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Hockey set for UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena debut

Photo by Jamey Schilling/andrew.schilling@marquette.edu

Photo by Jamey Schilling/andrew.schilling@marquette.edu

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The annual Marquette-UW-Milwaukee Halloween hockey game has become one of Marquette’s largest athletic traditions.  That custom will be taken to a whole new level Friday night. The Golden Eagles will play their first-ever game at UW-Milwaukee’s Panther Arena Friday, the venue’s first hockey game in nearly three decades.

The arena is now the full-time home of the Milwaukee Admirals, Milwaukee’s American Hockey League team. The Admirals previously played their home games across the street at the Bradley Center, but plans for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena did not include a hockey team. The team also invested $6.3 million in arena upgrades, making the venue more hockey friendly.

Marquette’s head coach Will Jurgensen saw an opportunity with this move and reached out to Admiral executives. Jurgensen and UWM club hockey coach Tom Roberston collaborated to work out a deal for the clubs to play a game Halloween weekend, one day before the Admirals’ home opener. Marquette’s Halloween game draws the biggest crowd every year.

“Everyone is just really excited for this game, it’s such a great opportunity for our program,” Jurgensen said. “I know I am excited to coach in an arena like that.”

Panther Arena can hold about 8,500 fans, a major upgrade from the team’s normal venue at The Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena. Entry to the game will cost $20, but will also include entry to the Admirals’ home opener Saturday night. Students can buy $10 tickets at the door and buses will be provided to and from Marquette’s campus.

Jurgensen said one reason the club pushed for this game was for more exposure and support. He knows there are a lot of hockey fans in the area, but there isn’t a lot of hockey.

“Our level of play is really good,” he said. “A lot of people will be surprised of our talent level when they come out.”

Senior forward Adam Benkovich hopes the game will draw an even bigger crowd than it usually does.

“It’s a lot closer to campus so hopefully we get a lot more students,” he said.

Playing a game of this magnitude, in front of a bigger crowd could generate extra pressure for the team to perform well. Jurgensen said the Golden Eagles must remain focused when preparing for the game.

“We aren’t going to approach it differently, we are going to play our style of hockey,” Jurgensen said. “We don’t want to change anything, but I’m sure people are going to be nervous.”

Newly named team captain Brian Kennedy admitted he will feel some pressure on Friday.

“When you get out on the ice you get butterflies in front of all those people,” Kennedy said. “But I don’t think it’ll affect my game. I’m just going to try to do the same thing I always do.”

The Golden Eagles swept Aurora University this past weekend. This year, Marquette is showcasing its depth with multiple players producing on the ice. Jurgensen said the team’s early high level of play can be attributed to the players working hard in practice and games.

“If you look at our stats, we are playing very consistent all across the board,” Jurgensen said. “There’s not a single guy who hasn’t gotten better. I think it shows a lot of character that our guys are doing that.”

Jurgensen understands the intensity of Friday’s game. He said if they play their game, everything will take care of itself.

“There is going to be a little bit of added pressure,” he said. “I hope our guys enjoy it, take it in and enjoy the moment because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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