Hundreds of Mac students poured into Drake Arena Saturday night as the Men’s Club Hockey team squared off against a local men’s league team. The raucous crowd reacted dramatically to every near score and defensive stop as the boys fell just short in a 5-4 loss. The defeat snapped a three-game winning streak.
After scoring three times in the first two periods, Macalester struggled to score for the first 16 minutes of the final period. But the game’s final minute gave way to a startling near comeback, as Ari Hymoff ’17 scored with 45 seconds left. “I came into the zone and shot the puck but it was deflected a couple times,” Hymoff said. “CJ took the shot and rebound came back to me and I put [the puck] over the goalie’s right pads into the empty net.”
The squad from Macalester had the puck in the zone again with 20 seconds left and mustered a few shot attempts before time expired.
The audience’s presence was a dominant force for all three periods. There were multiple “USA! USA! USA!” chants, premature countdowns to try to fool the opponents and performances of “Macalester is Wonderful.”
This season’s fan support has been quite a change for veterans of the hockey team. Last year, the team drew about 30 people each game, but a massive social networking effort increased that number to over 200 for a blowout win against Carleton earlier this year. The enthusiasm has kept attendance high for the remainder of the season.
Led by a trio of Macalester alums, the team is well aware of the history of club hockey at the school. Coach Jacob Greenberg recalls playing in front of large audience his first season with the team five years ago; nothing compares to recent games’ numbers. “It was awesome to see the crowds grow all year after we beat up Carleton at home,” Greenberg said. “The guys feed off the crowd in a big way.”
“Having a large crowd was really important not only for the players but for the program,” Hymoff said. “We’re trying to make hockey part of Mac culture, and having 100-200 people is fun to play for us and our opponents.”
Club hockey games have recently been drawing bigger crowds than some varsity sports. As the Scots wrap up their 2014 campaign, they hope to ride this wave of support into next year. Regarding losing in the team’s final game, “All the players and the coaches took it really hard. This group has real ambitions now, and is committed to being a serious team,” Greenberg said. “All of our players improved as the year went on, and there’s no reason why even more guys won’t start scoring next year.”