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UMass hockey to face BU at Fenway Park in Boston

  • Senior Marc Hetnik and the UMass hockey team will play Boston University on Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

  • UMass hockey players Anthony Petrella, left, Jonny Lazarus, front center, and Jake Horton, right imitate a batter, catcher and umpire during practice Friday for their game against Boston University, Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Fenway Park in Boston. The game is part of the two-week long Frozen Fenway 2017. Riley McDougall raises his arms in the background. TWITTER



@MattVautourDHG
Friday, January 06, 2017

Jake Horton has played outdoor hockey before. He grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes and even more hockey players. It would have been noteworthy if he hadn’t.

But the rink he’ll skate on Sunday is a little different than Hallenberg Pond at the end of 31st Avenue in Orono, Minnesota.

UMass will play Boston University at 1:30 p.m. on the outdoor rink at Fenway Park in Boston. The game is part of Frozen Fenway 2017, a two-week series of hockey and ice skating events. It was scheduled for Saturday, but the game was postponed due to inclement weather.

“Guys are definitely excited for it. It’s going to be a great opportunity. It’s a good team that we’re facing. We’re going to put our best foot forward and enjoy the experience,” Horton said. “There’s nothing like being at Fenway. It’s one of the coolest parks in all of baseball. I’ve been lucky enough to go there. I was there this summer. It’ll be quite the experience.”

Kurt Keats has played outdoors too. There are plenty of outdoor rinks near his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, but nothing like this.

“It’s super exciting. When it was announced my parents and a couple of family members immediately booked their place tickets,” he said. “I’ll be a kid in a candy story taking it all in. I’ve been to Fenway a couple times, but some guys haven’t been there. Fenway itself is pretty special. For a game like this it’s extra special.”

Even coach Greg Carvel didn’t downplay the experience.

“I’m just excited for the experience. It’ll be fun,” Carvel said. “Whatever happens it’ll be a great memory. Just to be in that venue will be really cool.”

The teams will practice at the rink Friday to get used to the conditions and get some of the situational awe out of their system.

“Friday we’ll get to enjoy all the amenities and check it out and experience the wide-eyed point of view,” Horton said. “Saturday will be a great experience, but it is game time. Those are two big Hockey East points that we have to earn.”

Keats said they’d use Friday to experience the conditions and decide whether or not they’d need eye black to combat sun glare and then admitted they’d wear it regardless cause it would look cool.

“We’ll wear it just for show,” he said.

The ice will be set up from foul line to foul line at the outfield edge of first and third base. UMass fans and band will be set up on the first baseline.

Playing games outdoors in stadiums and ballparks became a popular novelty in 2001 when Michigan and Michigan State played “The Cold War” in front of 74,554 fans in Spartan Stadium.

Hockey East got into the act in 2010 at Fenway Park, playing a women’s/men’s doubleheader when the ice was down for the NHL’s Winter Classic. The city of Boston and the Red Sox liked the event enough to keep holding it even when the NHL wasn’t involved.

UMass was part of Frozen Fenway II in January 2012, when the Minutemen beat Vermont, 3-2 in overtime.

The historic yard held hockey again in December 2013 and while attendance has dropped a bit each time, Hockey East men’s games have all drawn over 30,000 fans.

Army and Bentley will open the 2017 event on Thursday. Hockey East will have doubleheaders on Saturday and Jan. 14. UMass and BU will be followed by Boston College and Providence. There will be high school games, Division III college games, figure skating, girls youth clinic and public skating as well.

In 2012, UMass played in surprisingly warm conditions. Saturday’s forecast was for 29 degrees and potentially some light snow.

“We’re hoping the conditions are pretty bad to slow BU down,” joked Carvel, who didn’t think play would be overly affected by being outside. “As long as the weather isn’t too extreme it shouldn’t be too different.”