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In 2010-11, a season split between two home arenas, UMD averaged 5,042 fans in eight games at the DECC and 6,370 fans in 11 games at Amsoil Arena, which opened Dec. 30. (2010 file / News Tribune)

Attendance records could fall as UMD begins first full season at new arena by raising banner

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A record home attendance mark is all but guaranteed for 2011-12 as the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team begins its first full season at Amsoil Arena.

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Winning the 2011 Division I title and the allure of a new rink have sparked added interest resulting in 4,907 season tickets sold for an 18-game home schedule -- 4,004 to the public, 903 to students. Last season's figures were 3,772 public tickets and 746 student tickets. Amsoil Arena capacity is 6,764.

"Many people bought season tickets last year to come and see the new building, and the bulk of them stayed and renewed their tickets," said Sue MacDonald, business and ticket sales director. "We've substantially improved our numbers."

The No. 8-ranked Bulldogs open the home season Friday and Saturday in 7:07 p.m. games against No. 1 Notre Dame, in a rematch of the 2011 Frozen Four semifinals, won by UMD 4-3. About 200 tickets remain for each game, said MacDonald. Single-game tickets are $20 ($30 for games against Minnesota and North Dakota).

UMD has a quirky schedule with five of the first seven series at home. The Bulldogs finish that streak at home against Minnesota State-Mankato on Nov. 18-19 and then don't play in Duluth for two months, returning Jan. 20-21 against Alabama-Huntsville.

In 2010-11, a season split between two home arenas, UMD averaged 5,042 fans in eight games at the DECC and 6,370 fans in 11 games at Amsoil Arena, which opened Dec. 30. There were seven sellouts and the combined average of 5,810 set a school record.

The program's previous best-attended seasons were in the mid-1980s, at the DECC Arena, topped by an average of 5,616 in 1984-85 and 5,603 in 1985-86. The DECC seating capacity was 5,664.

The No. 7 UMD women also open the season at home in 3:07 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday against No. 5 Boston College.

Tailgate party, banner raising Friday

A tailgate party in the DECC parking lot, preceding the UMD men's home opener, is 5-6:30 p.m. Friday. Local band Lake City Smokin' Section will provide music, playing from the DECC's roof, and the UMD pep band will perform. The 2011 NCAA championship trophy will be available for viewing.

Amsoil Arena concession stands will open at 5 p.m.

UMD's national championship banner will go up before Friday's game with the raising honors handled by the 2011-12 Bulldogs. The ceremony will precede the playing of the national anthem, placing the banner in the Amsoil Arena rafters next to the American flag. The banner will later be moved next to a banner commemorating the program's four Hobey Baker Memorial Award winners.

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