Michigan defenseman Mike Komisarek raised his arms and grinned as the red light behind beaten goalie Dan Ellis signaled a 3-1 score and the end of Nebraska-Omaha”s hopes for a sweep of this past weekend series.
The Mavericks” fans, mellowed by two-and-a-half periods of alcohol consumption and by the realities of a two-goal deficit, resignedly stared up at an unabashed explosion of glee from the nether-regions of section 79 in the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
“Hail! To the victors valiant! Hail! To the conquering heroes!”
The only blue in an arena-full of red, those who stood in tribute to their hockey heroes from Ann Arbor were never short on moxie, though some suggested it was the liquid.
“They”re just happy because they can buy beer,” grumbled one Nebraska-Omaha fan.
Beer was certainly an added bonus in the CCHA”s only alcohol-selling arena, but it wasn”t the reason why approximately 150 Michigan fans ventured to the heart of the midwest.
“There”s a reputation that Michigan fans aren”t that good, that we”re quiet and fair-weather,” Michigan LSA junior Ramsay Trix said. “There”s a core group of us who are really dedicated, we go all the time.
“There”s a group who came over from Denver to see this it says a lot about the program,” he said.
The loyal fan base in Ann Arbor and the metropolitan suburbs of Detroit flew in to Omaha on Thursday night and Friday morning, some in time to attend the Blue and Red luncheon featuring Michigan coach Red Berenson and Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp.
Many from the Michigan group became acquainted with the Wolverines” fan base in Omaha and the surrounding area to the point of hanging out with each other before and after games.
“It”s my theory that there are Michigan fans no matter where you go,” said Bill Adlhoch, a resident of Plymouth 1990 Michigan graduate.
“Half the people live in this area and half the people have actually traveled out here.”
Once in the arena, the Michigan fans remained standing all night, reciting all the favorite cheers from Michigan hockey home games at Yost Arena. An indication of the group”s older, more mature age makeup, the road version of the cheer “C-Ya” is abridged the colorful language at the conclusion of the cheer was omitted.
Many times during the Friday and Saturday night games, such as after a big hit or a key clear, the Wolverines” fans generated more excitement than their Nebraska-Omaha hosts.
“It doesn”t really matter what our numbers are,” Ann Arbor resident Tom McKenzie said, “we”re still going to cheer as loud or louder than anybody else. We”ve had a ball out here.”
In some more established stops in the CCHA, Michigan fans often deal with animosity on the part of fans of the home team.
The Michigan fans in Omaha, some of whom were featured prominently in a picture on the front page of the Omaha World Herald sports section on Sunday, gave only glowing reviews of their counterparts in spirit.
“These fans have been some of the most hospitable fans, I liken them to the Penn State fans in football,” Adlhoch said. “Maybe it”s because they”re the new boys in the conference.”
Nebraska-Omaha is in its second year of CCHA play.
Win or lose, the important thing for Michigan hockey”s most loyal fans was simply to celebrate a good time together while watching the sport they love.
When asked if it would be an early night, McKenzie laughed.
“There”s never an early night on the road,” he said.
Ortmeyer, Hilbert updates: Injured winger Jed Ortmeyer received a second opinion on his injured right knee while in his hometown Omaha this weekend.
According to Ortmeyer, the doctor echoed the sentiment of the first opinion stay off the ice.
Ortmeyer plans to weigh his options in the coming week before deciding on whether to undergo season-ending surgery.
Berenson said he hasn”t spoken to Ortmeyer on the doctor”s verdict, but believes the news is not much better than was originally believed.
“I think Jed wanted to get the opinion, think about it and talk to his family,” Berenson said. “I can”t tell you a decision has been made, but I think it”s going in the direction” of Ortmeyer sitting out the remainder of the season.
Ortmeyer tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 23 against Notre Dame.
Andy Hilbert left the ice early in practice yesterday, with a tightened hip courtesy of a check he took in front of the Michigan bench on Friday night. Berenson urged Hilbert not to chance it if it started to act up in practice.
“I told him to get off the ice if he started favoring it,” Berenson said. “He should be ready for the weekend” against Northern Michigan.