Michigan cools off Ohio St in outdoor hockey game
CLEVELAND -- There was the usual tailgating and taunting.
And when Ohio State's tuba player bowed to dot the "i" and the crowd roared, it felt and looked like a football Saturday in Columbus or Ann Arbor.
Except it was January and the band member was standing directly on the blue line -- outdoors -- on a spot normally occupied by a second baseman.
Ohio State and Michigan took their heated rivalry to the ice Sunday, playing the first outdoor college hockey game in Ohio before 25,864 fans who downed hot chocolate and other beverages to combat plunging temperatures at Progressive Field, seasonal home of the Cleveland Indians.
Derek DeBlois and David Wohlberg scored 28 seconds apart in the second period to lead the No. 15 Wolverines to a 4-1 win over the No. 2 Buckeyes, who were the "home" team despite being a two-hour drive from campus and were outplayed for three periods by their nemesis from the north.
However, the outcome was secondary to the event, which was deemed a huge success.
"A great spectacle," said Michigan coach Red Berensen, who has led the Wolverines to 21 straight NCAA appearances. "It was a special event."
Especially for Michigan, which beat Ohio State 4-0 on Friday in Columbus.
While the hockey programs don't share the same blood feud the schools have had in football since the early 1900s, there were still plenty of punishing hits and after-the-whistle roughness to serve as reminders that no matter the sport, Michigan and Ohio State don't like each other.
Ohio State's mascot, Brutus, had to dodge several snow balls aimed at his large head in the third period.
The ballpark was blanketed with several inches of fresh snow, which arrived just in time on Friday to finally allow the Indians to finish their second "Snow Days" promotion with some actual white stuff on the ground. Like almost everywhere, Cleveland has had an unseasonably warm winter to this point, but the weekend's frigid weather provided the perfect backdrop for hockey -- or sled-dog racing.
There were football overtones as well.
Archie Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, dropped the ceremonial puck. Both schools sent their bands and fans alternated chants of "Let's Go Blue!" with "Let's Go Bucks!"
On a rink built over the infield, there was also one baseball-esque moment when the puck sailed over the glass and Indians' dugout into the stands, sending fans scrambling for the souvenir puck like they were going after a foul ball.
Michigan was playing in its fourth outdoor game. Ohio State was in just its second and the large stage may have caused some early jitters.
"We need to be on a stage like this for our program to grow," said Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki, whose young team wasn't expected to be this strong.
Several hours before the start, fans fired up small grills around the downtown ballpark, which is usually unoccupied from October until April's season opener. The sight of smoke drifting into the chilly air was warming to Indians president Mark Shapiro, who knew the "Frozen Diamond Faceoff" would attract a crowd.
Shapiro was confident the unique event, which concluded the team's second "Snow Days" promotion -- a tubing hill and ice skating track inside the ballpark -- would bring fans of both programs to Cleveland. He was also sure local hockey enthusiasts would be interested. Shapiro joked that he monitored ticket sales "every three or four hours" since the game was announced in August.
"I don't think we felt like there was much risk," said Shapiro, who acknowledged the "Snow Days" promotion lost money for the second year in a row. "We were going to get a lot of people here, just what level of a lot?"
There are no current plans for a second outdoor game. Shapiro said the Indians will evaluate the success of this year's game before deciding whether to schedule one for next year or beyond.
"We have not limited ourselves in anything we're looking at or anything we might do," he said. "What's most important is that we do this well, that we execute and we operate in a way that for everyone that comes, we can't guarantee they'll be warm, but we want to guarantee they create special memories and have a special time."
Ohio State sophomore Chris Crane hopes the Indians decide to do it again.
He wants another shot at the Wolverines in Cleveland.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's every hockey player's dream to play in a game like this. It was a blast, but we want a chance at redemption."