ashton-remax_NEWLexington, Kentucky is home to thoroughbreds, bluegrass, and basketball. But on one weekend a year, it becomes home to the Battle for the Bourbon Barrel.

The rivalry between the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels and University of Kentucky Wildcats club hockey teams is unique. Due to the lack of ice in the area the teams drop the puck at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

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“It takes you two periods just to catch your breath,” said Tim Muhsman (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.).”There’s literally no air in the building. Midnight Madness against Kentucky is just off the wall. You can’t even hear the whistle.”

Each club is designated the as the home team for one of the games and the trophy game is Saturday night. The Battle of the Bourbon Barrel began two years ago after the teams agreed to play again after taking a hiatus.

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“From what we were told it got to be too dangerous,” said Corey Jenks (Nashville, Tenn.). “The games would stop because the fans would fight each other and the players would watch. Then, the players would fight.”

When both teams agreed to renew the rivalry, they wanted to make sure they had more to play for than penalty minutes but emotions still run high between the clubs.

“From the time you get up in the morning and basically all night, it’s all you think about,” said Cam Angus (Hendersonville, Tenn). “I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”

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“It was surreal,” said Jenks. “It took a few days to sink in but it was amazing!”

The two teams squared off on Friday night in the first game of the series. It’s also both teams’ first series following winter break. The Colonels enter the weekend 10-9-0 in ACHA play while the Wildcats sit at 14-6-1. Beck Shultz and Jordan Shannon from UK lead all scorers with 42 and 40 points respectively. Muhsman is EKU’s leading scorer with 31 points.

Kentucky hosted the first game and pre-sale tickets were sold out early Friday afternoon. The Lexington Ice Center can hold about 1,000 people before the fire marshal has to get involved. EKU hosts Saturday and there is a limited supply of long sleeved t-shirts.

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Over the past two years, the barrel was presented to the winner of the second game. This year, however, the teams switched it up and used the first game as the trophy game. Kentucky swept the first series in 2015 but last year the Colonels beat UK for the first time in club history, on Saturday night. In front of a standing room only crowd, the EKU Colonels stormed back from a three-goal deficit to defend their title as Bourbon Barrel Champs and keep the trophy in Richmond.

So grab the caffeine and follow along on social media @EKUHockey and @Kentucky_Hockey if you aren’t in Lexington or do as Muhsman says, “Get there early and dress warm. It’s going to be fun.”

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