The Badgers have had an exciting trip to Pittsburgh for this weekend's series against Robert Morris, including plenty of fun both on and off the ice.
After boarding the bus to the airport at the Shell practice facility Thursday afternoon, the team departed the Madison airport for Pittsburgh. After a quick flight, the Badgers landed in Pittsburgh and headed straight for the RMU Island Sports Center for practice.
Practice ended with an intense shootout as it always does the day before a game. The Badger bus left the RMU rink and the team's next stop was the hotel, the Omni William Penn, conveniently located downtown just minutes from the Pittsburgh Penguins' Consol Energy Center, something we would find out about firsthand the next day. The team loved the view of the city as it first comes into view after exiting the Fort Pitt tunnel, and there were plenty of oohs and ahhs echoing throughout the bus.
After quickly dropping off our bags in our hotel rooms, the team headed to Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe for dinner Friday night. Everyone enjoyed taking pictures and examining the restaurant's rock and roll memorabilia.
Over dinner, Director of Hockey Operations Paul Hickman shared his story of the last time the team traveled to Pittsburgh and stayed at the Omni William Penn (during the 2006-07 season). Rumors had already been flying about the hotel being haunted, and Hickman's story about the bathroom faucet turning on in the middle of the night only fueled the spookiness.
One of the Hard Rock employees invited freshman Alex Rigsby to entertain the group by singing the national anthem, but she politely declined. The Hard Rock wished the team good luck as we finished up our meal.
As the team bus pulled up in front of the Omni William Penn after dinner, head coach Mark Johnson revealed a change of plans for Friday morning. He explained that after breakfast at the hotel, the group would all walk over to the Consol Energy Center to watch the Penguins' morning practice. Needless to say, the team was ecstatic, and this blogger was definitely excited to see Sidney Crosby hit the ice!
Back at the hotel, excited about the Penguins and spooked by Hickman's haunting story, the Badgers jumped out from behind corners and prank called one another before settling down for the night. It was an entertaining evening to say the least...but it paled in comparison to what Friday had in store for us!
The team enjoyed a delicious pregame brunch of eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, sausage, bacon, fruit and more prepared by the hotel staff. Then, we set off for the Consol Energy Center. After a short walk up a hill and past the old Mellon Arena, we arrived.
Awestruck by the building itself, everyone began snapping pictures the moment we set foot inside. We posed for pictures by the Pittsburgh Penguins sign before taking an elevator to the concourse level.
The team was definitely excited to see the Penguins, but freshman Brittany Ammerman kept things in perspective when she bounded into the arena saying, "I hope they're excited to meet us!" These are the No. 1-ranked Badgers after all!
Inside the area, the team headed straight for the rink-side seats and gathered in one corner of the arena. Hickman asked why they chose that area and pointed out that the Pens' players would enter the ice by their benches. Half of the team immediately relocated (blogger included) for an up-close look and high fives from the athletes as they stepped out onto the ice.
After conversing in French with Pascal Dupuis, junior Carolyne Prevost ended up with his stick, and senior Kelly Nash found a puck that flew over the glass. Many of the players posed with the Penguins' players for pictures after they finished their morning skate.
The team definitely enjoyed watching the Pens' drills, many of which the Badgers also run through during their own practices. The UW crew also stuck around for most of the Carolina Hurricanes' practice before heading back to the Omni William Penn to unwind before the game.
As much as the team enjoyed interacting with the NHL players, they quickly shifted focus to prepare for their own game against Robert Morris that afternoon.
Check back to UWBadgers.com for the follow-up blog, "On the road in Pittsburgh part two," to read all about the team's games against RMU along with the Badgers' adventure getting back to their hotel after Friday night's game!