The sign proclaiming “Maine: The way life should be” is long gone from the turnpike. But I’m ready to put up a new one around here that proclaims: “The Alfond: The way hockey should be. Once again.” This was the weekend for which loyal fans, boosters and alumni have been begging for years.
Red’s Army won both games of the Border Battle with rival New Hampshire in an atmosphere reminiscent of seasons long past. There were not many empty seats as almost 10,000 people total showed up for the two games. The fans were loud, the band was rocking and the student section was as amped up!
Home sweet home.
Both nights the students brought plenty of energy to the old building and made life pretty hard for the opposing goalie. They came armed with signs including one that read “We’ve got two, how about you?”
Maine fans of all ages love to razz UNH about being “The University of No Hardware.” These kids care not that most of them were not alive for the last Maine hockey title in 1999, 20 years and 7 months ago. They may not know it was claimed with a 3-2 OT thriller over these same Wildcats?
No matter. With their help the Black Bears are now 5-0-1 at home! In fact they have not lost a game in Orono dating back to Feb 8th. They went 4-0 to wrap up last season at the Alfond which makes them unbeaten in their last 10 home games! (9-0-1)
The two games this weekend were classics as Maine trailed both nights only to come back each time over the pussycats from UNH. At times looking around I kind of thought Paul Kariya might come skating out of the locker room. The Alfond had that vibe we all remember and want back for every home game.
Friday night when I arrived early to take part in a pre game event in the Alfond lounge, the line of students was stretched as far as the eye could see. Once inside my daughters, perhaps future students, were selected to be the Jr Black Bear Captains of the game and got to be on ice with the team during introductions and the anthem.
Given my frequent critiques of the program it was not surprising that they were introduced only by their first names. (Saturday’s young Jr Captain did have his last name announced.) But that’s OK. I like to think my kiddos helped set the right tone for the series with their big screen appearance and waves to the crowd.
Saturday night we saw the Black Bears held scoreless for the first 59 minutes and 10 seconds of the game, and still win 2-1.
They scored a 6 on 4 goal with 50 seconds to play to tie the game at 1. Then scored early in overtime to send UNH back on one long, cold bus ride to Durham. It was perfect.
The Alfond crowd was buzzing as we all poured out into the unseasonably cold November night, prepared to sit in traffic for an hour as we used to do after every game. Nobody was complaining.
Too bad I didn’t have my sign posted on the highway yet.