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Associated Press, Published February 12 2013

Small SD town hosts ND hockey fans during blizzard

SUMMIT, S.D. The home of one of the most successful basketball programs in South Dakota housed fans of one of the best college hockey teams in the nation as a blizzard ripped through the region Sunday and Monday.

Fifty-five people on a University of North Dakota fan bus pulled into the Coffee Cup truck stop near Summit about 3:30 Sunday morning, calling it quits because of heavy snow on their way back to Grand Forks from weekend games in Omaha, Neb. The UND fans took in some small-town hospitality while they stayed at the gym where Summit High School plays basketball.

The Eagles have won three of the last four girls' Class B state titles. But their home court can accommodate hockey fans, too, even if it can't be converted into a rink.

Tim Gapp, president of People's State Bank in Summit, said the group left Summit about 4:15 p.m. Monday, just after Interstate 29 opened.

"They certainly seem to be pros here at taking care of people," David Primus, one of two UND administrators on the trip, said of Summit.

Had the interstate not opened, the UND contingent was planning a talent show for Monday evening, Gapp said. The town had arranged a potluck meal, if needed, he said.

Gapp said many people in town helped care for the guests. A plow opened the road into Summit to get the UND fans to the gym, where high jump mats, gymnastics mats and anything else somewhat comfortable were used as mattresses.

"Wherever they were able to find a soft spot to land, they did," Gapp said.

Many of the travelers had their own blankets and pillows, he said.

Community members opened their homes for hot showers Monday morning because pipes at the gym were frozen, Gapp said. The community also provided a Sunday lunch of barbecues, beans and potato chips left over from a high school event last week. The local bar opened, and the UND fans had a place to go for food and drinks and to watch TV, Primus said.

Monday morning, the bar opened again and cooked breakfast, then served spaghetti at lunch, Gapp said. The local development corporation chipped in to help offset the cost of meals, he said.

"We're doing the best we can to make sure they have the amenities they need to hopefully not make this too miserable of a stay for them," Gapp said.

The town grocery store opened Monday so the hockey fans could stock up on snacks before hitting the road, he said.

The students found ways to pass the time in the gym, shooting hoops and organizing games of dodge ball, Gapp said.

Primus said he used his Twitter account Monday morning to tell folks that if he ever has to be stranded again, he hopes it's in Summit.

He said that if Saturday's game had started on time, the fan bus might have been able to skirt the weather. The hockey game outdoors was supposed to start at 4 p.m. But the weather was so warm, it had to be postponed until 6:30 p.m. because the ice was melting.

Primus said the bus carrying the UND hockey team, which swept a weekend series against Nebraska-Omaha, pulled into the Coffee Cup just after the fan bus, then decided to keep going. The team bus made it as far as Sisseton before the interstate was closed, Primus said.

Gapp said this isn't the first time Summit has put up stranded travelers. Some families have a standing offer to help out when the Coffee Cup gets crowded, he said. There's less room than usual at the truck stop, Gapp said, because of ongoing construction. A Subway, Pizza Hut and Caribou Coffee are being built at the Coffee Cup, he said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.