Soldier Field prepares to host Hockey City Classic

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Soldier Field prepares to host Hockey City Classic

The Bears may have packed up and gone home for the season, but that doesn't mean Soldier Field will be sitting empty this winter.

In just a few weeks, its stands will once again be filled with screaming fans. They just wont be watching football. They'll be watching the first hockey games ever played under the lights at Soldier Field, as a part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic WinterFest.

Everything will kick off on Friday, Feb. 1 with a Blackhawks alumni event to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, said Drew Russell, the VP of Sports Properties for Intersport. It will feature appearances by Blackhawks greats Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito, who will be available for autographs, along with a number of other former Blackhawks players.

The rink will feature a series of high school matchups the weekend of Feb. 8-9, as well as a contest between the North and South Sides of the Chicago Fire Department. On Feb. 17, it will also be the site of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, where Notre Dame will face off against Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin will take on Minnesota in back-to-back games.

"Kevin Gift and his team at Ice Rink Events have spent the last two weeks installing the stadiums first rink installed and getting the ice in skating shape. Its a lot of hard work to get this in," Gift said. "We've got 10 guys here; we've been working 10, 14 hours a day. The facility's been great to us, helped us out with whatever we needed."

The weather, on the other hand, hasn't been as kind. As temperatures in Chicago rise, the rinks chillers are working overtime to keep Gifts ice intact.

"There's about 46 miles of tubing underneath this rink and its all chilled at 6 degrees evenly right now," Gift said. "As the temperatures change, well turn the chillers up."

By constantly monitoring the ice, Gift's team should be able to keep the surface temperature of the rink around 22 to 23 degrees and have skateable ice for the rinks opening match between Latin vs. St. Ignatius. The full schedule of high-school games, as well as the game schedule for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic is as follows:

Friday, Feb. 8

Latin vs. St. Ignatius, 3 p.m.
Evanston vs. Lincoln-Way, 5 p.m.
St. Viator vs. Benet Academy, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 9

Oak Park River Forest vs. Libertyville Vernon Hills, Noon
Mt. Carmel vs. Glenbrook South, 2 p.m.
St. Rita vs. Fenwick, 5 p.m.
New Trier Green vs. Loyola Academy Gold, 7 p.m.
Chicago Fire Hockey - North Side vs. South Side, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 17

Notre Dame vs. Miami, Noon
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for the Blackhawks Alumni event on Feb. 1 through the Ronald McDonald House. General admission tickets for the High School Hockey Faceoff can be purchased at the respective schools as well as online, with tickets for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, at Ticketmaster.com.

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

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USA TODAY

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

CSN will have two quality college basketball matchups on Saturday as two Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge games will be featured live.

Bradley (4-3) has Nevada (6-2) in town for a 7 p.m. game Saturday on CSN while Illinois State (3-2) will host New Mexico (5-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday on CSN+.

The Braves have alternated wins and losses all season as they hope to build momentum off of a road win over Eastern Illinois.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces Bradley at 15.3 points per game on 48 percent three-point shooting while junior guard JoJo McGlaston is putting up 12.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.

Nevada enters this one winning four of their last five games as senior guard Marcus Marshall is averaging 20.0 points and 3.9 assists per game. Sophomore forward Cameron Oliver has been generating some pro buzz as he's averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range.

In the second contest, Illinois State is hoping for a key non-conference win against a quality opponent. Senior forward Deontae Hawkins is doing some solid damage as he's averaging 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while junior forward MiKyle McIntosh is at 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.

Proviso East product Paris Lee is also having a good year at guard for Illinois State.

New Mexico is led by a former area product as Homewood-Flossmoor graduate Tim Williams is averaging 19.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Lobos. Junior guard Elijah Brown, the son of former NBA coach Mike Brown, is also playing well for New Mexico as he's putting up 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

Preview: Northern Iowa takes on George Mason tonight on CSN+

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USA TODAY

Preview: Northern Iowa takes on George Mason tonight on CSN+

Northern Iowa looks to snap a two-game losing streak as they host George Mason tonight. You can catch this game live on CSN+ at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (3-2) have lost both games to Xavier as Northern Iowa matched up with the top-25 team for the title in the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando before losing to them on the road less than a week later.

Northern Iowa does own some solid wins over Oklahoma and Arizona State as they're led by senior Jeremy Morgan, who is averaging 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game -- which all lead the team. 

Junior forward Klint Carlson has also been strong for the Panthers as he's put up 12.2 points per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range.

George Mason (3-2) has won three consecutive games -- with two of those wins coming by four points or less. The Patriots haven't played anyone as good as Northern Iowa yet as they beat Kent State, Bradley and James Madison.