Members of the University of Maine men’s hockey team couldn’t remember ever playing in conditions that were as challenging as Saturday night’s game against Boston University at Fenway Park in Boston. But they didn’t complain and were glad they played instead of having the game pushed back until Sunday.
There was drizzle, a steady rainfall and torrential downpours not to mention a thunder and lightning strike that forced the game to be delayed one hour and 10 minutes early in the first period before Maine went on to win 7-3.
Eight people with scraper shovels had to push the water off the ice surface and the Zambonis were used just to to dry cut the ice, picking up the snow and leveling the ice surface.
The teams swapped ends after 10 minutes of each period to ensure nobody had an advantage and the time between periods was reduced significantly in order to move the game along and get it in. Teams did not go to their locker rooms between periods.
When asked if he thought they should have played or moved the game back a day, Maine coach Red Gendron responded, “No comment.”
“We absolutely should have played today. We had so much fun out there,” said sophomore right wing Ryan Lomberg. “It was something all of us will never forget and to come out of it with a win makes it that much better. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a hockey game being delayed because of a lightning storm.”
“We had been looking forward to it for so long, we just wanted to play it [Saturday],” said junior left wing Connor Leen.
“It’s hockey, you can play on any surface as long as you have ice,” said sophomore defenseman Ben Hutton. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey. The atmosphere… the rain delay.”
Sophomore center Devin Shore, added, “The conditions were bad for both teams but nobody got hurt because of the ice. It was memorable.”
The players said the most difficult obstacle was determining what the puck was going to do in the water on the ice sheet.
“You never knew what kind of bounce the puck would take…if it was going to stop in a spot of water,” said Leen. “That’s why we had to really take care of the puck and not make those cute plays we sometimes like to make. You had to get the puck to the net or get the puck deep and keep things as simple as possible.”
“There was a layer of water on top of the ice so you couldn’t predict what the puck was going to do, whether it was going to stick or slide,” said Hutton. “And once you got knocked down, you were wet for the rest of the game.”
“I got water in my face a few times from scrums in front,” said goalie Martin Ouellette. “But that was part of the game today. Both goalies had to deal with it.”
And Ouellette said because he got wet, “my equipment was pretty heavy.
“There was so much water in the crease and behind the net,” he added..
The players did a variety of things to kill time during the rain delay.
“We had a TV on in the locker room. I didn’t think we’d be able to come back out because there was so much water out there,” said Ouellette. “We stretched and tried to keep our legs going. When we went back out there, we scored three straight goals to take a 4-0 lead. And you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
Gendron said he relied on strength and conditioning coach Matt Murray to prepare them during the break.
The players also noted that the rink crew did an exceptional job making the surface playable.
Gendron said he has never been involved in a game in which the ice surface was wet for the entire time although he did recall a game when he was an assistant at UMass when “we played on an 85-degree day in October and we couldn’t cool down the building. The ice was real soft and there were wet patches.”
Gendron said despite the weather conditions and the delay, the mission was accomplished.
“At the end of the day, we won the game and that’s what matters. Now we move forward,” he said.