Matchups set for Frozen Fenway

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / August 27, 2011

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The buzz to bring hockey back to Fenway Park started as soon as Frozen Fenway 2010 ended, particularly among the Hockey East teams watched Boston University and Boston College face off in the outdoor spectacle.

When the event returns to the ballpark on Jan. 7, it will be a regional showcase, hosting a doubleheader with Vermont facing UMass at 4 p.m., and New Hampshire playing Maine at 7:30. Tickets go on sale Sept. 13.

“We’ve changed the nature of this event from what was a real local rivalry the last time to a celebration of New England hockey with our four Division 1 state universities,’’ Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said yesterday at a Fenway press conference.

In addition to the hockey games, the rink will be open for two days of free community skating.

“This is going to be a great hockey day in Boston,’’ said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The first time around it was an all-Boston event. The Bruins won the Winter Classic over the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, and BU beat BC, 3-2, in front of 38,472 fans.

“We talked a lot of years about us possibly playing a game like this in a big venue,’’ said UNH coach Dick Umile. “I can’t think of a better place to play than Fenway Park.’’

Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he reached out to Scarborough Downs and also talked to some of the school’s administrators about playing a game on the football field. But discussion about playing at Fenway heated up.

“This is perfect,’’ said Whitehead, whose three team captains are Boston natives. “This is an opportunity to get four teams involved in the city of Boston. Everyone would like the chance to play in one of these signature events, outdoor hockey games.

“I’m just really impressed that they had the vision and the courage to think out of the box here, just to say, ‘Hey, let’s jump off the high board and try it even without a Boston school in it.’ It’s a leap of faith, so we’re very determined to make sure this is a great event and to make them proud.’’

UMass coach Don “Toot’’ Cahoon said as a boy he dreamed of playing at Fenway.

“Never quite made it,’’ he said. “In fact, I missed it by a long shot. It’s a distinct honor and privilege to be able to come to the city of Boston and particularly to Fenway Park for such an affair.’’

The games will be a showcase, but they also will count in the standings.

“We’re looking forward to it,’’ said UMass cocaptain T.J. Syner. “It brings a little bit more emotion to the game knowing it’s not just an exhibition game and that points are on the line. I think it just brings more of a competitive nature to the game.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at