UND goes outdoors in preparation for Saturday’s game at Omaha ballparkGRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota forward Coltyn Sanderson skated to the boards and grabbed a bottle of Powerade on Monday afternoon. It was completely frozen.
By: Brad Schlossman , Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota forward Coltyn Sanderson skated to the boards and grabbed a bottle of Powerade on Monday afternoon.
It was completely frozen.
This was not your normal UND men’s hockey practice.
The team took it outdoors to Riverside Park — on a snowy, windy, 10-below wind chill day in Grand Forks, no less — to prepare for Saturday’s outdoor game against the University of Nebraska Omaha at Omaha’s T.D. Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series.
The teams play indoors at CenturyLink Center on Friday night. Saturday’s game is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. Prior to the UND-UNO game Saturday, the Lincoln Stars and the Omaha Lancers will play a United States Hockey League game outdoors at 12:30 p.m.
UND was outdoors for about 45 minutes Monday, scrimmaging without coaches and doing a couple of drills. The Powerades froze in about 20 minutes.
“It was just like playing outdoors back home in Arizona,” joked UND forward Colten St. Clair, who is from the Phoenix area.
“It’s a little bit different (than Fremont, Calif.),” UND forward Dan Senkbeil said of his hometown. “It’s pretty cold out. But this is one of the few times you get to skate on the outdoor rink, so it was a bunch of fun.”
The outdoor practice gave goaltenders an opportunity to work on seeing the puck without a normal background. It gave the skaters a chance to work on playing on a rough ice surface.
It also gave the players a chance to test out some neck-warmers and other equipment that they may wear during the outdoor game.
“I don’t think I’ve been on an outdoor rink for four years,” goalie Clarke Saunders said. “It was a little different. It was actually a lot of fun. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it was going to be, but it was still pretty chilly out there.”
“It was fun, it brought up a lot of good memories of hanging out with buddies on the pond back at home,” said goalie Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls. “This is a new chapter with a new group. It was pretty exciting.”
UND’s forwards said they can’t be too fancy on below-average ice, which is often the case at outdoor games.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” Senkbeil said. “Obviously with the snow and ice, it’s going to be a lot harder to handle the puck. I think we’ve got to bring a baseline game and keep things simple — chipping pucks deep, going after it and playing a good, physical game.”
Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 40s on Saturday, so the weather conditions will be quite a bit different. But the frigid Monday afternoon didn’t bother everyone.
“I’m not cold, not one bit,” Sanderson said during the scrimmage. “I’m from Saskatchewan.”
Temperatures in the upper 40s won’t be a problem for the ice surface at T.D. Ameritrade Park.
Operators believe the ice surface could handle temps as high as the upper 60s or lower 70s, according to Harold Cliff, the president of the Omaha Sports Commission.
“We’re not too concerned about the temps,” Cliff said. “The forecast is for the mid-40s.”
A possibility of rain is forecast for Saturday, too. Cliff says the rink could handle a light rain or sprinkle, but a downpour would make it unplayable.
In the case of a downpour, the game could be delayed. If the rink is unplayable for the whole day, the backup plan is to hold the game outdoors Sunday.
The ice surface has 32 miles of coils cooling the playing surface, Cliff said. The Omaha Sports Commission began installation of the ice surface late Monday. It was previously used at U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm down here for the game,” Cliff said.