By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
The outdoor hockey experience is a memorable one. Playing in the frigid temperatures with snow falling from the sky is something every young hockey player dreams of.
The Oakland University hockey team had never played in an outdoor hockey game until Sunday. While they wish the outcome of the game was different, they still had a wonderful time enjoying the atmosphere.
“It was a fun experience to come back and play outside where a lot of guys learn to skate and where they grew up as kids,” said sophomore forward Billy Kocher.
The 10-4 loss the Golden Grizzlies suffered to University of Michigan-Dearborn couldn’t compete with the experience of playing in the elements of a Michigan winter. After the game was postponed to Sunday, after a day of rain showers on Saturday, flashes of last year had to pop into the Golden Grizzlies mind.
An outdoor game was scheduled to be played last season between the two teams. But due to poor ice conditions the game was cancelled and never rescheduled. Unlike last year, the two teams were able to reschedule the game, making players and coaches very happy.
“We were really excited. We came down on Tuesday and skated outdoors here actually to just get a feel for it and have a good practice with them not being in school, so we were able to do that,” said Oakland coach Gordie Schaeffler. ”And playing outdoors, it takes you back to your childhood and how you grew up playing on the ponds.”
Even on Sunday there was doubt the game would actually be played. Just a few hours before the game heavy snow started to fall on Clark Park. It began to fall as the players were getting off of the bus and walking into the facility, making for an awesome entrance to the park for the Golden Grizzlies.
Oakland was able to practice at Clark Park in the week prior to the game. Players agreed that the practice helped them be more comfortable going into Sunday’s contest.
“Oh yeah, definitely helped us get a feel for the ice and a feel for the boards, too bad we couldn’t come out more on top,” said freshman defenseman Derek Britton.
Even with a loss to your rival in a critical game, the memories the players and coaches have from Sunday night will last a lifetime.
“Could’ve been a little bit warmer, but you know, other than that it was great,” Britton said.
Schaeffler said after the game that talks were already started on scheduling another outdoor game next season. He mentioned that the two coaches would discuss things they could improve on when it comes to scheduling the game. His players already have their minds made up on another outdoor game.
“Yeah, I’d put my vote in to do it again next year,” Kocher said.