March 2, 2019 - Loudonville, New York
ACHA hockey flies below the radar in many parts of the country, especially the Northeast, but the level of play is always entertaining and rivalries often spirited. This year's ACHA Division 2 Regionals took place at Albany County Hockey Facility, a simple barn sandwiched between land occupied by the Albany County Jail and the airport. This arena which is county-owned opened in 1989, and is in use for area youth teams, high schools, and a few ACHA teams including University of Albany and Siena. This weekend tournament brought teams from New England and beyond, and upon arrival the parking lot was full of team buses. The building itself sits close to the road and across from the airport parking lot. Entering the arena grounds feels as though you are driving into the airport itself as you pass the terminals and parking deck for the airport. The simple structure features beige metal siding, and a peaked gray metal roof. A small addition to the end of the barn serves as a lobby, and flag poles sit outside the entrance, which features some notched out walls and a simple glass facade on an otherwise plain looking exterior. The building is built into the side of a hill, with the parking lot wrapping around from the side of the building, to above the arena and overlooking the back side of the building. Tickets for the event ran for $10 for a day pass, and could allow viewing of up to 4 games. The single pad facility seems like an odd place to host a busy tournament like this, but location played a role in hosting the event here. We were on hand for a 3pm game featuring Keene State taking on Holy Cross. Albany County Hockey Facility is little more than a community arena designed for youth and high school hockey, and may have an uncertain future as on multiple occasions over the last decade the airport has made attempts to acquire the land for more parking. Despite the simple surroundings and basic facility the location is a good one for this tournament, and good sized crowds were on hand for the games.
Fans entering Albany County Hockey Facility for the games make their way through the tiny lobby where a ticket and ACHA merchandise table is set up just inside the doors to the rink itself. The lobby features a small sitting area with glass walls overlooking the airport parking across the street, and a concession stand, known as Mucker's. The whole facility has a very compact footprint, and the hallways feature access to the dressing rooms and rest rooms. There is a small pro shop which is essentially a closet sized room. The arena itself features a high peaked ceiling, and tan interior metal walls. The place is spartan, but a few small memorabilia displays are on the walls featuring the accomplishments of local high schools. There was some signage for the ACHA Tournament with the logo in place in multiple spots throughout the building. Seating is comprised of a grandstand on one side of the ice which is 7 rows high and features bleacher seating built into a concrete slab. There is a wide upper concourse which allows for additional standing room. We would estimate the capacity at 500 fans. Sight lines are OK, but the stands are set back too far from the ice, with a 15 foot wide aisle at the bottom of the stands. With the large setback from the ice it make viewing from the lower couple of rows of seats very difficult. There is netting in front of the entire grandstand, and a pair of scoreclocks are situated on the ends of the building. The walls feature yellow stripes painted on them, and there are not a whole lot of interior aspects that have much visual appeal here as it is a utilitarian space. Event merchandise was available, including tournament t-shirts and a program which listed the rosters of all teams competing in the 3 day tourney. With this being a special event, it is hard to describe the atmosphere as none of the local teams were competing in the game we saw, but you do get a taste of the facility and an idea what it would be like if Siena or U. of Albany were competing on their home ice. Albany County Hockey Facility is not intended to be a big time event venue with lots of spectator amenities. It serves its purpose as a local recreational rink nicely, however, and stays quite busy in the winter months.
The game day presentation for the ACHA Division 2 Northeast Regional Tournament was all business, and basic, but professional. There was music played during stoppages which was loud and clear. PA announcements were nearly inaudible and very hard to hear. The event did have a big time feel however as the teams' seasons were on the line and all the clubs were looking to advance to the National Tournament. The game itself had an incredible playoff intensity and the fans for each school, with Holy Cross having more on hand, were vocal and engaged, although it was primarily a family and friends type crowd. It was enjoyable seeing the small state school from New Hampshire, Keene State, knock off Holy Cross, in a come from behind win as the elitist crowd from Holy Cross had to eat the words they were chirping and the fans what they felt was an inferior state school earlier in the game. Chalk up a victory for the good guys in this one as the Owls took a 4-2 win to advance to the next round. Albany County Hockey Facility is not likely to be the destination of a hockey trip if you are coming to spectate from a long distance away, but the 3pm start to this game allowed us plenty of time to head 20 minutes east to Houston Field House to see RPI play a Saturday evening game. With nearly annual rumors of the airport or prison taking over the facility to convert it for use on the adjacent properties upkeep has been lacking a bit here, but it would be a shame for this 30 year old venue to go by the wayside and no longer host hockey. The small barn and intimate setting served as a good place to watch teams who compete for the love of the game, and often have late evening puck drops in front of empty grandstands, do battle for a chance at the national tournament.