Irish goaltender Joe Rogers makes his way to the ice at Fenway Park on Jan. 4 when Notre Dame faced Boston College.

From Behind The Mask

Feb. 6, 2014

Notre Dame, Ind. – Senior goaltender Joe Rogers will chronicle Notre Dame’s travels in Hockey East this season as the Irish travel to face several new opponents. His third installment takes a look at January trips to Boston for Frozen Fenway (Jan. 2 – 6) and a weekend series at New Hampshire (Jan. 30-Feb. 1).

Freezing In Boston

Thursday, Jan. 2

Our trip to Boston for Frozen Fenway to play Boston College at Fenway Park is a trip that I don’t think many of us who made it will ever forget. It’s hard to believe that we got to experience two major storms in the space of three or four days that really made things quite interesting.

On Thursday, our day started early as we had a 7:30 a.m. practice and then we were supposed to pack up to go to Chicago for our flight to Boston. We started the day knowing that Boston was going to get hit with a big storm on Thursday and Friday, but started the day like we were going to be able to get out.

Those plans changed as we were eating breakfast at the rink around 9:00 a.m. when we found out that our flight from Chicago was one of hundreds of flights going east that had been cancelled due to the weather. From there it was a waiting game to see what would happen next.

Most of us headed for home to wait. Around noon we got called to come back to the rink to pack our gear. It was going to be trucked to Boston and they wanted to get them on the road so that they would be there by the time the team got there.

We found out later on Thursday evening that we would be leaving on Friday morning from South Bend via charter.

Friday, Jan. 3

The team loaded the bus at the Compton Family Ice Arena and was dropped off at Atlantic Aviation where the plane was waiting. We heard that in Boston, the snow was going to stop in the afternoon but that it would get real cold with high winds putting the wind chill well below zero. Something to look forward to I guess.

While we were ready to go, the plane wasn’t. It had come in over night from Long Island and had to go through its preparations. We had to wait inside and got a chance to catch up on some game shows like “Wipeout” and the “Price is Right” in the pilot’s lounge at the airport.

Finally we got the go ahead to board the plane and when we got on, we found out that we were going to be flying on the Chicago Blackhawks charter as they came through to bail us out in a pinch. Seems like we couldn’t find anything commercially and our sport administrator, Tom Nevala, contacted the Blackhawks to see if they had any travel suggestions.

They were playing back-to-back nights on Long Island and in New Jersey and their plane was sitting there as they bussed between spots. They gave us the information on who to contact and we had a way to get to Boston for the practice day.

The plane was sweet as it had first class seats all the way through the plane with several that were face-to-face for guys who wanted to play cards or for coaches meetings.

We landed at Logan Airport in Boston and went to our hotel in Cambridge, Mass., the home of Harvard and MIT. We checked in and had a snack before getting back on the bus for our first look at Fenway Park.

It was cool seeing the park as we pulled up to a back entrance. There was so much snow all over the place as Boston had gotten hit pretty hard. They were inside starting to shovel out the seating area for the games tomorrow and were busy on the field trying to get the ice ready for practices.

We unloaded our truck that had arrived earlier, carrying all our gear down the same steps that the Red Sox players probably walked every day, past their clubhouse and down to the indoor batting cage that was going to be our locker room for the next two days.

After we set up our makeshift locker room, everyone wanted to go out and check out the set up on the field. It was neat walking up the steps in the Boston Red Sox dugout onto the field at this historic stadium. There was the rink, running from first to third base. It quickly hit us how cold it was on the field as the wind was blowing pretty hard and we were told it was four degrees above zero with a wind chill of -17.

We returned to the locker room and got ready for practice. We had plenty of extra layers with sweatshirts and neck warmers but got out there and made the best of it.

Joe Rogers and Jared Beers following Notre Dame’s practice at Fenway Park.

It was so cold that the ice was brittle and had holes and big chunks getting chipped up. We actually had fun out there for our 50 minutes. After practice, guys were trying to lift pucks from the rink over the Green Monster. It looks close, but no one made it, as it was much further than they thought.

Following practice, we took hot showers in the Red Sox locker room, so we got to see where they dress for all their games and practices, which was pretty neat. It took awhile for everyone to thaw out but we eventually did.

