A motto most diehard hockey fans are familiar with: Hockey fans are the best fans. To go along with this, hockey roadtrips are the best roadtrips.
Friday night’s game had a later start than usual, but that did not keep the crowd away. I had heard many tales about how well the game day operations are at MSU and how involved the crowds can be. I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. It’s an atmosphere I miss terribly. The fun started immediately with the arrival of the MSU men’s soccer and baseball teams. Let me tell you, those boys have some great chants and are quite loud! How they managed to go through almost three periods of hockey and intermissions non-stop, I couldn’t tell you, but as a hockey fan that has had a serious dry spell of electric environment, thank you for your hard work gentlemen!
The Icebears hosted their biggest out of state rival, Illinois State, over the weekend. Both games were played at exactly the intensity I was expecting. MSU swept ISU, 7-3 Friday night and 5-2 Saturday night.
Being the last home games for the Icebears, Saturday was Senior Night, where fans said goodbye. Goaltenders Justin Davis and Mitch Fernsler and forwards Tommy Dapron, Alex Nanna and Richard Westcott were all honored at center ice before the puck drop. Both tenders played over the weekend, Davis stopping 30 shots on Friday, Fernsler also with 30 saves Saturday night. Westcott was the lone Senior with a goal for the weekend.
I had originally planned on attending a couple Springfield Express games as well as the two Icebears games over the weekend but an allergy attack and the desire for local beer was too overpowering. Friday’s late game kept me at the hotel afterwards, which was fine. My only regret about staying at the University Hotel was to not utilize the pool or spa services. Saturday, I ventured out to satisfy my hungover desire for pizza and a bloody mary. I wound up at Gusano’s, which boasts Chicago style pizza. Those of you that know me, know I won’t resist that temptation. The bloody mary was delicious and surprisingly inexpensive for how great it was. The pizza, I approve. I don’t say that lightly. My only complaint was I think the crust was cooked too long but it was still awesome. I saw reviews that the sauce was really sweet, but I think the reviewers were mistaken. The sauce was very tangy and rich, but not sweet. I would have liked more cheese to call it a chicago style, but I understand that not everyone is Giordano’s and puts on 3 lbs of cheese. Regardless, it was great and I’ll go back next time I make it to Springfield, no doubt!
After my fill of pizza I made my way over to downtown to check out Mother’s Brewery. I walked away with a couple growlers. Some people buy shot glasses or magnets on trips, I buy local beer for home!
After Saturday games, the MSU Icebears do a Coaches radio show with WebSportsRadio.com at Coyotes Adobe Grill. This particular Saturday was Senior night, so it made it a bit more special. The restaurant gets packed on radio show nights. As a veteran of the Barons radio shows, I have to laugh and then cry at how sad it was for us. The Icebears following is something I want to tell the fans there that they shouldn’t take for granted. It was great to see an easy 150 people in the place, just for the team. Coyotes is one of the Icebears biggest supporters and has been for quite awhile. This place was great. I had no intention of eating, being still full from the pizza, but a ribeye sammich was placed in front of me and let me just say…..OMFG. A Mother’s Brewery Winter Grinder and that sammich was the perfect ending to a great hockey night.
As it was time to head back to Oklahoma City on Sunday, I decided I just did not have enough gird for my loins for the drive as of yet. I headed over to the remaining place I really wanted to try, the Early Bird Breakfast Pub. I love breakfast, I just rarely want to eat early in the morning, so I am a fan of brunch. Being lazy is now in style and I can appreciate that! I’m glad I ate there instead of some fast food joint on the road. The bartenders were wonderful. The Gus Gus was a thing of beauty. I highly recommend!
So there, hockey fans, there are four fantastic establishments to visit if you find yourself around Springfield,MO. And you should find yourself there. It was a road trip completely worth it. Great food, great beer, great friends and some great hockey fun!
It was at the UCO game at the start of this season that I first was really introduced to Head Coach Bob Bucher and just fell for the whole vibe of the Missouri State Icebears. The spark started that night to reignite the passion for the game that I used to have. I had to walk away from hockey after the 2014-2015 season and it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made.
I asked coach a couple months later if I could interview him for a blog post. By this point, I had started following the Icebears facebook and twitter accounts, and just seeing the posts about the things this team does around the community and the following of amazing fans, just really started making me love this team. I missed that hockey spirit, and never stopped wanting it for Oklahoma hockey fans. I wanted to write about and enjoy a team again. I just wanted to care about hockey again.
I want to thank the Mcclew family, for letting a stranger into their vehicle and taking me to the radio show. There I received the welcome to the Icebears family. Rick and Brendan Mcclew were the first to make it official. I gladly accepted. It was very nice to meet GM Curt Bussen and be introduced to Stan Melton and lovely wife Cindy, the Godfather of Missouri State hockey. It was an honor to shake his hand and talk hockey for a few minutes. His respect for Craig McAlester and his building of hockey in Oklahoma was refreshing and so wonderful to hear. I don’t think Craig gets enough credit for what he’s done to build OU and then UCO hockey, who as you may recall, are the ACHA National Champions this year!
I felt treated like royalty and all I kept thinking is, “Why are you people honored to meet ME? I’m just some schlub that everyone thinks is weird over how involved I am with this league.”
I’ve always said to anyone interested in talking, that I have such a deep love for the ACHA, and yet it’s hard to explain. It’s been this filling to an emptiness in my soul that was something I didn’t even know was there for the past 10 years. I was so disheartened and sad the past couple years because of the actions of some cruel, vile people. It was very comforting to be welcomed and to get the passion for the game back. I really can’t thank the Icebears family enough for returning that to me.