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UND plans to continue bidding on regionals; Sioux Falls becomes viable option for future

UND statisticians Jack Stellon (right), Jace Carlin and Casey Swanson work the NCAA West Regional on Saturday night in Sioux Falls. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman/Grand Forks Herald

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—Erik Martinson hasn't been home in 10 days.

The UND assistant athletic director for operations, who is serving as the NCAA West Regional's assistant tournament director, has been at the Denny Sanford Premier Center since Sunday.

His FitBit shows he's averaged walking 12 miles per day. Some days have been as many as 15 miles.

About 20 other UND people are also in Sioux Falls to work the event from ticket sales to media coordination to statistics to equipment to athletic training to public address announcing.

Hosting a regional isn't easy work. UND knows that from hosting in Fargo in 2015 and 2017.

And even though UND's hockey team didn't make the regionals this year, the same work must be done.

Will that dissuade the school from bidding on future regionals?

"Absolutely not," Martinson said. "The parity in this sport is huge, so there's always a possibility that UND won't be there. But the culture that Brad Berry and the UND program has is to win a national championship. We have to take that same mindset as administrators and say, 'Hey, we're going to do everything we can.'

"We want to plan for UND to be there under that culture. But either way, we're happy to do something like this to provide an event to fans in the region, knowing that we're going to do a good job."

The first-ever Sioux Falls regional received strong reviews.

Minnesota State-Mankato coach Mike Hastings, upon being eliminated from the NCAA tournament, opened his postgame press conference by saying: "From start to finish, it's been nothing but class and the experience for these guys is something they'll never forget. I just wanted to make sure that was brought up. With North Dakota not being in the tournament, they still carried themselves as they usually do and in an unbelievable way. I just wanted to make sure we recognized that."

While Fargo will continue to be a desired regional destination for UND to host—and it will do so again in 2019 at Scheels Arena—Sioux Falls may work its way into the rotation.

Attendance was strong even though UND wasn't in the tournament. And the three-year-old building has all of the amenities needed to host.

"We are very interested in hosting this event again in the future," said Chris Semrau, the assistant general manager for booking at the Denny Sanford Premier Center and the former Ralph Engelstad Arena assistant GM. "You learn a lot from a first-time event in your venue and community. I think it has gone very well and it really caught a lot of people's' attention who are not familiar with the college hockey game in this marker. So, we're definitely interested in continuing discussions to host this event again down the road."

College hockey coaches have been strongly in support of keeping regionals at non-home venues. The NCAA has had a difficult time finding viable venues in the West and Midwest, but Fargo's Scheels Arena and Sioux Falls' Denny Sanford Premier Center have emerged as two regulars in the West.

Minnesota will likely resume bidding for regionals at the Xcel Energy Center in the future, too.

"North Dakota's staff has been unbelievable and the building's staff as well," said NCAA administrator Ty Halpin, who was in Sioux Falls. "The building is top-notch. It's a little bit smaller than an NHL building, which is good for our regionals. It's got all the amenities you could ask for—a lot of things fans don't see that are really important to the teams. They get A-plus grades on all those things."

Halpin said he could see the event returning to South Dakota.

"North Dakota has taken an initiative," Halpin said. "That's one thing that has been lost in finding venues in the West. You really have to have a partner school and conference that's willing and able. North Dakota should get a lot of credit for finding places and putting together a bid.

"Fargo was a great experience last year and in 2015. That was well received by all the teams who were there. And obviously, this was going to be a different test without North Dakota or Minnesota here from a fan perspective. But it seems in talking around town there was quite a buzz about the hockey tournament. I certainly think it's a viable site."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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