Saturday, Jan. 4

As we soon found out on this trip, times kept changing. We came down for breakfast and found out that all the morning skates had been cancelled. The ice crews needed time to make the ice ready for the two games later that day. Those guys earned their money for this weekend as they were constantly removing snow and fixing the ice. They did a great job keeping it playable for our game and the first one with UMass-Lowell and Providence.

We did go over to Fenway after breakfast to for a team stretch, just to get the blood flowing and us moving around. We got a tour of Fenway while we were there. We got to see the press box, out to the Green Monster, seeing Fenway Park from the top of it and then going down on the field to actually look up at the Green Monster. The tour was great as we got to see everything in the park.

After that we returned to the hotel and got ready for the game later that evening.

The rink at Frozen Fenway on Jan. 4.

We changed things up a bit before we left as we did all our team meetings in the hotel before going over to Fenway. The first game had started and there were delays to fix the ice. By doing the meetings in the hotel, we didn’t have to sit in the cold locker room longer as the first game ended up taking close to three hours to play.

Once we got over to Fenway, we found out that the first game was going longer so we didn’t start dressing until much later as we tried to stay warm. They provided hot chocolate and chicken soup to help keep us warm while we waited. It was hard to get ready because we are so used to the same routine for every game, but this was different.

Finally, we were able to get ready for warm-ups and walking out with the lights on and seeing how full the stadium was, was really exciting. That was a neat experience walking out the 25-30 yards to the ice. Hitting the ice with the crowd cheering was a great feeling.

The temperatures on the ice were much better than the day before during practice. It had warmed up into the 20’s and the wind wasn’t as bad. The ice was better with only one real bad spot and that was in front of the benches where it had a lot of wear and tear due to all the starting and stopping.

The game finally started which was great considering all snow they had gotten and our travel problems. We were finally playing hockey. I thought we started fast coming off the long Christmas break. We got down early, but never let it get to us and kept playing hard the full 60 minutes.

We got one back at the end of the first period to make it 2-1. The second and third was back-and-forth. We made it 2-2, but they answered to get the lead back and we scored again to make it a 3-3. They got what would be the game winner with over eight minutes gone in the game, but we could never get one past them. It looked like we had scored to tie it at the buzzer, but after a long review, they waved it off and BC got the win, 4-3.

All-in-all, it was a great experience. You could hear the crowd when we scored and the fight song being played. The cold wasn’t too bad.

After the game, we loaded the truck up and got it done pretty quickly. That’s when the real fun began as we found out that our flight on Sunday morning had already been cancelled. Seems that another big winter storm was brewing, this time in the Midwest and Chicago and South Bend were going to be shut down.

Sunday, January 5

We started the trip with a hurry up and wait mentality and that’s the way we finished it. What should have been an easy trip home became an adventure and at times quite comical. We had beaten Hercules into Boston, but were about to meet the Polar Vector.

Things were up in the air as to how we would be getting back to South Bend. Sunday afternoon we got to explore Boston a little bit as we went to Copley Square and the malls there. The boys enjoyed getting out of the hotel and walking around, seeing some of the sites.

We returned to the hotel for a nice dinner and we watched some football as they set up some big screens where we ate to watch the Green Bay – San Francisco playoff game.

There was a lot of free time on this trip. Usually we have homework and papers that we work on when we travel but the second semester hadn’t started. A lot of cards were played as guys just looked for ways to kill some time.

Monday, January 6

The first plan on Monday had us leaving Boston early for South Bend. We were supposed to get a plane that had taken the Clemson women’s basketball team that was playing at Notre Dame back to South Carolina. It turns out that the plane never got to South Bend on Sunday to get them, so that plan was finished.

We ate breakfast and were told to go back to our rooms and they would let us know when we were leaving.

Dave Gilbert, our equipment specialist who also handles team travel, was on the phone all weekend trying to make things work. He had to be frustrated trying to get our group home from Boston.

Around 10 am, we got the call to load the bus. We were heading to Hanscom Airbase in Bedford, Mass., an old air force base that is now a charter airport.

From the buzz I heard, the plane that was supposed to take Clemson home was in Dayton. The airports in Chicago were starting to open, so they were going to come get us, take us to Midway in Chicago and the Clemson women’s team would bus to Midway and get the plane home.

As we were getting on the highway to the airport, plans changed. Seems that the weather was so bad that the Toll Road in Indiana was shutdown, no one heading to Chicago, no one going east to South Bend.

