CHICAGO | The ice was crunchy and sometimes slushy, but the atmosphere tremendous, especially if you were one of the 300 or so Mount Carmel fans at Soldier Field to watch the Caravan play Glenbrook South on Saturday afternoon.
Except, that is, for the final score. The Titans rallied to a 3-2 victory, scoring twice in the third period to overcome Mount Carmel. Jack Washburn's power-play tip in the slot came with 1:47 remaining.
"The ice by the benches was actually melting, but it's all worth it," said Washburn, who tipped Connor Dunham's slapshot from the left point past Caravan goaltender Jeff Verylied. "We came to win, so it's all really good."
Washburn's score, which came with Mount Carmel's Dylan Klouda serving a tripping call, climaxed a rally that began after shortly after a 27-minute delay for ice repair. Eric Davis' nifty backhand rebound from the crease went by Verylied after the Caravan failed to clear 25 seconds into the third period.
"The puck bounced off someone's shinguard," disappointed Caravan coach Scott Sortal said.
Until then, Mount Carmel had played solidly, pressuring the Titans hard in the first period, taking the lead on Klouda's goal from the left slot 4:57 into the game, then retaking it on Richard Fordon's 16th goal of the season midway through the second. Then the Titans clamped down.
"We were talking about how to shut 'em down (during the long break)," Glenbrook South coach Jim Philbin said. "They broke the puck out easily, and we didn't pressure the puck enough. We changed the systems up for each line and started controlling the game at that point."
Saturday's problems were created by the sun. Without a cloud in the sky and with 33 degree temperatures, it wreaked havoc on the northeast corner of the rink, creating puddles where the reflection from the boards doubled its power. That prompted an extra resurfacing break after the first period and another, of 27 minutes duration, with 6:13 left in the second, a minute after Fordon's go-ahead goal.
It was also difficult for the goaltender at the north end to see, especially anything to his right. In the first period, the Caravan's Marty Miloslovich was blinded.
"You were looking right into the really bright glare," said Miloslovich, who played the first half of the game in goal. "It was tough to see the puck coming in, especially when they dumped it in. You just tried to stay focused on where the puck was."
Eventually, the sun crept behind the west grandstand and made both visibility and the ice better.
The day's single injury had nothing to do with the ice. Glenbrook South's Dan Arenson suffered a broken wrist in a collision on the boards, and will miss the rest of the season.
Mount Carmel (10-10-3) gets back into play this afternoon. Fifth-seeded in the Kennedy Cup playoffs, the Caravan meets fourth-seeded Providence in Game 1 of their Catholic League playoff quarterfinal at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.
"It'll be better ice," said Klouda.