The University of North Dakota men's hockey team took it outside Saturday night for an old school brawl with host Nebraska-Omaha, before more than 13,600 fans – most wearing green and white.
And UND took it to the home team Mavericks early and often, peppering starting goalie John Faulkner with three unanswered tallies and chasing him to the bench before the end of the first period. UND eventually would win the game 5-2, securing a two-game weekend sweep in an important Western Collegiate Hockey Association match-up. But the result was in some ways secondary to the atmosphere surrounding the game, played in Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park, an outdoor baseball stadium and traditional home of the College Baseball World Series.
After UND clipped the Mavericks 2-1 the night before in a regular indoor game, the two teams brought hockey back to its roots in what was meant to be an outdoor Saturday matinee. But poor ice conditions, caused by a United States Hockey League game played earlier in the day, and less-than-ideal balmy weather for outside hockey, forced postponement of the game to the cooler evening hours. Despite the setbacks, UND proved once again that it has the most passionate college hockey fans in the nation by filling the stadium, clearly outnumbering the home-team audience. They were loud and crazy up to and through the drop of the puck.
The energy was raucous and contagious, and it launched UND to a blazing start on the ice with back-to-back-to-back goals.
"This is how hockey should be played – outside back where it all started," said UND senior Ashley Nelson, Hunter, N.D., one of thousands of faithful who made the trek down Interstate 29 from Grand Forks.
The end of the game brought a crescendo of UND pride that overflowed onto the ice. As UND players began to skate off, fans greeted the victors by massing along and around the tunnel that led to their dressing room.
UND Head Coach Dave Hakstol could be seen pumping a fist as a sign of thanks to the crowd.
UND junior Katie Burshek, Lakeville, Minn., said it was both loud and surreal.
"This game has been worth the drive," she said. "It's hands down the best game I've been to."
By Emily Aasand and David Dodds
UND fans overwhelm Omaha, Neb., stadium to see their team skate to victory in a game of ol' time hockey.