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UND, Ralph Engelstad Arena increase security for Sioux-Gophers series

GRAND FORKS - In the shadow of a scuffle that left a hockey fan seriously injured last season, University of North Dakota police and Ralph Engelstad Arena officials are beefing up security for the Sioux-Gophers games set for tonight and Saturday.

At both games, UND police will have three uniformed officers and two plainclothes officers in the arena. That's three more officers than usual, Lt. Tracy Meidinger said.

"In the past, we've had a few problems," he said. "This time, we're trying to be a little more proactive and a little more visible."

Meidinger said the additional officers come at the request of arena officials. "They're interested in making sure this is safe, too," he said.

Arena spokesman Chris Semrau said The Ralph typically has more than 20 of its own security officers at men's hockey games. For this series, the arena will have four to six extra officers on duty.

"There's a little greater attention paid to this weekend, but no major shift in approach," Semrau said. "For the most part, fans behave very appropriately. There's always a handful that may step out of line."

After the UND-Minnesota hockey game Oct. 16, 2009, two fights broke out simultaneously on opposite sides of the arena, Meidinger said.

In one fight, nobody was hurt. But in the other, a

34-year-old man hit his head on the ground outside the arena, fracturing his skull. A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of punching the man who hurt his head, but prosecutors reviewed the case and decided not to press charges.

The injured man underwent emergency surgery and spent about three weeks recovering in the hospital.

His father told the Herald he suffered no permanent brain damage.

Semrau said fights at The Ralph's hockey games are "few and far between." "They can happen, but probably not as much as people would assume," he said.

Meidinger said he has no reason to expect trouble during this weekend's series. "It's a huge event, and we want to make sure that it goes off without any problems," he said.