December 15, 2010 - Members and coaches of Oxford's varsity hockey team got a once in a lifetime experience this week as they played an outdoor hockey game at college football's largest stadium.
|Tim Perks looks for an opening. (click for larger version)|
The Wildcat varsity hockey team shook off their early nerves and came back to defeat Troy 4-1 in front of 500 fans at the Big House in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Dec. 9.
"We ended up winning, but more important than that was what a wonderful day (it was)," said assistant coach Rick Ignagni. "I know the boys got an absolute kick out of it. They soaked it up, the fans soaked it up, the students and the parents. It was a blast."
Ignagni filled in for varsity head coach Dave Hague, who was at the hospital with his wife for the birth of their child, which occurred at nearly the same moment the opening faceoff occurred in the first period.
"To be able to play the game outdoors at that venue is probably one of the most exciting times in my hockey career, and I have been doing this for 40 years," Ignagni said.
Even with all of the festivities surrounding the event, a walk through of the stadium the evening before, Karen Newman singing the national anthem and the awe of playing outdoors at Michigan Stadium, Ignagni kept stressing to Oxford that they were still there to play a game.
|Nolan Chapman helped Oxford skate to victory. (click for larger version)|
"We went down early and I think it was stepping on the ice and being as exciting as it was, you forget why you were there," he said. "I had to keep reminding kids why we were there, that we had a game to play."
Oxford fell behind 1-0 in the first, but overcame their nerves and dominated the rest of the game. They added two goals in the second and two more in the third.
"It was a pretty well balanced game," he said. "We got two even strength goals, a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal. It was as well balanced as you want your attack to be."
Goal scorers for the Wildcats were junior Dean Couwlier, senior Tim Perks, junior Nick Hocker and junior Garrett Kovacic.
Sophomore Oscar Alexanderson stopped 24 of 25 shots.
|Dean Couwlier battles for the puck. (click for larger version)|
According to Ignagni, the biggest coaching challenge was dealing with the elements.
"One of the things that you forget about and you don't ever have this thought is which is the direction of the sun," he said. "Our goalie was looking at the sun for two periods."
Again, the Wildcats took to the outdoor arena when they played Detroit Country Day on Sunday, Dec. 12.
Facing blizzard conditions, the Wildcats were able to pull out a 2-1 victory. Oxford scored the first goal of the game in the second period when Kovacic took a pass from sophomore Connor Novak and buried it behind the net.
Perks also assisted on the goal.
Hocker scored what turned out to be the game winning goal in the third period, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
"The puck was hard to keep track of on the snow filled ice," Hague said.
Over 20 fans had to keep removing snow from the playing surface during the blizzard, but for Hague it was all part of a week that his players will remember forever.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.