AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Twenty-three students were provided a close look Wednesday at preparations for the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series game between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Falcon Stadium on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2, NHL.TV).
Fifth graders from Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Colorado Springs, Colorado, took part in a field trip with Mike Craig, NHL Senior Manager, Facilities and Hockey Operations, serving as tour guide on the U.S. Air Force Academy campus.
The students were also presented with tickets to the game Saturday, as well as the game between the Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center on March 4.
[RELATED: Complete NHL Stadium Series coverage]
The students have participated in the NHL/NHLPA Future Goals program, an online educational course that uses hockey to explore real-life applications of fundamental STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts.
"For me, having kids of my own, it's really exciting to see how excited they are to be down on the field asking tons of questions about the whole process," said Craig, who led the students through the locker rooms and the interview area before heading to the rink for views of the Zamboni and team benches. "It's neat to have an event like this. If we can turn a few more kids into hockey fans and maybe even trying it out, even better."
Because it was a sunny day, students weren't able to walk on the ice, which was covered with reflective, insulated tarps. The tour continued as workers installed Plexiglass and attached advertising stickers to the boards.
"We still have about a half-inch, three-quarters of an inch, of ice to build," Craig said. "We'll do that over the next few days, really smooth things out and clean things up and perfect all of our small details and make sure it's ready for our players on Friday (when the Avalanche and Kings will practice)."
Angelica Givler, a language arts instructor at the school, said the tour gave the students a real-life look at some of the subjects they've been studying.
"We chose the kids who put in the most effort, the kids that came prepared and had done all of the programs," she said. "Most of these kids completed all of it pretty quick and they enjoyed it. There were games that taught them about science and math that they were able to do in the classroom or at home to accomplish their goals.
"I think as teachers, we were more excited about today, but as the day has progressed you could see their excitement increase. They were really engaged and asked great questions."
Jace Mathenia, 10, said he is a fan of the Colorado College hockey team, which is based in Colorado Springs.
"It was fun because you could only do this once in your lifetime," he said. "I liked seeing the players' locker rooms, how they have so many different compartments to store their stuff. I really had fun doing the (online) games because then we learned how the players get ready, how they make the ice, and then we got to see it come to life."
Isabella Sinclair, 11, said she enjoyed touching the tarp covering the ice after her baseball cap fell on it.
"It felt really cold, and wet and slippery," she said. "I liked coming here to see how they make it."