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Ice Breaker college hockey tournament in Duluth deemed a success

Minnesota Duluth players react after Parker Mackay scored the game winning goal in overtime against Minnesota during the Ice Breaker Tournament at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. Friday Oct. 6, 2017. Minnesota Duluth increases it's win streak over Minnesota to eight with the 4-3 overtime victory. Clint Austin / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn (37) reacts after Minnesota Duluth scored the first goal of the game during the Ice Breaker Tournament at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. Friday Oct. 6, 2017. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

DULUTH, Minn. — Officials at Minnesota Duluth and Amsoil Arena said last weekend's Ice Breaker Tournament featuring UMD, Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Union went off without a hitch.

The only hiccup anyone could really point to was the Huskies hoisting the tournament trophy at the end instead of the Bulldogs.

Minus that minor detail, the 21st edition of college hockey's season-opening showcase drew rave reviews from everyone involved, from the teams and fans to the folks who manage the tournament at College Hockey Inc. and the Hockey Commissioners Association.

Jeff Stark, the venue operations director at the DECC and Amsoil Arena, said even next year's Ice Breaker host, Mercyhurst, was impressed after flying in to see this year's tournament.

The Lakers will host Notre Dame, Providence and Miami in the 22nd edition next fall in Erie, Pa.

"Mercyhurst basically told us it was a tough act to follow," Stark said. "A lot of the credit goes to the university. Josh (Berlo) and his staff did pretty much the lion's share of the heavy lifting and the work as far as getting that stuff organized and the sponsors — Visit Duluth and all the hotel partners. All the things to get this pulled in the same direction was critical in making this happen."

The four games over two days at Amsoil Arena recorded an announced attendance of 13,083 fans with a sold-out crowd of 7,203 — top-five in Amsoil Arena attendance — showing up Friday, Oct. 6, when the Bulldogs beat the Gophers 4-3 in overtime. Only 5,880 showed up Saturday, Oct. 7, to see the Gophers beat Union 2-0 for third place and Tech top the Bulldogs 4-3 in the championship game.

Berlo, UMD's athletic director, said preliminary numbers showed at least 1,000 tickets were sold to fans from the three visiting teams, which helped accomplish the tournament's goal of increased revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

The university came out on top as well with preliminary numbers showing the event grossed approximately $300,000 in ticket sales, Berlo said.

"The institution does see a financial benefit — we're not in a position to do events that don't at least break even — and this certainly did better than break even," Berlo said. "It's exciting. It's fun. It gives us a chance to showcase our great facility, our great program, our great university and our amazing community."

Berlo said the university wants to go after more big college hockey events — such as a men's regional if the rules were to ever change on that — with the WCHA Final Faceoff and NCAA Women's Frozen Four currently in play. UMD last hosted a Women's Frozen Four in 2012, which is also the last time a WCHA championship weekend took place in Duluth. Both were at Amsoil.

The WCHA Final Faceoff is back at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for a second straight season in 2018. That's also the site of this season's Women's Frozen Four. The next four Frozen Fours between 2019 and 2022 are at eastern sites.

"We can put on a heck of a tournament," Berlo said. "I'm hoping we'll be able to get the Ice Breaker again in the near future. It's probably going to be a few more years, but we've already decided — even before this year's event ended — we were going to make our best effort to get that again, as well as anything else that may become available."