together, gone through a lot together, you guys this year have been through a lot. It's been an incredible experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
After the 4-0 win, the locker room echoed with a euphoric energy, as excited family members milled about and victory shouts could be heard above the din of celebration music.
"There were a lot of tears before the game and I remember looking around and some of the younger guys had tears in their eyes and I said, 'guys, we're not dead,'" Morris said with a laugh. "[It] means we're doing our job in passing on the legacy."
The seniors carry the legacy of the Brotherhood with them when they leave the building in which they've spent countless hours. And, after sweeping Colorado College, they're leaving the building with a bang.
Williams, who didn't allow a single goal the whole weekend, summed up the experience:
"I don't think you could have drawn it up better in your dreams. It's incredible to get to play two games in front of a sold-out crowd at home. And two huge, huge wins for us - you couldn't have asked for anything more."