Cadets take talent to the big leagues
Not many people can say, "I skated at Fenway Park."
But the Norwich men's hockey team can proudly now do so.
The team played at the historic baseball field, Fenway Park, on Jan.13, in Boston, Mass. The Cadets were given the opportunity to play a regular season game on Frozen Fenway, against Babson College.
Norwich President Richard W. Schneider called the game at Fenway a success and a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for fans and players alike.
"It was so special for everyone. It was a ‘happening,' it wasn't just a hockey game. It was a ‘Norwich happening', it was much bigger than just the game, it was the whole thing," Schneider said.
According to Anthony Mariano, Director of Athletics, the opportunity for the Cadets to skate at Fenway Park started when Coach McShane found out that a sheet of ice was being put down on the ball park infield.
"First off, we heard Division I schools were going to be playing at Fenway over the holiday break, so we knew the ice was going to be in for a couple of weeks. What they usually do is rent it (the ice) out to schools, alumni groups and so forth," said Mike McShane, head coach for the men's hockey team. "So what I did was I made a couple of calls."
There was a lot of excitement built up for the game, and that feeling generated down to the players. They were very enthusiastic about the game and knew how important a game it would be, according to Mariano.
"On top of that, when you're playing at a venue like Fenway Park it really made it even more special, so the desire to win becomes even greater," said Mariano.
The chance to play at Fenway was unique, especially for current players and alumni who hail from the New England region.
According to McShane, this experience and opportunity was very special to players that are from Massachusetts or nearby, because they grew up familiar with the Red Sox and legendary Fenway Park.
"It meant a lot to me to skate at Fenway Park, being from Massachusetts made the experience even more enjoyable," said forward Tim Houston, 22, a senior criminal justice major from North Andover, Mass.
"I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life and I've been to Fenway many times, but never got to see the field from that perspective," he said.
A total of six players on the team are from the Massachusetts area, so it was a great feeling for them to play in front of a home crowd.
"Having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was really something special, especially growing up just 15 minutes away," said forward Kyle Thomas, 21, a junior criminal justice major from Waltham, Mass. "It is a very historical park so it was an honor to be able to play out on the field in front of a lot of family and friends."
Even the players that weren't from the Boston area appreciated the opportunity.
"I thought playing at Fenway was an unbelievable experience, and most of us will never have that opportunity again. It was awesome being able to play hockey inside a baseball field. Just looking up during the game seeing the lights shine down on the rink was pretty amazing," said forward Shane Gorman, 20, a sophomore communications major from Trumbull, Conn. "Seeing the people in the skybox watching the game was pretty cool."
"There is such a proud tradition with the Red Sox, and having the opportunity to play hockey there my senior year was pretty incredible," said defenseman and assistant captain Owen Carpino, 23, a senior Spanish major from Nashua, N.H. "I think the whole team gained a lot from the experience, and it was obviously nice to come away with a win."
One aspect of playing at Fenway Park is that the ice sheet is outdoors and uncovered. The team anxiously wondered if the game could be played at Fenway.
"The weather forecast that came out a day before the game showed a slight chance of rain, so our entire team was worried the game would get pushed back, which would mean no game at Fenway," Carpino said.
"When we first pulled up to the ballpark it was pouring rain, we were all very nervous. Everyone knew there was a chance the game could possibly get cancelled, but no one would say it. We just stayed positive and hoped for the best," Carpino added.
Despite the poor forecast, the weather turned out to be cooperative when game time came around.
According to Houston, the team's locker room was the away team's batting cages. Babson, being the hometown team, got to come out through the Red Sox bullpen.
"It would have been nice to come out the same tunnel as the players on the Sox but we weren't too concerned about it," Houston said. "At that point we had one goal in mind, and that was just to go out and get the win."
"The other thing that was really profound was the number of our alumni that came out to watch our team play that may not have come back to any Norwich functions in the past. The gathering of those alums and friends was outstanding and I think that really made it special for Norwich," said McShane.
After the game the team had a Blue Line Club function across the street at Cask n' Flagon where all the Norwich players, fans and alumni gathered to celebrate, said Thomas.
"It was chaos inside, we could barely move, it was shoulder-to-shoulder packed," Thomas said. "But it was great to see all of our fans come out and support us, as well as some previous players who recently graduated."
Former Norwich hockey player, 2010 grad and 2010 National Champion, D.J. Fimiani said "as an alumni from Mass., I think it was a great experience for those guys to get the opportunity to play in arguably one of the greatest ballparks. The memories of that game will be with them forever."
"I think for this team it will go a long way as a building block towards their ultimate goal down the line. It was great to be in the stands and see the commitment from the Norwich fans along with the parents, to battle the weather and still make it like home at Kreitzberg. I'm happy for the team," Fimiani said.
Norwich won 4-1 over Babson College, getting two goals from Gorman and two from freshmen forward Doug Lindensmith.
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