We sat in the airport parking lot for about 40 minutes, while Gilly and the staff tried to figure things out. It was decided that we would go to a local mall for lunch and to kill a couple of hours. We were to meet back at the entrance at 2:00 p.m. to find out our status.

A plane had been found and we were going back to Hanscom with the plane expected to arrive around 3:30 p.m. We got to the parking lot and waited. The weather was overcast and cloudy and it was raining while we waited and the visibility wasn’t great. There was going to be a break in the weather later around 5:00 p.m. The word filtered around the bus that the plane was coming from Baltimore and was taking off at 4:30.

Around 5:00 p.m., the bus started up and we began to move to the tarmac. We saw a plane landing but it went to the other end of the airport so we figured it wasn’t our plane. After a few minutes, that’s were we headed. It was our plane and they had started fueling it.

After staying on the bus another 15 minutes, we were told to get off and go inside the terminal to go through the security check. From there, we were directed to the plane. We were finally going to get on the way home.

Around 6:15, the plane began moving towards the runway. The pilot gunned the engines and we headed down the runway. We hadn’t gone very far when you could hear the engines go quiet and he quickly made a left-hand turn. You could feel the disappointment. What went wrong now?

The pilot came on the intercom and told us that a warning light had come on. They didn’t think anything was wrong, but they had to check it. After about 10 minutes, the plane started moving again and was soon airborne.

The flight took about two hours and when we landed in South Bend, we could see how much snow that they had gotten and when the door opened, we could feel just how cold it was. They told us it was 14-below zero with a wind chill of -45. It was brutal. We got off the plane and went to the bus. Everyone helped to unload the plane to get in on the bus so we could get back to school.

We found out that they had shut down South Bend and weren’t allowing cars on the road until after 6:00 p.m. The parking lots were still covered with snow, but someone from the Compton Family Ice Arena had come out and cleaned our cars off.

We unloaded the equipment truck that had been there overnight. Dave Gilbert had to get a blow torch to unfreeze the back door so we could get the equipment inside. In my four years, it was probably the fastest we have ever unloaded the equipment. I guess that was what -45 will do for you.

Because everything was shut down, nothing was open, so Gilly had arranged a buffet meal for us at the Morris Inn. We probably surprised the staff there how fast we ate. We were like a pack of wild dogs after not eating since around noon.

After three consecutive weeks at home, Notre Dame took to the road again from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 for a Hockey East series at the University of New Hampshire at Durham, N.H. It was a big weekend series for the Irish as they looked to get back on the winning track on the road.

Thursday, Jan. 30

The wild winter weather and the Polar Vortex continued to follow the Notre Dame hockey team through the month of January. On Thursday, we actually got a bit of a break as the sun came out and temperatures reached into the mid 20’s. Could it be over? I doubt it.

This day was a typical travel day for us. We were getting back to class after school was cancelled earlier in the week because of the wild winter weather. We went to class in the morning and started getting to the rink around noon to start packing the gear.

We got the bus loaded and headed to the airport. There was no waiting, no delays as we went through security and got ready to go pretty quickly for the trip to Portsmouth, N.H.

After a takeoff in high winds, once we got above the clouds, things went pretty smooth. The flight was about an hour and a half and we landed at Pease Airbase. We were in for a big surprise when we got to New Hampshire. It was warm and there was little snow on the ground. The temperature was 37 and who would have thought that we would travel to New Hampshire to get a break from our South Bend weather.

We got checked in at the hotel and headed over to the Whittemore Center. It was neat coming into that building as none of us had ever been there before. We entered through the hallway that went by the UNH locker room and their training facilities.

The Irish got their first look at UNH’s Whittemore Center when they played there on Jan. 31-Feb. 1.

They have a huge sheet of ice at New Hampshire. It’s Olympic-sized and it seemed like you weren’t even moving out there when you were skating. We started doing some drills to get acclimated to the ice. It’s tough for goaltenders at first trying to figure your angles and get used to the boards. All your normal cues on the ice are skewed a bit. Once you get the feel of it though it isn’t that bad.

Friday, January 31

After breakfast we went over to the rink for our morning skate. We did some drills to help guys get loosened up and to get the goalies a chance to see the puck. We worked on getting a feel for the boards and the ice and how we would play things later on that night. It was a chance for guys to work on little things, like face offs, taking a few shots, just to get ready for the game.

