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Frozen Four: UMD fans watching from Duluth ride roller-coaster of emotions

Fifteen minutes before face-off Saturday night, the line to get into the Sports Garden in Canal Park stretched down the block. Even as the start of the national championship hockey game approached, the wait wasn't dampening the excitement for the...

UMD fans at the Sports Garden watch as the final minute in Saturday's Final Four championship game ticks down. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
UMD fans at the Sports Garden watch as the final minute in Saturday's Final Four championship game ticks down. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Fifteen minutes before face-off Saturday night, the line to get into the Sports Garden in Canal Park stretched down the block.

Even as the start of the national championship hockey game approached, the wait wasn't dampening the excitement for the University of Minnesota Duluth hockey fans in line to see the Bulldogs take on Denver - the chants and cheers already were reaching volumes that any other night would raise eyebrows.

And by the start of the third period, with the Bulldogs trailing by two goals, the line into the Sports Garden still hadn't let up while a crowd of 1,000 filled the venue - and the energy of the gathered fans was palpable.

A score late in the third period for Duluth kept the fans in it until the final horn - but the Bulldogs would fall short by a goal, losing 3-2.

Brandon Smith, a graduate student at UMD, was still waiting in line to get in when the game ended, though he had no regrets.

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"It was a fun season to watch," he said. "Good entertainment."

Earlier, with the bar inside the popular venue crowded four people deep and the rest of the floor a sea of maroon and gold, UMD junior Ryan John was anxiously awaiting the start of the game and taking the whole scene in.

"I have never seen it like this - the bar," he said. "I'm super-excited and have a good feeling about tonight - get the 'W.' "

With the crowd erupting in cheers at every image of a Bulldog that flashed on the TV screens scattered throughout the bar, UMD senior Josie Grabowski looked at the event in a bit different way.

"It's a huge community event," she said. "Just being here surrounded by everyone - who are all different - being here for the same thing."

Six minutes into the first period the Sports Garden was at capacity, with staff allowing fans in only when an equal number left.

While the majority in attendance were UMD students, two fans that fell outside that demographic sat and watched the game on a TV in a tucked-away corner - UMD hockey season ticket holders Bob Hollenhorst and Ruth Westra.

"We wanted to go somewhere where it would be loud," Westra explained. "It's a great school and it would be wonderful to see them win."

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"We're here for the Bulldogs," Hollenhorst added. "We love them."

Tom Mateska thought just getting to this point was something special.

"It's huge for the town," he said. "It's really entertaining and nice to have sports in Duluth on a national stage."

Joe Huber, a junior at UMD who was decked out in striped maroon and gold overalls, stayed positive despite the loss.

"It was a really good season - we battled all year," he said. "It was tough to see them fall short, but it was fun."

Related Topics: HOCKEYCANAL PARK
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