Boston -- The eight Hockey East teams participating in the 2017 Frozen Fenway were invited to Fenway Park for Thursday night's Yankees-Red Sox game for a photo op and pregame ceremony on the field.
Players and coaches from all eight teams, Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Providence, New Hampshire and Northeastern took part in the festivities. Mount Hermon, Mass. native and UConn junior captain Derek Pratt threw out the first pitch.
"It's great. I've grown up coming to Fenway Park and my dad is from New York so I grew up watching the Yankees. It's pretty special," said Pratt.
"Step and throw," Pratt said of the advice he was given on throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
On a sweltering August day, it was hard to imagine hockey being played on the same field. However, with the college hockey season now less than two months away, several players and coaches seemed ready to get going.
New Era at UMass
While Greg Carvel has yet to coach a game as the new head coach of the UMass hockey program, his and his staff's impact is already being felt by returning players.
"It's ten-fold right now. There's a lot of excitement around our program. Coach Carvel has already made really good relationships with us. The assistant coaches have been great too. They've reached out to us and gotten to know us before the year starts. We have nothing but good things to say about all those guys," said UMass senior captain Marc Hetnik.
"The communication is a lot better with the players and coaches, but it's the little things that they are holding us accountable for now," Hetnik explained. "Making sure we dress appropriately for the things we had to do during the spring and making sure we had the right attire on if we were skating on our practice rink are different than the previous coaching staff."
Hetnik, a native of nearby Chestnut Hill, Mass., is in the same boat as his new coach. Neither have ever played or coached in an outdoor game.
"It speaks for itself. Fenway being over 100 years old, it's pretty humbling to be playing here after seeing all the great sports moments happen here," Hetnik remarked.
Huskies Ready for New Role as Hunted
For the first time since the 1988-89 season, Northeastern University will have a new challenge. The Huskies, the defending Hockey East Tournament Champions, will be circled on the calendars of many of their opponents. However, Jim Madigan believes the amount of high end teams in Hockey East will keep his players grounded.
"We're still in a league with BU, BC, Providence, Lowell and Notre Dame. There's a lot of good hockey teams in our league that won't allow us to think we've reached a level that we're better than anyone else," said Madigan.
While Northeastern finished strong down the regular season and through the Hockey East Tournament, the Huskies' season ended on a down note with a 6-2 loss to eventual national champion North Dakota.
"The good news is there is still unfinished business. It was a great accomplishment to win the league, but we went to the [NCAA] Tournament and didn't fare too well against North Dakota. There's a feeling of unfinished business," said Madigan.
"It's a pretty grounded group. There's a lot of real good seniors in that group," Madigan added.
This will be the second chance for Northeastern's senior class to play at Fenway Park, and the third overall for the program under Madigan, who is hoping to go over the .500 mark at Boston's hallowed ballpark.
"It never gets old. We get a chance to play in the [TD Garden] in the Beanpot every year. Coming to Fenway Park, which is even more unique because less hockey games are played here, is tremendous for our student-athletes," said Madigan.
Maine, UNH Looking to Right the Ship
Maine and New Hampshire have had to sit through some down times in recent years. However, with a new season comes a new opportunity and a renewed sense of optimism. Both the Black Bears and Wildcats were unceremoniously dispatched from the Hockey East Tournament a year ago, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of their players.
"It's no secret that we didn't finish the year the way we wanted to. It's definitely something we use as motivation. We felt like there was some things we could learn from the tough times we had last year. We're ready to get started," said UNH senior defenseman Matias Cleland.
Maine had significant roster turnover during the off-season, losing six underclassmen to the pros, early graduation and transfer. With nine new faces coming on board, Black Bear senior forward Cam Brown is eager to be part of the rebuild.
"It's definitely exciting. We're excited about who we have coming in and who we have coming back. We're ready for the challenge and we're ready to surprise a lot of people," said Brown, who hails from nearby Natick, Mass.
Brown is one of several local players who have the added excitement of playing hockey in the baseball park that they came to growing up to watch the Red Sox.
"I was fortunate enough to play here as a freshman. It was an unbelievable experience, playing and practicing here at Fenway. I remember coming here as a kid. It's really special," said Brown.
Tickets for the two Hockey East doubleheaders go on sale September 1 at 12:00 p.m. Boston University and UMass kick off the event at 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 7, followed by the nightcap between Providence and Boston College. Maine and UConn and Northeastern and UNH battle it out on Saturday, January 14.