Playing in the elements an emotional experience


ON WISCONSIN <b>The Badger women's team scored a 6-1 win over Bemidji State in Saturday's opener</b>
ON WISCONSIN
The Badger women's team scored a 6-1 win over Bemidji State in Saturday's opener
ON WISCONSIN

Feb. 6, 2010

MADISON, Wis. -- At its core, Saturday was just 60 minutes of hockey for both the men’s and women’s hockey teams from Wisconsin.

The men were seeking to solidify their position as a top seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament, while the women looked to keep pace in the WCHA standings.

But to the players involved in the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic, the day was so much more than that.

“It was indescribable, something that I’ll never forget and hopefully can do again,” said senior Jasmine Giles, who scored once in the women’s team’s 6-1 victory over Bemidji State in the opening game of the doubleheader.

Freshman goaltender Becca Ruegsegger, who made 13 saves in the win, echoed those sentiments.

“It was amazing; definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “The fans were great, our defense was solid and our forwards were playing great together, so it was a great experience.”

Heading into the game, neither player was quite sure what to expect.

“I went in with an open mind,” Giles said. “I was hoping to not get too cold out there and keep myself warm so I could go out and play every shift hard.”

“With a game like this, you never what the weather conditions [will be] and we don’t know how many fans we were going to get, so in that respect I wasn’t really sure,” Ruegsegger added. “We came in and knew we had to win this game for the WCHA standings so we came in focused and ready to play.”

Temperatures were in the upper 20s for the women’s game, which began at 2 p.m. The elements didn’t have a great effect on the game, but it was certainly different from playing inside the Kohl Center.

“We had heaters on the bench, but you don’t really get that cold because you’re always moving,” Giles said. “The ice was pretty good today. It was a little windy and sometimes the sun got in your eyes a little bit, but other than that it was good.”

“[The weather] didn’t really play a role,” said Ruegsegger. “At the beginning, it was hard to see the puck, but that was the main thing I noticed and it was freezing obviously.

“[Playing in Camp Randall] feels more wide open, obviously because you’re not closed in. The wind element made a little bit of a difference. The lighting, I really noticed the difference in lighting.”

The elements changed again by the time the men’s game started at 5 p.m. With the sun having set, the players had to adjust to playing under the lights.

“I think I got a jump on it with a few practices here this week,” goaltender Scott Gudmandson said. “Practicing at 4:30 helped adjust to the lights at Camp Randall, so it was good.”

Gudmandson made 22 saves as the men’s team rallied for a 3-2 victory over Michigan. The Badgers trailed 2-1 late in the third period but scored two power-play goals in the final 5:30 to earn the win.

The victory was important for the team, but Gudmandson said the players were happy to also get the win for the fans in attendance.

“I just want to thank all of the fans for coming out in the cold and making the experience worthwhile,” he said. “I think we really wanted to win it for the fans. They came out and braved through the cold.
“It’s like 25 degrees, pretty chilly, and they stayed for the whole thing. We battled through it for them and got the W.”

Given the close score of the men’s game, it was harder for the team to really enjoy the experience. But a popular song from football games seemed to get things going.

“It was hard,” forward Brendan Smith said. “It was a huge-game mentality. All we were thinking was to get redemption for last time [Michigan defeated Wisconsin 3-2 on Nov. 28 in Ann Arbor]. When “Jump Around” came on, the boys were all excited.

“We wanted to jump around too. Just seeing the 55,000 fans was unbelievable. I have no words to describe that.”

Smith was the hero for the Badgers, scoring both the tying and game-winning goals. He said the environment brought back childhood memories.

“The sound of your skates on the ice or the way the puck hits the boards, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “When a young player is on the ice, all they think about is winning the Stanley Cup on the outdoor rink and this was pretty close.”

For all involved, the day exceeded their expectations.

“It was an unbelievable experience and I’ll never forget it. That’s the only way I can sum it up,” Giles said.

Added Smith, “Leading up to this, when they talked about it last year, to even have this, I was talking to Cody Goloubef and we were like ‘Are you kidding? This is actually happening.’

“With 55,000 fans, it’s unbelievable. No words to describe it.”
Gudmandson’s feelings on the game likely are shared by both teams and for all 55,031 fans in attendance.

“I knew it was going to be an unbelievable experience, but I think most importantly we wanted to get the W,” he said. “It makes the experience that much better.”

ON WISCONSIN
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