How much of a factor was the Yost Ice Arena crowd this weekend?

Paul Wong
The Michigan hockey pep band played a major role in getting the Yost crowd excited over the weekend and gave Michigan the adrenaline rush that it needed to advance to the Frozen Four. (DAVID KATZ/Daily)

When St. Cloud’s cheerleaders took the ice Friday before its first round matchup with the Wolverines, the crowd began chanting “We want Molly!” in reference to a St. Cloud cheerleader who had criticized the Michigan fans prior to the game.

The crowd was electric, and it paid off for the Wolverines. The energy and intensity of the fans played a huge part in Michigan’s come-from-behind win Saturday night.

“Our fans were amazing all weekend,” Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “It was so loud in here. It just puts that much more energy into your legs.”

After winning a very physical and emotionally draining game Friday night, the Wolverines needed something to give them an extra lift for Saturday’s contest. The crowd seemed to embrace that role as it urged its team on and both fed off each other down the stretch.

When Michigan freshman Eric Nystrom found Ortmeyer for the game-winner with just over a minute to play, Yost began to shake as almost everyone leaped out of their seats and began embracing each other. The noise level was deafening.

The Michigan players on the bench at the time of the goal erupted into a frenzy of their own, as they formed a pile in the center of the bench.

“I was at the gate on the left side, and I ended up on the gate at the right side,” Michigan freshman Milan Gajic said. “The crowd went bonkers. Everybody was up and chanting, my buddy came to watch from Burnaby, B.C., and even he was chanting.”

Said junior John Shouneyia: “I can’t even explain what those guys were like back there. It was incredible.”

Holding up signs that said, “Not in our house” and “We own Yost,” the Michigan fans gave their team the home-ice advantage that most visiting teams dread.

“(The crowd) generated a tremendous amount of emotional adrenaline for the home team,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “At times it was difficult for us to combat.”

When the final buzzer sounded, the Wolverines ran off the bench and dogpiled their goalie Josh Blackburn in his crease. Meanwhile, the crowd began waving two enormous Michigan flags as the noise level continued to grow.

Once the team’s celebration was over and both sides had shook hands, the Michigan players stayed out to thank the crowd. Senior goalie Kevin O’Malley borrowed one of the flags from a spectator and began skating around with it on the ice. The other players were banging on the glass to acknowledge the crowd.

Soon after, the crowd began chanting “thank you seniors” and also broke out in a rendition of “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”

Finally, the Wolverines formed a circle at center ice and raised their sticks in the air to salute the crowd.

Back when Michigan decided to bid for the West Regional at Yost, there was no guarantee that it would be part of the tournament. But it was guaranteed that the crowd would be amazing.

“I’m sure (other teams wished they had bid for the Regional), but I don’t know if they have fans like this,” Blackburn said.

Chanting and raving

The crowd at Yost during the West Regional provided the Wolverines with a major boost of energy and enthusiasm. It was a big factor in Michigan’s comeback.

o “We want Molly” – The chant at the St. Cloud cheerleader who had criticized the Michigan fans prior to the game.

o “If you can’t get into State, go to Denver” – This version of the traditional song was adopted Saturday night when the Wolverines faced Denver.

o “Thank you seniors” – The chant after Michigan senior goalie Kevin O’Malley began waving the Michigan flag around the ice after Saturday’s win.

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