WEST FARGO-Cars lined the streets around West Fargo Sports Arena where parking was normally off limits. The parking lots were packed, and hockey fans either parked blocks away from the arena or invented parking spots on the fly across from the arena in an empty plot of dirt.
Even a new arena couldn't contain the excitement surrounding a new hockey team. People packed the stands and lined up around the ice to see West Fargo Sheyenne's boys hockey team make history.
The Mustangs, in their inaugural season, played their first game at the new West Fargo Sports Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 28, against Fargo South-Shanley. The Bruins scored twice in the second period to take a 4-3 win.
"It will be in my memories forever," said Logan Schauer, who scored Sheyenne's first ever goal in the game. "It's pretty cool. I don't even know how to explain it."
Ground was broken for the arena about 15 months ago and cost about $16.5 million. The facility is 70,000 square feet and has two sheets of ice, a community room and 11 locker rooms.
This marks the first game the Mustangs played since splitting programs with West Fargo, which will also play at the West Fargo Sports Arena along as will the West Fargo United girls hockey team. The hockey programs previously played at Veterans Arena near West Fargo High School.
"The atmosphere was amazing," Sheyenne head coach Dave Benson said. "At the beginning you think about it, but as soon as that puck drops, you just start playing the game."
South-Shanley and Sheyenne were tied at the first intermission after goals by Robby Greicar for the Bruins and Schauer's score on a power play. The Bruins (1-0) scored twice in the second period on goals by Drew Sandy and Tanner Beaton on a power play.
Sheyenne's Hayden Groth scored on a power play about 5 minutes into the third period to get within a goal. Noah Johnson scored over 5 minutes later to give the Bruins a 4-2 lead. Sam Kramer gave Mustang fans even more to remember before they left by scoring a power play goal as time expired.
Groth said he wasn't expecting the size of the crowd, but the turnout energized his teammates. He said the number of people who showed up says both the city and the program is going to keep growing.
"The emotion in this rink is just unbelievable," Groth said. "It's just a really neat experience to have."
Benson said he couldn't ask for more in his first year as a head coach. When he applied to the job, Benson wanted the program to be community involved. Benson said he was proud of the way the Mustangs responded after trailing despite never taking the lead. "We're only going to get better," Benson said. "That was a good high school hockey environment. I'm very proud of our community and what this program has done to bring people together."
Schauer said he'll remember the game most for sharing the experience with his team. Although the Mustangs (0-1) lost, Schauer said the team's expectations haven't changed.
"It was an unreal feeling," Schauer said. "That's how special it felt to all of us. We were all very excited, and then to see this crowd, it's just unbelievable."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, FSS, Greicar (Traynor, Harvey), 12:19. 2, WFS, Schauer (Hiemer, Morin), 15:17, pp.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, FSS, Sandy (Bryant), 5:05. 4, FSS, Beaton (Sandy, Hanson), 14:48, pp.
THIRD PERIOD: 5, WFS, Groth (Kramer, Schauer), 5:17, pp. 6, FSS, Johnson (Zasada, Bryant), 10:41. 7, WFS, Kramer (Morin, Braun) 16:59, pp.
SAVES: FSS, Herrick 4-4-10--18; WFS, Nissen 5-9-7--21.