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A Great Day for Hockey: Irish Top RedHawks at Soldier Field

Feb 17, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT

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Notre Dame vs. Miami at Soldier Field.

Sounds familiar, right?

For the second time in just over four months, the Irish battled Miami at one of the NFL’s most famous venues.

Only this time, it was not Florida, but Ohio. Not the Hurricanes, but the RedHawks. And not a pigskin, but a puck.

After playing on Friday night at Steve Cady Arena, the CCHA foes resumed their weekend series in a ground-breaking event – the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic – the first-ever outdoor college hockey played at the historic stadium off of Lake Shore Drive.

Both teams sported throwback uniforms for the special game, and Notre Dame also debuted new helmets, matching those worn by the Irish football team since the middle of the 2011 season. Done by Hydro Graphics Inc., the “Gold Standard” lids have an illustrious finish that more closely matches the shine of the university’s famous Golden Dome.

While October’s Windy City tilt saw the Fighting Irish rush for nearly 400 yards and put up 41 points, Sunday’s action on the ice was more of a defensive battle.

In the past decade or so, outdoor hockey games have become a bit of a novelty across the country. The NHL’s Winter Classic is undoubtedly the most popular, but taking the game back to its roots in the elements has become more and more common at the NCAA level too. From “The Cold War” to Frozen Fenway to today’s doubleheader, many of college hockey’s premier teams are playing outside.

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As with the aircraft carrier basketball games (like the one the Notre Dame women’s team played in November), the outdoor contest did not come without a few obstacles, as both teams had to fight the sunshine, as well as the occasional rough ice, with game time temperatures in the high 20′s.

Neither team could get on the board until Irish freshman Mario Lucia broke through for his tenth goal of the season with 7:18 remaining in the second period. Bryan Rust and Steven Fogarty were credited with assists on the play.

In the third period, junior Jeff Costello gave Notre Dame a 2-0 cushion, until Miami’s Kevin Morris snuck one past Steven Summerhays just over sixty seconds later.

The Irish held on for the final ten minutes of play, securing a 2-1 victory and an important split in their third-to-last series of the season. With the win, #12 Notre Dame improved to 19-12-1 overall and 15-8-1-1 in conference play. #3 Miami dropped to 19-8-5 and 14-6-4-4.

In a stadium that seats just over 60,000, the announced crowd was 52,051, a good percentage of whom arrived late in anticipation of the finale between Wisconsin vs. Minnesota. Not all were in their seats to watch the Irish upset the RedHawks, but all in all, it was a great afternoon for the sport and a near-perfect culmination to a two-week hockey festival at the stadium.

Today, the only thing brighter than the Chicago sunshine may be the future for outdoor college hockey.

Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll see a rink in the center of Notre Dame Stadium.

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