Augustana University Midco Arena

Augustana hockey opens Midco Arena this weekend with sold-out game against Ferris State

The Vikings will break in their brand new 3,100-seat arena with a Friday-Saturday series against the Bulldogs

SIOUX FALLS — Following Thursday morning’s practice at Midco Arena, Augustana coach Garrett Raboin made it a point to tell his players to get away from the building for a little bit.

The Vikings players have been enthralled with their new arena since they got their first look on Sunday. In an effort to avoid some burnout, a change of scenery was mandatory.

There is, after all, a sold-out game on the horizon.

For the first time in program history, Augustana will play college hockey on its own campus this weekend, christening Midco Arena with a Friday-Saturday series against the Ferris State Bulldogs.

“There’s guys that haven’t left the rink,” Vikings senior goalie Zack Rose said. “There’s probably guys sleeping here overnight. They’re in the shooting room. They’re on the ice extra, which I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing. We do need to get rest, too.

“There’s definitely excitement amongst the group, getting ready for the weekend, but also just breaking in this new facility.”

The 3,100 seats in Midco Arena are sold out for Friday’s contest, while tickets are still available for Saturday.

At least for now.

With a 7-12-3 record, the Vikings have vastly exceeded whatever expectations were thrust upon the first-year program at the start of the season, making AU hockey one of the hottest tickets in town.

And with booming excitement surrounding the new $75 million, 154,000 square-foot arena, Augustana figures to have tremendous crowds for the remainder of its home stretch, which includes four more home series following this weekend.

“It’s something that three years ago was just a dream and a vision from some really courageous and bold people,” Raboin said, “and thanks to their hard work and effort, we’re now standing here in Midco Arena and able to take the ice on Friday.”

While the campus community got its first look at the facility during an open practice session Wednesday evening, the players returned from Arizona on Sunday and were able to tour the facility for the first time.

Up until now, the Vikings had been practicing each week at the Scheels IcePlex, where they used two trailers beside the rink as makeshift locker rooms.

It looks like the humble beginnings paid off.

“Memories like that will last forever,” AU junior defenseman Evan McIntyre said. “All of us joke and look back at that, like, ‘Wow, we really got dressed in a trailer for four months and went to the IcePlex.’ It was fun, and we just stuck together.

“Now we have this place. It’s such an upgrade. We’re just so thankful and happy for everyone involved.”

For the hockey team, the amenities in Midco include a training room with a hot tub and cold bath, a study area, a players’ lounge, locker rooms with wet and dry stalls and a sprawling equipment room, all of which is located along the south side of the arena.

There’s also a puck-shooting room, which Raboin specifically requested to allow players to practice shooting pucks for as long as they please.

“Our guys are set up for success,” Raboin said. “Now the rest is up to them, but they have all the features they need right here at Midco Arena.”

Led by 32nd-year coach Bob Daniels, the Bulldogs (8-16-1) remain in last place in the CCHA standings but are coming off a home-and-home sweep last weekend versus Lake Superior State. FSU knocked off the Lakers in a 5-3 decision Friday before closing out the series Saturday with a 3-2 triumph in overtime.

Antonio Venuto leads the Bulldogs with 24 points, including a team-leading 12 tallies, while sophomore Travis Shoudy paces the team’s blue line with 17 points on four goals and 13 assists.

Against the Lakers, Shoudy recorded two goals in the series, including the game-winning goal in Saturday’s overtime victory. He was named CCHA Defenseman of the Week for his efforts.

Against the Lakers, Shoudy recorded two goals in the series, including the game-winning goal in Saturday’s overtime victory. He was named CCHA Defenseman of the Week for his efforts.

“That was big,” Rose said. “They’re a great team. I think it kind of gave us some confidence.

“We haven’t been playing the way that I think we should, and I think we all know that.”

Fifth-year forward Ryan Naumovski leads the way for AU with 16 points on the season, including a team-high 11 helpers. Uula Ruikka is the Vikings’ top defenseman with 11 points on four goals and seven assists.

Between the pipes, Rose has seen the most action for Augustana. Rose picked up the win Friday and is now 4-4-2 on the season with a 3.29 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Meanwhile, Logan Stein is the Bulldogs’ top option in goal. The senior netminder has a 4-9-1 mark, .913 save percentage and 2.80 GAA.

Defensively, FSU is allowing 3.6 goals per game compared to 3.4 goals allowed per game for Augustana. The Vikings are scoring 2.7 goals per contest compared to 2.4 goals scored per game for the Bulldogs.

At Thursday’s practice, the energy among the players was palpable, and Raboin isn’t doing much to curb that energy.

For now, the ordinary will have to wait.

“You want it to be normal? It’s not normal,” Raboin said, “but it’s beautiful that it’s not because these guys deserve it and so does everyone who’s going to be able to enjoy it this weekend.”

The two teams will begin the series at 7 p.m. CT Friday before wrapping things up at 6 p.m. CT Saturday.