We had our typical pre-game meal, chicken and pasta, and after that guys headed back to their rooms to take a nap and get started in their pre-game routines.

We were staying about 15 miles from the rink in Portsmouth, N.H., so we had to leave a little earlier to take into account the traffic. Everything is two-lane highway and like anywhere when 5:00 p.m. comes around on a Friday afternoon, the roads get crowded as people head home for the weekend.

The trip wasn’t that bad and we arrived at the rink about 5:35 p.m. and got ready for pre-game meetings, playing a little soccer and just doing some stretching to get loose.

The puck dropped and it looked like we had a good start in the first period. We knew the atmosphere would be good and we knew we were playing a good team. We try to put all of that behind us and play our game.

The rink was very bright and the crowd was into it. They had a great student section that really got on the goaltenders. I thought we had a good first period and controlled the play. We outshot them 11-2 but didn’t score. We finally broke through in the second period when Mario (Lucia) got a deflection on a shot by Eric Johnson.

New Hampshire got a power-play goal to tie the game and we got the opportunity to see a New Hampshire tradition. They throw a large fish on the ice after they get their first goal of the game. It’s a tradition that started in the 1970s and has continued. It is done to symbolize the goaltender “fishing the puck out of the net,” after a UNH goal.

The Wildcats made it 2-1 on a tip-in in front and it stayed that way until late in the third. That’s when Bryan Rust made a nice play to score a short-handed goal to make it 2-2 with over four minutes left. The bench was really jacked up after Rusty’s goal but we didn’t get to enjoy it too long as UNH came back to score 29 seconds later on a shot that went off one of our guys in front to make it 3-2. That was tough to get a bad bounce like that and it goes against us. They got an empty net goal to make it 4-2.

I thought we battled hard all night. Guys were really down after the loss. That was a tough loss. We knew we couldn’t dwell on it too long, because we had an early game on Saturday and had to put things behind us pretty quickly.

Saturday, February 1

Saturday we didn’t go over to the rink for a pregame skate with the game starting at 4:00 p.m. We did a team stretch at the hotel in a conference room to get the muscles loose and to get our minds right. From there, we had our game plan meeting, went over the things we did well the night before and then the things we needed to approve on. We had our pregame meal around 10:30. The early games force you to change your routine.

We went back to our rooms to get in a nap to try to build your energy for the game that night. We left for the rink around 1:30, bringing all our stuff with us as we were leaving immediately after the game.

After our pregame skate, we were given baseball caps to wear on the ice for the introductions. They were for Operation Hat Trick, a program started at UNH to raise funds for members of the military. That was neat to be included in the project. We are doing the same thing at Notre Dame next week during the Maine series. After the intros, the New Hampshire players threw their hats into the crowd while we turned ours back in to be donated to military members around the country. Hockey East seems to have some neat initiatives that they are involved in and we have participated in.

Again, we got off to a good start in the first period but UNH scored first on a two-on-one around the 10-minute mark. We gave up some odd man rushes that seemed to go against us. We had to battle the entire game.

“Looch” (Mario Lucia) had a great goal to tie the game off a great set up by Vinny (Hinostroza). Mario is always in the shooting position and he gets rid of the puck so fast. That was huge for us for him to tie the game.

UNH got another two-on-one goal in the second period and again we came back on a goal by T.J. (Tynan). That made it 2-2 with six minutes left in the period. Then came the back breaker as we had three straight power-play chances but they got a short-handed goal with three minutes left in the period to take the lead.

UNH got an early goal in the third to make it 4-2 and then added an empty netter for the final of 5-2. It was a disappointing weekend, because we played well in spurts, but every time we got close, we gave up a quick goal.

After the game we got all packed and loaded the bus for the trip to the airport. The trip was pretty uneventful until we got close to South Bend. They had gotten snow all day and we were flying through the end of it. We ran into some pretty good turbulence that got the guys attention in the back of the plane.

We landed in South Bend with snow on the ground. That seems to be a recurring theme for us this year. When we leave and come back there seems to be another six inches of snow. We had to push the equipment through the snow piles when we got back to the Compton and then we had a group effort in the parking lot with everyone chipping in to clean off cars and get people home as quick as possible.

We now have to put the weekend behind us and get ready for a big weekend against Maine next weekend.