There was no place more electric in the Electric City than Messa Rink at Union College as 1,000 fans gleefully cheered the Dutchmen in their 7-4 win over Minnesota for the NCAA national men’s hockey championship.
Bleachers shook and thunderclaps filled the air as Union students, alumni, faculty and friends stomped their feet and slapped their boom sticks.
“It was a great game — it was my first game of the year,” said 20-year-old Kadeam Vendryes, a junior, as he paraded out of the rink with his classmates. “And we won. We’re number one.”
Early in the evening, Chris Kelly and his three young daughters sat among the crowd, their eyes glued to ESPN on a giant screen at center ice.
At Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, the puck had yet to drop.
“I’ve been watching the hockey program for a long time,” said Kelly, 44, a 1992 Union College graduate from Valley Falls who attended the on-campus viewing party to watch the Dutchmen play for the title against the Golden Gophers. “I love this group of kids. They’re just an incredible team. They always pick each other up.”
Late in the first period, 19-year-old Larent Storey was jumping up and down and feeling good about the Dutchmen’s chances. Union forward Daniel Ciampini had just scored to put his team up 4-2.
‘We’re set, dude’
“We’re set, dude,” the freshman physics major from Roselle, N.J., said over the whistles and screams of his classmates. “We’re set.”
Union senior Keefe Askin was one of the spirited students leading the charge.
“It’s electric in here. It’s fantastic,” the 23-year-old environmental science major said. “I’ve been to every home game for the last four years. The energy in here is absolutely — it’s infectious at this point. It’s truly fantastic.”
Early in the first period, with the Dutchmen down 2-1, he did the only thing he could do — scream.
“LET’S GO UUUUUUU!” he let out.
But in no way had he given up hope. “Oh, we’ll come back.”
The atmosphere lived up to 21-year-old Nick Salamone’s expectations after his friend, Union College senior Holly Lawrence of Little Falls, told him about the crowd at the semifinal viewing party Thursday night.
Salamone, who was visiting from Little Falls, Lawrence and Union senior Maria Dreeszen all found their seats in the stands as soon as the doors opened at 6:30 p.m., an hour before face-off.
“I watched it on ESPN and I was going crazy at my house,” Salamone said of Thursday’s semifinal. “So Holly was telling me all about the experience here, and I was like, ‘I need to go to that. That’s going to be awesome.’ ”
Denis Brennan, who teaches American history at the college, was there with his wife, Margaret, to cheer some of his students on.
“It’s just the excitement of being part of the campus, part of the community, and we’re celebrating an achievement,” he said. “Win or lose, it’s pretty amazing what they’ve done.”
“I fully expect us to win.”
‘A long time coming’
Kelly, the Union alum, hoped his daughters might one day be in the bleachers as students, and they looked to be on their way — 8-year-old Catherine hugged a plush lion but Emily, 10, and Maggie, 7, had their boom sticks ready and wore garnet Union College T-shirts to match their father’s.
“I hope they’re all future Union students,” he said. “I’m working on that part.”
Kelly was absolutely sure of one thing, though — this would be the year the Dutchmen would bring home the championship.
“This has been a long time coming, but these kids deserve it,” he said. “They really do.”