Where: Lutheran Health Sports Center
1A: Summit City vs. Carmel Blue, 10 a.m.
2A: Bishop Dwenger vs. Evansville, 12:30 p.m.
3A: Penn Gold vs. Zionsville, 3 p.m.
4A: Leo vs. Carmel Gold, 5:30 p.m.
5A: Culver A vs. Columbus, 8 p.m.
FORT WAYNE — Three high school hockey teams from Fort Wayne will find out if there is indeed no place like home.
Summit City (Class A), Bishop Dwenger (2A) and Leo (4A) all compete for championships Saturday at Lutheran Health Sports Center. It is Fort Wayne’s first time playing host to the Indiana State High School Hockey Association’s state finals.
The state championship games have traditionally been played in Indianapolis locations such as the Pepsi Coliseum or in Fishers or last year in South Bend, when it was at Notre Dame.
“This is the first time we have really been considered for the finals,” said Fort Wayne league president Jon Bragalone, who added that the Pepsi Coliseum and Notre Dame rinks were unavailable this year. “What it took was convincing (others) that it doesn’t have to be in Indianapolis, and that helped by going to Notre Dame last year.”
So with 1,000 or so rabid fans cheering them on, the Panthers, Saints and Lions all have the opportunity celebrate a state championship in front of the home crowd on friendly ice, where the Fort Wayne league games are played.
“It is really special to be back in this game, especially on our home ice,” Dwenger coach Jeff Sather said. “I cannot wait for our guys to hear the roar of the local crowd.”
Leo won a 3A state title in 2012, while Dwenger fell in the 2A title game.
“To say that Leo is thrilled to be representing Leo and the Fort Wayne High School Hockey this weekend in the 4A state championship game is an understatement,” Leo coach Dan Schiebel said. “We have always worked very hard in peaking at the end of the season, and I believe this team now is in control of its own destiny.”
Summit City, which used to be called Snider, will play on home ice with the city’s nickname.
“I think it’s great that Fort Wayne has the opportunity to host the finals,” Summit City coach Tyler Smith said. “Playing in those arenas (in Indianapolis and South Bend) makes it a very memorable experience but has the potential to increase the nerves. I think the familiar atmosphere here in Fort Wayne will allow our team to relax and play their best game.”
Bragalone said Fort Wayne has always been equipped to play host to the state finals, even when games were played at McMillen Ice Arena on the city’s south side.
But now that the Lutheran Health Sports Center facility is available in the city, the bid was accepted by the state hockey association’s board (of which Bragalone is a member).
“It is a chance to show that we can do it, and we can do it better than Indianapolis or even South Bend,” Bragalone said.
There’s always the possibility of the state finals returning to Fort Wayne. At the least, the state quarterfinals and semifinals could come to the city.
“If we pull this off as well I think we can, we will be in the rotation to be able to have it here,” Bragalone said.
Bragalone said there has even been talk of the state finals being at Memorial Coliseum but couldn’t get a commitment from the facility.