CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Bobcats erupted in cheers as the final buzzer rang. Players pounded on the glass, and fans of all teams celebrated in the stands.
It wasn’t because Ohio won. Ohio hadn’t even taken the ice yet.
The entirety of UI Ice Arena was celebrating because the first game of the night had finally ended.
“Honestly, this was the longest game I have ever watched,” freshman Tyler Kallay said. “We got here at five o’clock, and it’s 11 (p.m.) now. It’s crazy.”
The Bobcats were scheduled to play Illinois at 7:30 p.m. and hoped to be back at their hotel and resting by 10:30.
Instead, the Bobcats were forced to sit for an additional three-and-a-half hours before they were allowed to get ready for warmups. Lindenwood and Iowa State’s offenses had stalled out, and game one of the Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament had gone into quintuple overtime.
Ohio players stood behind the glass near the locker room and watched as the Cyclones and Lions shot and missed all but nine of their combined 140 shots on goal.
Dan Monacelli, the head of officiating for the Central States Collegiate Hockey League, sat in a corner of the arena watching with a mixture of amusement and astonishment. Monacelli couldn’t believe that a league game managed to last as long as this one did.
“I know we’ve had a couple triple overtimes at Nationals before,” Monacelli said. “As far as league play goes, this is the longest game I’ve ever seen, and I’ve worked with the league since 2002-03.”
For the referees, it was the longest game they had ever officiated. While skating off the ice, one joked it was the longest game in American Collegiate Hockey Association history. He was right. It was later confirmed by the ACHA that Saturday night’s first game was the longest in the association’s history.
Coach Cole Bell did all he could to keep Ohio ready while the Cyclones and Lions stumbled through an extra five periods.
“We just let the guys watch the game and stay awake,” Bell said. “Then they locked the energy in during warmups. It’s not possible to keep the guys amped up for seven or eight hours at that point. The main goal was to keep the energy up.”
Players tried their best to keep themselves occupied. Most were content with watching the game. Timmy Thurnau watched most of the game standing on a bench so he could see over the mass of his teammates around the glass.
Drew Magyar sat on a railing and sent Snapchats to his friends. Jake Houston and Sam Turner went to the other side of the rink and kicked a soccer ball behind the team benches.
J.T. Schimizzi and several others hid in the locker room and ate their post-game meal, Papa Johns pizza, which arrived during triple overtime. After the seventh buzzer rang, Tom Pokorney gave up and joined them.
Zach Frank sat and chatted with his opponents.
“I was talking to a couple of the Illinois players,” Frank said. “They asked if we just wanted to have a game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ instead of playing. I was like, ‘At this point? Yes.’”
The game took so long that two Ohio birthdays were celebrated. Shawn Baird was celebrating his 24th birthday Saturday night. When 11 p.m. rolled around, freshman Ryan Leonard began celebrating his 19th birthday.
“It’s my birthday!” Leonard cheered. He was still running on Eastern Standard Time.
Lindenwood pulled it together long enough to score 97 minutes and 18 seconds into overtime. Ohio didn’t take the ice until four minutes to midnight after the Zambonis did their ninth round of the night and warmups finished.
A puck drop near midnight was reminiscent of Ohio’s 8-2 loss at Liberty on Nov. 8. That game, part of a Liberty tradition called ‘Midnight Madness,‘ threw the Bobcats off their game. Bell didn’t mention the game to his team. He wanted keep the Bobcats’ minds off a painful memory.
“That one didn’t come up,” Bell said. “It didn’t go our way, and I didn’t mention it.”
When game one was early in overtime, hundreds of Illinois and Ohio fans began packing the arena. Many of the fans were families looking for a fun night out. After triple overtime ended, half of the crowd stood up in unison and walked out.
Saturday’s first game was something the Bobcats had never seen before. Bell said many of the players and coaches were looking up how long the previous record for the longest game in the ACHA was.
“That was something entirely new for me,” Bell said. “After the seventh period finished, I think that’s when the record got broken. I can’t imagine what Lindenwood is feeling right about now.”