When the clock struck midnight on Nov. 9, the Lahaye Ice Center in Lynchburg, Virginia, was buzzing.
Midnight Madness is one of the biggest hockey traditions for the Liberty Athletic Department. The odd, but popular occasion happened twice this year for the Flames, who played the Bobcats in their second game of the season that featured a midnight puck drop.
It did not go well for Ohio.
The Bobcats fell to Flames 8-2 in their largest loss of the year.
Playing a game four and a half hours later than a normal start time can severely disrupt the routine of any team and its players.
The initial reaction to playing at midnight was not positive, and it wasn’t something coach Cole Bell wanted to do initially. Late starts are typically associated with lower levels of hockey.
Those thoughts eventually turned into feelings of excitement. The turn around started when it became clear that it was scheduled that way and not a fluke to get ice time. Couple that with the expected buzzing atmosphere, and Bell was excited about the game.
"I've played in some pretty hostile environments, and it's certainly cool if you can go in and win," Bell said. "If you have that many people (and win the game), you can hear a pin drop."
Gianni Evangelisti was excited about playing in a midnight game. The senior forward had never played a game that late into the night.
Sure, the routine of the day was disrupted, but nothing was added or taken from it. The pregame rituals were just pushed back four and a half hours. The normal game-day morning skate happened at 4 p.m.
Evangelisti's pregame nap was at 7 p.m., which is usually when the Bobcats take the ice for warmups. Senior goalie Jimmy Thomas’ nap took place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"It's different," Thomas said. "You wake up, and you're not sure whether you should be going back to bed or getting dinner."
The build-up to the game was not the only thing that changed because of the time of the game. The postgame meal, which Ohio has after every game, was also pushed back.
That meant the breakfast bowls from Waffle House were delivered to the team bus at 4 a.m.
Ohio arrived at the hotel 30 minutes later, just a couple hours before the sun rose, but just because the team arrived at the hotel so early in the morning doesn't mean they went to sleep shortly after.
"Everyone is wired from the game," Evangelisti said. "I personally didn't get to bed till 6:30 or seven o'clock."
The Bobcats had another game against the Flames 12 hours later with the usual 7 p.m. puck drop. But the effects of the midnight game didn’t go away — Ohio’s schedule for its second game was pushed back, too.
On regular Saturday game days, the team wakes up around 8:30 a.m. and eats breakfast. From there, they will watch video, go back and take a nap. When they wake up, they will have a meeting in the hotel before heading to the rink.
That went differently for the Liberty series. The team slept until 1 p.m., ate lunch and skipped its usual morning skate. Ohio. Instead, The Bobcats watched film and then headed to the rink.
"We are college students, so we are used to being up late," Thomas said. "So, I don't think it played that big of a factor on Saturday."