COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- UND is now 11 games into an unimaginably strange season where not a single member of the public -- or a single family member of a player -- has attended a game.

The concept of playing games behind closed doors is no longer a novelty. It's beginning to be routine.

But Sunday night was still strange.

In a number of ways, it was different than the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, where all eight league teams converged for a total of 38 games in December to open the season.

In the Pod, there was still some activity in the building. Security guards dotted the concourse, making sure Tier 1, 2 and 3 members -- designations based upon how often they were being tested for the coronavirus -- did not cross paths. A police officer was present at all times, lounging on the concourse.

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Each team had a suite, where coaching staffs watched and scouted other games. Sometimes, players came to watch other teams, too. NHL scouts were in the building, sitting on one end. Officials who were not calling games often piled into suites to watch.

"There was always a buzz in the rink, because there were eight teams milling around," UND coach Brad Berry said. "There were practices going on. There were games going on, two to three games a day. There was always a busy environment."

On Sunday in World Arena, it was truly desolate.

The only security guards present were ones that performed wellness and temperature checks upon building entry. There were no opposing coaching staffs or players. There were no NHL scouts. There were no other referees. There were no ushers.

The hallways were dark and empty.

The concession stand areas, which are normally jam packed with fans congregating, were not only empty, but had garbage cans stacked in front of them.

A concession stand sits empty at World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald
A concession stand sits empty at World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald

The game was a bit strange, too.

In the Pod, the goal horn blared after each goal, no matter which team scored. Even if the team classified as the visiting team in that game, the goal horn still sounded and the team's goal song played, too.

Of course, Sunday was UND's first true road game of the season.

So, when Tyler Kleven picked the corner of the net in the first period for the game's first goal, it was pure silence. No goal horn. No song. Just a slight cheer from the bench that was barely audible from the press box at the top of the 7,750-seat venue.

"Now, it's one of those things where you have to create your own excitement, I think, to a certain degree with your team, knowing it's going to be pretty limited with the number of people inside a building," Berry said.

The home team never scored Sunday, so the goal horn never sounded Sunday night, and neither did 2 Unlimited's Get Ready For This, the song that has long followed Tiger goals in World Arena.

Like the NCHC Pod, crowd noise was, at times, piped in through the sound system. It randomly fluctuated volume, sometimes turning on and off completely.

The atmosphere outside the venue had a much stranger feeling than the NCHC Pod, too.

Baxter Arena is located in Aksarben Village in Omaha and alongside a busy street. There were always cars zipping down Center Street, so even though none were turning into the venue, there was activity.

The parking lot and concourses were lit up and Baxter Arena's sign is bright. The venue also has a second ice sheet attached to the front of the building with windows from top to bottom. That rink was almost always lit up, too.

The Baxter Arena sign shines bright before a game in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod in December. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald
The Baxter Arena sign shines bright before a game in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod in December. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald

It was the opposite in Colorado Springs.

World Arena has a massive parking lot in front of it, and it's at the dead end of a road. So, there were no cars in sight. Most of the parking lot lights were turned off, so it was pitch black. A lot of the concourse lights were off, too.

Walking up to the building, you'd have no idea a college hockey game is about to be played.

World Arena sits on Sunday night in Colorado Springs, Colo.
World Arena sits on Sunday night in Colorado Springs, Colo.

UND will play its next three games without the general public or family members of players or staff in attendance, including Monday night's series finale in World Arena. Next weekend, UND is expected to play at Denver's Magness Arena, which has the same attendance policy.

After that, UND's final 10 regular-season games will be played at either Ralph Engelstad Arena or Omaha's Baxter Arena, the only two NCHC venues that are planning to allow fans, though neither of them have done that yet.

Omaha is expected to start with 1,500 fans at its games, while UND just upped its number to 3,000 with Gov. Doug Burgum lowering the COVID-19 risk level statewide.

So, perhaps this weekend will be the final one where I have this experience: When I left the rink to walk back to my hotel after Sunday's game, I saw only one set of footprints tracking across the snow in the unshoveled parking lot leading to the arena's front doors. They were mine from when I walked in five hours earlier.

UND and Colorado College prepare for a center-ice faceoff Sunday in World Arena. Photo by Casey B. Gibson / CC athletics.
UND and Colorado College prepare for a center-ice faceoff Sunday in World Arena. Photo by Casey B. Gibson / CC athletics.