BOSTON – Boston College and Boston University filed out of the baseball dugouts for the short walk to the rink that was laid across the infield, from first to third, a slab of white with a border painted Fenway green on a diamond blanketed with snow.
On the ice laid for the NHL's Winter Classic and the field that was home to Ruth, Williams and Yastrzemski, college hockey came to Fenway Park on Friday night as BU opened a three-goal lead and held on to beat BC 3-2. Brass bands turned John Updike's "lyric little bandbox" into an off-campus arena and filled it with mascots and T-shirt cannons, students waving foam fingers and Zambonis clearing the ice of the sprinkles of snow that added a picturesque backdrop to one of the sport's most prodigious rivalries.
"It's something we'll remember as long as we live," BU coach Jack Parker said. "It was quite a show."
The Eagles and Terriers have met 248 times in their crosstown grudge match, fighting for Hockey East titles and Beanpot bragging rights and NCAA championships — eight in all, and one each over the past two years. They have even met outdoors, though the only other time was in 1920, when they played at the Eagles' University Rink exactly one month after Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees and Fenway was an 8-year-old, state-of-the-art shrine.
Years later, Updike compared Fenway to "the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg," but on Friday it looked more like a souvenir-stand snow globe, the flurries floating up, down and sideways in a wind that blew in the players' faces in alternate periods and sent a shoveling crew scurrying onto the ice at each break.
Clam chowder vendor Tommy Flaherty refused to give in to the weather, which was announced at 21 degrees for the opening faceoff but dropped to 19, with a wind chill of 7, by the second period.
"I always wear shorts during the baseball season. I'm not changing anything," he said, though he offset his bare legs with a fur hat. "I stay warm by moving around."
In the place of the green grass and reddish clay of summer players skittered around the ice in their specially adorned uniforms: Red for BU, with a version of the "Hanging Sox" logo on their left sleeve and the "Boston" in the ballclub's recognizable font; gold for BC, with a Fenway Green stripe replacing one of the maroon ones — the first time in at least a half-century the school has varied from its traditional colors, spokesman Reid Oslin said.
The manual scoreboard on the Green Monster listed the Hockey East standings where it usually tracked the Boston's annual attempt to chase the down the New York Yankees in the AL East. Between games of the doubleheader — there was a women's game first, between New Hampshire and Northeastern — the BC band played the traditional Fenway anthem "Sweet Caroline."
Only the stands bore a resemblance to a typical game: They were full, a crowd of 38,472, as they have been for 550 straight Red Sox games, stocked with college students, some of them shirtless despite the single-digit wind chill — yes, beer was for sale — and an atmosphere befitting one of the dank bars at either end of Commonwealth Avenue.
But this time, they were cheering for their own.
BU opened a 3-0 lead before Boston College scored with 1:41 left in the second period and cut the deficit to one with a short-handed goal 7:43 into the final period. As the air got colder and the game got tighter there was a bit scuffling that one would expect from two familiar teams.
But BU held on.
"We told our team prior to the game that it's going to be a memorable experience for both teams, but it's going to be a significant experience for the team that wins," BC coach Jerry York said. "It was a terrific experience, but we lost the game."
After scoring the first goal of the game, BU's David Warsofsky mimed a swing for the Green Monster, using his hockey stick as a mock fungo bat. Terriers forward Joe Pereira, a Yankees fan from Connecticut, seemed more thrilled to hear he was changing in the locker used by Derek Jeter when New York visits as he was to score the Terriers' second goal.
Parker wore a Red Sox hat after the game as he chatted with Bruins Hall of Famer Ray Bourque outside the clubhouse. During the game, in an echo of the home plate conversation between Carlton Fisk and Pete Rose in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the BU coach turned to York and said, "Hey, how lucky are we to be involved in this?"
"It was really something to coach my team in such a fantastic venue," he said.
Earlier in the day, New Hampshire and Northeastern broke the ice with a women's game that gave the few thousand fans who showed up for the first game of the doubleheader a game worth watching. Kristina Lavoie scored with 5:30 left to break a third-period tie, then added an empty-netter as UNH scored four times in the third period to win 5-3.
The game was No. 19 on the schedule for the Wildcats, but you wouldn't know if from looking at the way the players pigpiled on goalie Kayley Herman after the final horn.
"When we first came out it was like, 'Wow, we're at Fenway, and there's a bunch of people here and, you know, under the lights,"' said Micaela Long, who's from South Boston. "I know I speak for the whole team when I say we had a blast. It was such a competitive game, and we're so glad we were asked to be a part of it."