DENVER (AP) – Plans for soccer in the snow – complete with a bright orange ball – were scuttled Saturday because a blizzard made it too dangerous for fans to get to the match even though the snowstorm moving across the Colorado Front Range didn’t pack as big of a punch as initially predicted.
With snow accumulations about half of the 16 inches expected, fans made it out to several big basketball games across the state despite icy roads and at times white-out conditions.
The snowstorm put a damper on the state’s busiest sports schedule of the year, scuttling the Colorado Rapids’ home opener against the Philadelphia Union. Major League Soccer postponed the match until Sunday, when warmer temperatures and clearer skies are expected.
The University of Colorado went ahead with its 2:30 p.m. tipoff against Oregon State, but asked fans “to use extreme caution if they are still planning to attend,” noting that “travel in the Denver-Boulder area is not advised.”
Still, 10,105 showed up – although many of them might have wondered if it was worth the trouble after watching the Buffaloes lose to the last-place Beavers 64-58.
Among the fans at the Coors Events Center in Boulder was Philip Greenberg, a season-ticket holder whose drive from Denver took just 30 minutes as the roads were mostly clear early in the day.
“I was expecting it to take us an hour or hour and a-half,” Greenberg said. “We slid a little bit. They were like, ‘It’s going to be the worst weather ever.’ I pretty much ignore that. I’ve lived out here long enough to know that they’re just making it up anyway.
“They take an educated guess and they’re right about a third of the time.”
There also was a decent crowd at the icy Air Force Academy, where the Falcons upset 12th-ranked New Mexico 89-88.
“What a group,” Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said of the announced crowd of 6,112 at Clune Arena on Saturday. “To get through that weather – I mean, I didn’t know if I was coming. It was bad out there. The game was on TV, so I was going to stay home and watch it.”
The Falcons had never beaten a team ranked as high as the Lobos.
“It was so loud in the second half, I couldn’t hear our assistant coaches talking to me,” Pilipovich said. “That was pretty neat, and for a moment, I had to just look up and soak it all in. I can’t thank our fans enough.”
Senior Falcons guard Todd Fletcher, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds, said: “It was great that everybody came out, even though the roads were kind of bad. I know I had trouble getting here. We definitely thrived off their energy, and they helped us keep the game close and helped us win.”
The University of Denver walloped Louisiana Tech 78-54, leaving both teams with a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title. Colorado State played Nevada in Fort Collins, and the Denver Nuggets were going for a record 13th straight home win when they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
All of this was less than 24 hours after the Colorado Avalanche ended the Chicago Blackhawks’ streak of 24 straight games to open the season with at least a point, an NHL record. The Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 6-2 Friday night at the Pepsi Center before the snowstorm moved in, canceling more than 500 flights and creating hazardous road conditions that closed several highways in the plains east of Denver.
The Rapids had planned to embrace the blizzard and play in the snow in suburban Commerce City.
“We had hoped and planned to play our match as scheduled, but we cannot put staff, fans, and players from both teams at risk by asking them to travel or play in unsafe conditions,” Rapids president Tim Hinchey said.
The Rapids had said earlier that they would hold the match no matter the weather, using a bright orange ball with bright orange lines painted on the field. That plan changed when Adams County, with forecasts predicting up to 14 inches of snow and 40 mph winds, issued a travel advisory that people travel only in case of emergencies.
“As always, the safety of our fans, staff and athletes is paramount, and the conditions in the Denver area preclude the game from being played today,” said MLS executive Nelson Rodriguez, who is in Colorado for the match.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed from Boulder, Colo.
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