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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Observer on the Ground: College hockey at its finest at Yost

When Notre Dame’s hockey schedule was released in the fall, and I saw they concluded the season in Ann Arbor, I knew right away I had to be there. It was sure to be a big game and ended up being even more important than I had imagined with the Irish needing a win to secure home ice in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. 

Full disclosure: I grew up in Ann Arbor as a Michigan fan. I’m mostly reformed now; Notre Dame will forever be my first allegiance, and I only cheer for Michigan occasionally. Plus, at least in football, it’s hard to claim Notre Dame and Michigan are rivals anymore when the next time they’re scheduled to play is more than a decade away. 

All that aside, I grew up going to games at Yost and it’s where I found my love for the wonderful sport which is college hockey. Apologies to Compton (which I do love very dearly), but Yost is the best venue in the sport. Every seat in the house feels like you are right on top of the ice, and the passionate (read: extremely impolite) student section gives each game a raucous atmosphere. 

This game was no exception, and it was well worth the effort to get there on time. I was presenting at an all-day conference here on campus that didn’t end until 4 p.m., so I had to race back to Ann Arbor and pick up a friend. We made it to the arena about half an hour before puck drop, with enough time to watch warmups and walk around and see some friends who had also made the trip from South Bend. 

My friend and I managed to score tickets in the section for the Michigan player’s parents, so the atmosphere was perhaps more muted than it otherwise would have been. I definitely stood out in my Irish jersey, but it’s hard to say no to tickets in the third row right at center ice, and it was right next to the student section. 

The game itself was certainly one of the best hockey games I have seen in person. Despite the score being 0-0 until the final period, it was an incredibly exciting contest, with massive hits, several almost-fights, fantastic goaltending from both sides and each team being given a five-minute major penalty. When Notre Dame finally broke the deadlock early in the third period, I jumped out of my seat to celebrate. And while I was the only one in my section to do so, there was a solid contingent of Irish fans who made their presence known.

It looked for a few minutes like Notre Dame might be able to hold on for the 1-0 victory behind another stellar performance from goaltender Ryan Bischel (there seemed to be a collective groan from the crowd after each of his 48 saves). But, Michigan tied it up again only a few minutes later: Yost erupted. The Michigan fans around me gave me a hard time as “Hail to the Victors” rang out (admittedly a very catchy song) but the Irish had the last laugh when defensemen Drew Bavaro scored his second of the night just 90 seconds into overtime. On the way out, I saw several more friends, hugged them to celebrate the win, and went home happy, knowing that we can watch Notre Dame play at home this weekend.