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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/25/2013 2:39:55 PM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal Correspondent

The Burnsville Ice Center, built in 1972, has been home to the Burnsville High School hockey teams and is one of the iconic rinks in the state. It is home to two state championship teams and multiple state tournament entrants. Outside of the great hockey that has been played there for years, the easiest way to see why the rink is one of Minnesota’s most unique is to simply look up.

When I first walked into the facility on Tuesday to watch the Blaze boys team take on South Suburban Conference rival Rosemount, it was easy to see – at least structurally – why the arena is unique. The two Olympic-sized rinks are covered by a beautiful wooden domed ceiling. Its majestic arches are like nothing you will see in any arena around the state. It was hard to take my eyes off the ceiling, but when I did there was much more to see.

The Blue Line Room was filled with food for players, coaches and parents from every level of the program. The main rink has seating on two sides and standing-room areas behind both goals. It has a large four-sided scoreboard hanging from the lightly stained wooden ceiling and banners honoring former section and state champions.

The arena is much more than a hockey rink, however.

The iconic arena pays homage to the accomplishments of its high school teams as well as its multiple youth teams and championships. According to rink manager Dean Muslo, more than 400 kids are in the association.

The second rink is used for youth hockey games and youth and high school practices, but also houses a successful figure skating program. The outside walls are lined with trophies from numerous competitions that have been won by figure skaters who hone their skills in this rink. The second rink also has curling targets on the floor to accommodate the curling club that has been part of the fabric of the arena for years. Curling and figure skating clubs use the arena throughout the year and give the Burnsville Ice Center another unique feature that makes it stand out.

The main rink is used for large figure skating events, but is primarily used for hockey. In the mid-1980s, when the Burnsville boys were racking up state tournament berths and championships, the place was packed and more than once would put fire code laws to the test. One of the things that made it such an intimidating place for visitors was the placement of the home student section – right behind the visiting team’s bench.

“It can be pretty intimidating for opposing teams,” said Burnsville athletic director Jeff Marshall. “Usually we have a large student section that gets pretty wild sitting right behind you. Any time the opposing team calls a timeout the whole student section is screaming at them at the top of their lungs, trying to distract them during that timeout. It has been that way for years.”

In the mid-80s – the teams were then called the Braves – Burnsville made five straight state tournament appearances, advanced to the championship game four times and came home with two state championships. Although recently the program has not had a stretch like that, they are routinely in the mix for conference and section championships.

Tuesday the Blaze went into its game against the Irish with a 9-7-1 record, but that record was a little deceiving. The teams they have lost to are all over the top 10 lists. Wayzata, Eagan, Edina, Benilde and Hill-Murray (twice) account for six of those losses. On this night the Blaze played like the dominant teams in the ‘80s. Aside from the early minutes when they took two penalties and struggled to get their footing, they dominated the game.

Senior goalie Chris Mallon stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout, senior Dan Ames scored two goals and had an assist while junior Anthony Rikberg tallied two assists. The 5-0 win kept the Blaze in second place in the conference, just behind conference leader Eagan.

Although they don’t draw the type of crowds on a consistent basis like in Burnsville’s heyday, if this group – which has now won three in a row – can keep playing like they did on Tuesday night, the nights of packed houses in this great arena may not be that far away. The prospects for the Blaze hockey team, like my gaze as I entered the arena, are looking up.


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