Through more than three decades, Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome has played host to football games, March Madness battles and music luminaries ranging from Pink Floyd to Garth Brooks. Never, though, had the 49,262-seat arena been the site of a hockey game, even in a region mad for the sport.
That changed Nov. 22 when a pair of Division III schools – Utica College and the State University of New York at Oswego – stepped onto a makeshift rink. The game drew 7,047 fans, which broke the Division III hockey attendance record of 5,600 set at the 2008 NCAA semifinals held in Lake Placid, New York. The Oswego State-Utica contest served as the undercard for a game between minor league hockey teams from Syracuse and Utica that set an American indoor hockey attendance record later in the evening, drawing 30,715 fans.
Last season, Utica and Oswego State held the top two spots in average home attendance among Division III teams, pulling in 3,630 and 2,368 fans per game, respectively. Despite the typically strong support, Oswego State coach Ed Gosek said he and his players were thrilled to play in front of a record crowd in one of the area’s most venerated venues.
The game ended in a 4-4 tie, but the compelling contest between regional rivals – the schools are separated by 80 miles – isn’t the memory that will linger with players and coaches. Utica Athletics Director Dave Fontaine watched his players’ faces carefully when they took the ice, 165 feet under the dome’s ceiling. They were in awe.
“This is something we are going to be able to tell our kids about one day,” said Utica senior Justin Hogan.