November 3, 2018 - Adrian, Michigan
NCAA's Division 3 provides some quality hockey at smaller schools in the U.S. The games are often well attended, although the participating schools seem to be clustered together in a few regions, including New England, Upstate New York, and the Minnesota and Wisconsin regions. One of the relatively new schools to join NCAA D3 is Adrian College, which started NCAA hockey in 2007, coinciding with the construction of Arrington Ice Arena on the school's campus. Adrian is somewhat of a geographic outlier, as its location in Southern Michigan is not really close to other D3 hockey schools. Nonetheless, Adrian has developed into a hockey powerhouse, frequently winning their conference and seemingly always ranked in the top 10 in the national rankings. Arrington Ice Arena sits on the edge of campus near the other athletic facilities on the school's grounds. The football stadium is adjacent, and the arena shares a parking lot with the athletic center as well, which was busy on this afternoon hosting a wrestling tournament. Arrington Ice Arena is a simple yet modern building, with brown cinder block walls and a metal roof which is gray over most of the building and red over the entrance and lobby area. The arena has a pair of entrances, one leading to the arena lobby, and the other leading up to an elevated restaurant which overlooks the ice. Modern roof peaks and small glass facades mark both of the entrances, which are next to each other near the corner of the arena. The building certainly looks sharp and a Bulldog statue just outside the main entrance door lets you know whose house you are about to enter. This Saturday afternoon contest against conference opponent Marian had a 3pm start, and with other athletic activities going on on campus parking in the main lot was rather limited. Hockey is big at Adrian, as the school has gone from a non existent hockey program to having 6 straight NCAA Tournament appearances in just over 10 seasons. Adrian College may also have the distinction of fielding the highest number of hockey teams of any school in North America, as the Bulldogs also have ACHA teams in all 3 divisions, and are currently ACHA Division 1 national champions, and there are women's teams in the NCAA and ACHA as well. With so many teams Arrington Ice Arena stays busy and gets a lot of use, and with Michigan being a hockey hotbed the school seems to have really gotten on the hockey bandwagon in a big way. Arrington Ice Arena is a first class facility for Division 3 hockey, and the Bulldogs have had much on-ice success in recent seasons.
Tickets for Bulldogs hockey can be purchased just inside the main entry doors in the lobby of Arrington Ice Arena. Seating is reserved and tickets are $10. The lobby features a mural honoring the hockey teams and figure skating program at Adrian, and has a well stocked team merchandise store just inside the main entrance. A trophy case sits in the corner of the lobby, and the school colors of white, black, and gold are prominent, as are the Bulldogs footprint logo. A small food concession stand sits in the lobby as well, in addition to some vending machines. The arena itself is through a set of sliding doors from the lobby, and is modern and nicely appointed. Seating is comprised of 7 rows of yellow plastic chairback seats which are steeply pitched on aluminum risers. Fans can access the seating area and their section through a walkway under the grandstand which features photos of past Bulldogs teams and footprints on the concrete floor leading the way. A center ice scoreclock hangs from the gray beams which support the peaked roof of the arena. There is also a video board on the end wall above one goal as well. Unfortunately there is netting running the entire length of the ice in front of the seating, but sight lines are still good due to the steepness of the seats, which put the fans right on top of the action. The restaurant seating on the opposite of the ice from the grandstand is a popular option for fans as well. Some fans also chose to stand along the end glass and view the game from ice level. The grandstand is listed as having a capacity of 500, but with the restaurant and fans standing along both ends you could fit nearly 1000 people here to watch a game if needed. Open ductwork is visible near the ceiling, and the interior walls are a mix of tan, black, and yellow. Despite the hockey program being only a little over 10 years old the rafters are full of banners honoring the team's success. Arrington Ice Arena is an intimate setting to watch hockey, not unlike many other NCAA Division 3 arenas, it does have big time feel to it, and its modern design is evident as the place still looks brand new and state of the art. Lighting in the arena is very bright, and with lots of Bulldogs banners and a theme honoring the school colors it certainly feels like a fitting home for the Bulldogs.
The game day presentation at Arrington Ice Arena for Adrian College Bulldogs hockey is modern but fun. This Saturday afternoon game found the arena about 3/4 full. With modern touches like the video board and pregame pump up video the venue has a big event feel to it. There are still plenty of old school college hockey touches, including the Bulldogs pep band, which stands at ice level in the corner of the arena and provides music during stoppages, although music is played over the PA system quite a bit too. With its on-campus location we expected a bit more student support, but the crowd seemed to be largely area residents there to cheer on their hometown team. There were some students on hand, but there was no organized student section or cheers, although the pep band seemed to adopt that role here as well. Sight lines are good, and the place gets loud with the bleachers being build on aluminum risers. The goal horn is very loud here, although the Bulldogs, who came into the game ranked #2 in NCAA Division 3, only scored once, and Marian proved that anyone can beat anyone in hockey if the goaltender is hot, as they took a 4-1 win, which included a pair of late empty net goals. The Bulldogs outshot Marian 48-19, so the Marian goalie clearly stole the game. Intermission at a Bulldogs game features some on-ice entertainment and contests, including a kid shootout where they try to shoot the puck into the opening of a doghouse from center ice in keeping with the Bulldog theme. Adrian College has built a hockey program from the ground up, and that undertaking really started with the construction of Arrington Ice Arena on the edge of campus. Since then this first rate facility has housed some successful teams and the Bulldogs have built quite the hockey tradition. Attending a Bulldogs game at Arrington Ice Arena is an excellent experience and the arena is a modern and comfortable place to watch hockey, yet still has the homey feel of having housed a hockey tradition for quite a while despite the young age of the Adrian hockey program.