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Brad Elliott Schlossman, Forum News Service, Published December 11 2013

2015 NCAA men's hockey regional set for Scheels Arena

GRAND FORKS – If the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team makes the NCAA tournament next season, it will play its regional in Fargo.

Scheels Arena was awarded the 2015 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey West Regional on Wednesday as the NCAA announced future postseason sites for both men’s and women’s hockey.

UND will serve as the host for the event, which means, if it gets in, it will automatically be placed there no matter its seeding.

“Great spot for it,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Obviously, it’s a great location for our fans to be able to get to. I think it will be a great atmosphere.”

Ralph Engelstad Arena, Scheels Arena and UND all worked together on the bid in a unique partnership. A bid also was submitted to host the event at Ralph Engelstad Arena, but the NCAA recently has opted to go away from home sites.

Knowing that Ralph Engelstad Arena was a longshot because of the unwritten policy, venue officials met with those at Scheels Arena to discuss a bid.

“We wondered what’s the next best alternative, realizing the committee’s preference to play at neutral sites,” said Jody Hodgson, general manager of The Ralph. “We were aware that Grand Forks and Ralph Engelstad Arena probably weren’t going to be options. So what’s the next best option?

“We wanted to play in North Dakota. We wanted to play as close to home as possible. So, we reached out to Scheels Arena and said, ‘Here’s how it works.’ They were totally on board. They were excited for the opportunity.”

Although Scheels Arena’s capacity of about 5,000 is smaller than most regional sites, UND and the venues explained in the bid that seven teams – all of which have legit NCAA tournament hopes – are within driving distance and they should sell out the event.

The Fargo regional will feature three games – two first-round matchups and one quarterfinal matchup. The winner of the quarterfinal will earn a trip to the Frozen Four in Boston.

While UND officials were pleased with Fargo’s selection, they were left baffled by two other decisions.

First, UND was not selected to host a Women’s Frozen Four. Of the four listed finalists, it was the only one not to get picked.

Instead, the NCAA selected Minneapolis’ Ridder Arena to host two of them (2015, 2018). In 2016 and 2017, it will be at Durham, N.H., and St. Charles, Mo.

“We bid all four years,” UND athletic director Brian Faison said. “I think we had a very solid bid for the Women’s Frozen Four for each of those years. We’re a little disappointed. We should have been, in our mind, a very viable candidate to host one of those four. But, we’ll see what we can find out and learn from that process and come back harder next time.”

Faison said he is confident that UND’s old Fighting Sioux nickname did not play a part in the decision.

The other decision that surprised Faison – and the rest of the college hockey world – was the decision to put a regional at Notre Dame’s home arena in 2015. It will be the first regional at a home site since Mariucci Arena hosted a regional in 2009.

“I was very surprised,” Hodgson said. “I realize there are a lot of variables in play and a lot of factors the committee has to deal with. I realize it’s not an easy task. They probably get many more good bids than events they have to award. But I was surprised. I thought it was inconsistent with the message that’s been delivered.”

Future men’s Frozen Fours will be in Boston (2015), Tampa (2016), Chicago (2017) and St. Paul (2018).

In addition to the Fargo and South Bend, Ind., regionals next season, the eastern ones will be in Providence, R.I., and Manchester, N.H. The 2016 regionals will be in Albany, N.Y., Worcester, Mass., Cincinnati and St. Paul.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald