Yale administrators have long struggled to defend the location of the two new residential colleges to be built behind the Grove Street Cemetery. But recent events have offered them perhaps the most compelling argument yet: The colleges will be right next door to Ingalls Rink.

News reporters have documented over the course of the winter the extent to which the men’s hockey team has captured the attention of Yale students, sports fans and non-sports fans alike. For the past two months, students have rushed to the Yale Bookstore to claim tickets to home games, and inside the Whale, the atmosphere has been electric.

As captain and right winger Matt Nelson ’09 said last week: “It’s definitely been something special.”

That is why we are gratified that last week, the Athletics Department devoted itself to making sure the hundreds of students who followed the Bulldogs religiously this winter could have a chance to go to the Arena at Harbor Yard here in Bridgeport this weekend and cheer on their classmates in the NCAA Tournament.

It is worth noting that this is not an easy time to be a University administrator, as the economic recession has Yale departments facing mandatory budget cuts.

But last week, Athletics Director Tom Beckett was not thinking about that. He admitted Wednesday he didn’t know where he was going to come up with the money to pay for the estimated 600 student tickets the University subsidized for Yale’s opening-round game against Vermont on Friday. (The $75 tickets went for a very reasonable $25.)

But that was no matter, he told us. Getting students to the game, he said, “is our first priority.”

The Yale College Dean’s Office, the President’s Office and several local businesses ultimately joined forces with the Athletics Department to help pay for the tickets. And by the end of the week, every student who wanted to cheer on the Bulldogs was able to get a ticket, even as hockey fans across the Northeast battled for seats and provided Harbor Yard with the largest hockey crowd in its history.

It was a job well done by Beckett and his team.

Students, in turn, created their own student section at the arena on Friday, ignoring seating assignments, packing into Section 117 and staying on their feet for most of the game.

Alas, the seemingly unstoppable Bulldogs could not get anything going against the underdog Catamounts, losing 4-1. After Vermont took the lead in the first period, the arena fell silent.

“This is just like The Game,” one student sitting near us wailed as the Catamounts scored again to widen their lead. “Except I’m not freezing my [rear] off.”

But Friday’s disappointing loss — which ends the Elis’ season, the best in the program’s history — should not put a damper on what was still a historic run. The hockey team will return many of its starters next year and will surely be the preseason favorite in the ECAC.

The men’s hockey team united a campus and helped bring an excitement to Friday and Saturday nights that we will look forward to experiencing again next winter.

Matt Nelson was right. This season was special. And no upset loss can change that.