TD Garden opened in September 1995. Three years later, it witnessed Michigan’s NCAA Tournament Final against Boston College, the Wolverines winning 3-2. Michigan’s Frozen Four matchup against Denver on Thursday could see history continue.
The Wolverines are no stranger to the blinding lights, sold out crowds and national attention. Whether it was in this year’s Big Ten tournament or the “Duel in the D,” Michigan has stepped up when it mattered most.
After losing to Notre Dame four times, Michigan beat the Fighting Irish in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. And that wouldn’t be the last time it withstood expectations.
Little Caesars Arena, home to the Detroit Red Wings, hosted “The Duel in the D.” As fans from all over the state gathered in Detroit, the Wolverines battled Michigan State in front of 16,289 fans.
The Wolverines’ upcoming matchup against Denver poses a similar challenge. Playing on national television and in an NHL stadium motivates the players that much more.
“It definitely gets the juices flowing a bit more,” senior forward Michael Pastujov said. “It gets you a little bit more centered.”
Back on March 19, the hostile 10,774-person crowd for the Big Ten Tournament final broke 3M Arena at Mariucci’s attendance record. Michigan embraced it and left Minneapolis with the title.
The Wolverines have been successful on the big stage all season and look to continue their form against the Pioneers.
“We played great in the Big Ten championship, the biggest Big Ten attendance there’s been,” Pastujov said. “We played well last week in Allentown. I definitely think we step our game up on the bigger stage. This is going to be our biggest stage yet so we’re excited.”
Crowds at the NCAA Regional Final in Allentown, Penn. weren’t quite as high as the stadium boasted a mere 3,256 fans, but the spotlight was similar.
In its own barn, Yost Ice Arena, the atmosphere assisted the Wolverines in countless wins this season. Michigan sold out 14 of its 23 home games, often giving the team an extra man. On Thursday night against Denver, the Boston ambiance could give Michigan that much needed adrenaline rush.
“It’s always exciting when you play in these historic buildings,” senior forward Jimmy Lambert said. “It’s always a lot of fun. A little bit more hyped up obviously.”
Lambert is a prime example of using the occasion to his advantage. He scored two goals against Michigan State in “The Duel in the D.” He also added his side’s second goal in Michigan’s 7-4 victory against Quinnipiac in the NCAA Regional Final. If anyone knows how to handle the nerves leading up to the Pioneers, it’s him.
And it seems like he knows it too.
“This is the Frozen Four, so this is the biggest stage you can ever play in college hockey,” Lambert said. “We’re all excited and we’re going to be ready to go.”