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Like hockey? You'll get your fill this weekend

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Like hockey? You'll get your fill this weekend
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In less complicated times, the UND hockey team always played road games on the final weekend of February. That way, the North Dakota high school hockey tournament could have UND's rink to itself.

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That changed when the Western Collegiate Hockey Association no longer granted teams scheduling privileges. Even then, however, it wasn't a great burden. If at home, the Sioux would play on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, leaving the state tournament schedule mostly intact.

But another scheduling complication arrived three years, when the North Dakota High School Activities Association combined the boys and girls state tournaments. This meant exporting some games not only out of the main rink, but out of the Ralph Engelstad Arena and across town.

But the scheduling maze didn't end there. This year, for the first time, the UND women's team had a good enough season to host the first round of the WCHA playoffs, which are this weekend.

"When the Lamoureux twins transferred, we talked with the REA people and the girls hockey people because we knew we'd get to this point sometime, when all three hockey weekends were going to align," said Todd Olson, the tournament director and Grand Forks Schools athletic director.

"We had a number of meetings with all three groups and we think we came up with a real good compromise."

The arrangement not only nudges the UND women off the big rink, but off campus to the Purpur Arena, the facility for local high school games.

"It is what it is," UND women's coach Brian Idalski said. "Purpur obviously is a little bit smaller. It came down to the Purpur or the (REA's) Olympic ice sheet with (room for only 500 spectators). With some of the crowds we've been getting, I don't know if that's the atmosphere our kids deserve."

Like Idalski -- and virtually every other coach in the world -- UND men's coach Dave Hakstol also put a positive spin on his team's change in routine, in this case playing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons rather than Friday and Saturday evenings.

"You want to stick to your routine in every way, shape or form," Hakstol said. "But the truth of the matter is that when you get to tournament time . . . you've got to be prepared to play at any time from noon on. So this is a great experience for a team to go through."

On the high school level, every championship round game in the boys tournament will be played at the main rink. The girls will use the main rink for the semifinals and finals.

Otherwise, the high school games will be played at the Olympic and Purpur arenas.

"Bring a road map," Olson said.

The weekend adds up to 22 high school hockey games and four or five UND games.

Despite the complications, Olson doesn't anticipate the NDHSAA changing its format.

The NDHSAA "has combined the volleyball, track, wrestling and Class A basketball state tournaments over the years," he said. "And, in every case, it has made them better."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com.

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