Outside the Morgantown Ice Arena, it’s one of those winter nights when a gust of wind stings bare flesh. Fans, bundled in West Virginia University gear, escape the cascade of cold by darting inside the facility to gather around, of all things, a 185-by-85 sheet of ice. 

The action and intensity soon to transpire will surely knock the temperature up a few notches. 

It’s a late regular season game for WVU hockey in early 2017. The team is plotting to sweep the year’s series with famed rival the University of Pittsburgh. 
The puck drops at 9 p.m., which seems like a late start time but when you share your home with local high school and adult rec hockey teams, figure skating clubs and anyone in the general public who wants to plop down a few bucks to zip around the rink under disco lights on a Friday night, you take whatever slot is available. 

Regardless of the sport, any Backyard Brawl matchup is a big deal (A WVU-Pitt shuffleboard showdown would draw a raucous crowd). There’s no challenge tonight in filling up the 400-seat arena. 

As blasting rap music permeates the locker room, players suit up and go through their pre-game routines, like taping up their sticks. 

For senior defenseman Tyler Collard, he devours a Dairy Queen Blizzard before every game. 

“If I get a frozen treat in me, I’m feeling good,” Collard said. 

After the playing of the national anthem, he’ll crack open some smelling salts and take a generous whiff. He says it clears out the airways and elevates the heart rate. 

WVU went on to sweep the season series with Pitt that evening and clinch a playoff spot in the process. 

“Playing Pitt is one of the greatest feelings,” Collard said. “Those games, man, are just different. The rivalry between us is really, really healthy. Everybody wants to take each other’s heads off. There’s a lot of tension. But when we beat them, it really feels good.”

If you weren’t there live at the rink or following it online like a diehard, you were probably unaware that a game even happened.