ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - It was a scene for the ages, and not just because it was a thriller on the ice.
The wintery conditions at New Era Field in the United States' shootout victory over Canada on Friday made for a truly memorable setting, and members of both World Junior Hockey Championship squads gushed afterward about how special it was.
"It was my first time, and I think for a bunch of us, it was our first time on an outdoor rink," U.S. forward Brady Tkachuk said. "For us, when it was snowing, it was awesome. We'd never experienced this before. I think both teams just cherished the experience."
A record crowd of more than 44,000 fans took in what was the first-ever outdoor game at the international level. It began to snow early in the contest and increased as the play progressed, forcing a multitude of stoppages so the stadium crew could clean off the ice surface.
"It wasn't your usual hockey game, but it was an unbelievable atmosphere and one of the coolest games I've ever played in, so it was really fun," Team USA goaltender Jake Oettinger said postgame. "It was difficult (to track the puck), especially in the second period because the wind was blowing snow in (my) eyes, but it's part of the game and it was a fun challenge."
The wind and snow were so strong after the second period that officials divided the third into two 10-minute halves, allowing the teams to switch ends halfway through before doing the same in overtime.
"When they were shoveling the snow, you could almost make a fort, so it was crazy," said Canada's captain, Dillon Dube. "It was the most snow I've seen in a long time. It was crazy coming down. Sitting on the bench, you're there for a bit and (suddenly) you have an inch of snow on your helmet, so it was coming down hard."
U.S. captain Joey Anderson was understanding of the stoppages and discussed how the weather brought back memories of his childhood.
"(That's) going to happen with the outdoor game. It just made another element of fun," he said. "A lot of us haven't seen stuff like that since we were little kids playing in the backyard and out on the ponds, but it made for another interesting experience."
American center Casey Mittelstadt, who was named player of the game after assisting on all three U.S. goals in regulation, also expressed just how much he enjoyed the conditions.
"It made for an absolute blast, and they did a good job managing the ice, getting the shovels out there and things like that," he said.
Even Canada's head coach, Dominique Ducharme, was able to appreciate the atmosphere in a losing effort.
"It was a great experience, for sure," he said. "Different (kind of) game, but it was a great experience."
U.S. bench boss Bob Motzko wasn't initially sold on the idea of outdoor hockey, but Friday's victory made him a fan.
"I was a skeptic at first," he said postgame. "(But) I love it now."