OfficeMax Hockey City Classic Norte Dame v.s. Maimi at Soldier Field
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:45AM
The parking lots were filled early on with tailgaters wearing a mixture of jerseys ranging from colleges to Blackhawks to Bears.
The festival-like scene was part of a college hockey doubleheader Sunday at Soldier Field, which had an outdoor rink constructed for the Hockey City Classic. The 52,051 fans in attendance found any reason to jump around and stay warm.
No. 12 Notre Dame and its new helmets shined a little more brightly on a sunny afternoon by taking the first game 2-1 over Miami (Ohio). The victory came just over four months after the Irish football team destroyed Miami (Fla.) 41-3 at Soldier Field on Oct. 6, 2012.
The Irish (19-12-1, 15-8-1-1) broke a string of four consecutive losses to their Central Collegiate Hockey Association rivals and pulled Notre Dame to within three points of the first-place RedHawks.
“It was an unbelievable experience,’’ Irish defenseman Sam Calabrese said. “Coach [Jeff Jackson] mentioned it before that there’s no college hockey team in Chicago. So for all the younger players and family members, this is it for them.’’
Calabrese is one of seven Notre Dame players hailing from the Chicago area; No. 3 Miami (19-8-5, 14-6-4-4) has six.
“We have so many kids from Chicago,’’ Jackson said. “We have so many alumni that it’s a second home to us. Chicago is our older sister city.’’
Just to celebrate the whole retro feel of playing outdoor hockey, the teams wore special jerseys, and the Irish even had freshly painted gold helmets that used the same coating process as the football helmets.
“We’re not the team from Florida,’’ Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “It’s a natural fit for us [to recruit the Chicago area]. We like the type of person and player that comes out of Chicago.’’
Notre Dame got on top first when Mario Lucia received a nice touch pass from Bryan Rust and snapped home a goal at the 12:42 mark of the second period. The Irish followed that up when Jeff Costello put home a rebound on an Anders Lee shot with 11:27 left in the third period.
Miami responded when Kevin Morris’ slap shot snuck through for the final goal.
Wisconsin 3, Minnesota 2
It was the 266th meeting for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association powers, but it was the first time they played outdoors since 1963, and the Badgers broke a four- game winless streak against No. 2 Minnesota.
No. 18 Wisconsin (13-10-7, 10-7-7) took advantage of the fractured ice in front of goalie Adam Wilcox to score three times in the second period.
All three goals came as a result of wrist shots from the blue line that took odd hops. Kevin Schulze and John Ramage scored from the blue line, and Sean Little put in a rebound off Jake McCabe’s wrist shot.
Minnesota (20-6-4, 12-6-4) got third-period goals from Seth Ambroz and Zach Budish but couldn’t tie the game late when Wilcox was pulled for an extra attacker.
“It was really cool playing here,’’ said Wisconsin forward Michael Mersch, a Park Ridge native who assisted on Ramage’s goal. “I remember sitting here in the stands watching the Bears play.
“Playing here with my family watching is just unbelievable.’’