Atmosphere makes an Instant Classic

With the second largest crowd to ever watch a college hockey game, No.3 Wisconsin certainly felt the impact of 55,031 fans cheering and screaming. The Badgers didn't let them down, dispatching No.19 Michigan, 3-2, in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic.

MADISON - Walking down the tunnels of Camp Randall, defenseman Brendan Smith admitted to feeling chills when he stepped on the field and the 21-degree wind hit his face.

Raised in the frigid winters of Canada, however, the goosebumps running up and down his arms may have had more to do with the 55,031 screaming fans rather than the frigid cold.

"I was talking to some of the boys like Cody Goloubef, and we were like ‘Are you kidding? This is actually happening.' Fifty-five thousand fans, this was unbelievable. I have no words to describe it," Smith said after the game with a smile split ear to ear.

Every Badger skating on the ice at the 50-yard line shared the feeling of nervous excitement. Jordy Murray spoke of "chills" when he came out of the tunnel and fans reached over the railings to high-five him. Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said simply it was "just an awesome atmosphere". Senior captain Blake Geoffrion claimed he felt like "a freshman again."

Most impressively, the fans rocked on through all 60 minutes — perhaps in an effort to keep warm — making sure the collective presence of 55,031 supporters was felt at all times.

"I looked around at one point, and I don't think people sat down until the third period," Eaves said. "That is pretty cool."

In fact, the surge of energy traveling throughout the stadium may have made the actual play on the ice more difficult for UW.

Jumping out to an early lead three minutes into the game on a Murray rebound goal, Wisconsin struggled for the next 50 minutes to maintain any type of momentum.

As Geoffrion explained, he and his teammates we exhausted from all the energy spent before the puck was ever dropped.

"It was pretty slow at the start, everyone was so excited, I lost a lot of energy with everything being so excited to get out there," Geoffrion said.

While 55,031 fans — the second most ever at a college hockey game — chanting "Sieve" is intimidating enough, the Wisconsin faithful gave the UW players a little jump in their skates when everyone's favorite party song blared from the speakers.

With "Jump Around" playing five minutes into the third period, the Camp Randall experience and all of the its traditions was complete.

When asked about Camp Randall's now-famous anthem, every Badgers skater admitted the goosebumps from the first period returned.

"When that Jump Around came on, I know the boys were all excited too, we wanted to jump around," Smith said. "Just seeing the 55,000 fans, I have no words to describe that."

"I felt my knees starting to buckle a little bit," Eaves added with a laugh when asked about the third-period boost.

The last time UW played outdoors was four years ago up in Green Bay's Lambeau Field, the resulting victory proved to be a springboard for the eventual national champs.

Senior captain Ben Street, the only Badger to skate in both venues, gave the nod to Camp Randall hands down for a more impressive atmosphere.

"This one is a little more special," Street said. "It was on campus, Jump Around was so cool, we had the student section ... we were cold, but I think we just had goose bumps from how loud it was and the way the game was going."

As for giving a boost to a program in the midst of a Frozen Four chase, Street said he thought the event could have the same effect as four years earlier.

"This is one of those games that will really help us on further in the year," Street said. "It was a huge game, a huge stage. It is easy to get nervous and tense up at the end, but we didn't. Hopefully it is a springboard, it is a huge lesson for all of us."

While coaches often take the vague-administrator route when asked about the possibility of scheduling something as enormous as outdoor hockey again, Eaves jumped in right away with his opinion.

Badger fans at the event will be excited to hear it was a bona fide yes.

"Doing it at the college level actually makes a lot more sense than the pros, because if you do it every four years there is a new crop of students that haven't experienced it," Eaves said.

"I think our administration will take a look at that. And after what happened tonight, I am going to go on a limb here, but I think we can get that upper part of the stadium full, based on what happened tonight."

While Geoffrion won't be around in four years to enjoy another go-around, his take on the matter is pretty simple.

"We have the best fans in college hockey," Geoffrion said.

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