Hockey Day North Dakota debuts this weekend in Jamestown but the festivities will have plenty of Bismarck flavor.
The Bismarck Blizzard, Century Patriots and the University of Mary will all hit the ice in what figures to be an interesting, and cold, weekend smack dab in the University of Jamestown campus.
"As long as the coaches can stay warm in the box, that's the biggest thing," joked U-Mary head coach Dan Huntley. "The players will be out there playing. They'll be fine."
The Marauders and Jimmies will square off under the lights on Saturday night at 6. Puck-drop temperature is expected to be just a couple ticks above zero.
"It's a special deal, just a real unique experience for our players and hockey fans in the state," Huntley said. "The folks in Jamestown have done a really nice job putting this together. Sure, it'll be a little cold, but we're really looking forward to it."
Tim Meyer's four-time defending state champion Blizzard play the first varsity game of the three-day event. Bismarck faces Jamestown at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Blizzard are 9-2-3 and have won four in a row, outscoring their opponents 26-2. Jamestown is 4-9-1 and ninth in the standings, three points shy of eighth. The top eight teams qualify for state.
Century's boys ares rolling. Troy Olson's Patriots have lost just once in 11 games (in overtime) and have outscored their opponents by more than 50 goals.
U-Mary, meanwhile, has been dominant from the first whistle of the season, especially against fellow ACHA Division II teams. The Marauders are 31-1-1 against teams at their level and would likely be viewed as at least the co-favorite to win it all, if they were eligible for the playoffs. First-year teams are not.
The Marauders have nine games left and don't leave the state again. They have five home games remaining, one trip to Williston, one to Bottineau and a pair to Jamestown.
The Jimmies are ranked No. 17 in ACHA Division I. Jamestown owns a 3-1 win over the Marauders one month ago in Mandan. The two teams will become quite familiar with each other over the next few weeks, playing three times between Friday and March 2.
"We believe our forwards can outplay their defensemen and our goaltending can outplay their goaltending, the big key is, can their forwards outplay our defenseman?" Huntley said. "You have two good teams playing on an outdoor rink. I think it's going to be a blast."