Men's hockey: Lambeau on ice

The Badgers are eager to skate inside storied football stadium

Growing up in Wisconsin, where many people consider the home of the Green Bay Packers almost a holy shrine, most kids dream of their first trip to Lambeau Field.

Most kids probably thought their first trip to the stadium would feature a "Lambeau Leap" and a Brett Favre-fueled victory. Those who will make their first trip this weekend will be in for a surprise—unless Favre decides to throw on skates and learns how to jump a wall of plexi-glass.

Old or young, the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic between No. 4 Wisconsin and Ohio State at Lambeau Saturday will be a special experience for everyone involved. But one of those Wisconsin kids, Badger winger and Madison-native Jack Skille, is particularly looking forward to it.

"I don't think words can really describe it," the freshman said. "I know right when I get out there it's going to be amazing. It'll be my first time being there and it's going to be awesome."

Though Skille grew up in Wisconsin, he, like many others this weekend, will get his first chance to see Lambeau Field in person. Many people perhaps have not had their opportunity thanks to the long list of fans waiting for season tickets.

But being in attendance for the first hockey game in Lambeau history is not a bad way to make your first appearance there.

"I've always heard about how great it is up there," Skille said. "My first time, I get to play hockey there. It's a great feeling."

The rookie—who has played some big games for the U.S. Junior Team and National Team Developmental Program—has big hopes for Saturday's game.

"It's definitely going to be the coolest game I've ever played in," Skille said.

Perhaps he meant that in more ways than one, as one of the features that will make the game so "cool" will be braving the winter elements. The Weather Channel is predicting a high of 27 with a 30 percent chance of snow showers Saturday afternoon.

Of course, that does not sound terribly bad for a group of guys who spent their childhoods on ice. Senior winger Ryan MacMurchy said that he thinks most of the guys will be able to handle it.

Of course, to him, 28 degrees is nothing. Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan he once played a Peewee game when it was 40 below zero.

"I remember our whole team was wearing gloves underneath and between intermission we all took our skates off and passed the blow dryer around trying to warm our feet up," MacMurchy said. "That's one of my bad experiences with cold weather, but that's extreme."

Skille said he feels bad for players like Robbie Earl, who hails from Los Angeles.

But most of the Badgers grew up playing hockey on ponds—an experience that they hope will help carry over this weekend, if in no other aspect than getting used to the cold.

"I always went every winter with my dad and my family and just skated—we had Vilas (Park), Lake Mendota…always outdoor skating," Skille said. "It's going to be a little different with boards around, but it's the same type of concept."

"I think the cold weather is the only similarity, but it's going to be great," assistant captain Andrew Joudrey said. "Just being able to play outdoors at this level is something I'll hang on to my whole life."

But mixed somewhere in all of the luster that a game at Lambeau Field brings with it, there is a hockey game that will be played — a game that counts towards the regular season and therefore the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the NCAA's tournament selection criteria.

As far as the Badgers are concerned, they will enjoy the moment, but when the initial excitement clears, there is a game to be played.

"When the puck drops it's another game. We know we need to come in and get back on track and play the way we know how," Joudrey said.

Wisconsin snapped a four-game losing streak with a win at Minnesota-Duluth last Friday, but fell again on Saturday.

"We have to go in there like a regular game," Skille said. "We have to beat Ohio State. We're going to go in there with that competitive attitude just like we always do."

The rookie also said he had spoken with Michigan's Jack Johnson, a former teammate at the NTDP, to get somewhat of a scouting report on Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have been up-and-down lately, going 3-3 in their last six games. Sophomore Tom Frisch leads the way with 25 points this season for Ohio State, a team that either scores goals aplenty or struggles to find the back of the net completely.

Senior goalie David Caruso boasts a 1.79 goals against average and a .925 save percentage but is just 12-11-4 on the year.

But when it comes down to it, the numbers will probably not mean a thing. It would be pretty hard to predict exactly what will happen when UW and OSU face off outside, under the Lambeau lights in 20-degree weather Saturday afternoon.

Skille, for one, has no idea what to expect.

"I don't know anything about this experience besides skating on Lake Mendota," he said.

What: Ohio State (10-10-2 CCHA, 14-12-4 overall) vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (14-6-2 WCHA, 19-7-2)
When: Saturday, Feb. 11, 3 p.m. Central.
Site: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Broadcasts: The Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic will be televised live on Fox Sports Net and broadcast live on the radio at WIBA-AM 1310. Series notes: Wisconsin is 9-0-0 against Ohio State all-time, including a 1-0 overtime victory the last time the team's met—in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The Badgers are 2-0-0 against OSU in neutral site games and this will be the first hockey game ever played at Lambeau Field.

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