MINNEAPOLIS — While it is not quite yet “mark your calendar” time for Minnesota Gophers men's hockey fans, the picture of which opponents will be coming to 3M Arena at Mariucci for the program’s 101st season got clearer this week.
The Gophers, who were college hockey’s only team with 20 regular season wins in 2020-21, will host Alaska, Mercyhurst, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, the USA Hockey Under-18 team and their half-dozen Big Ten opponents either in two-game series or, in the case of SCSU and UMD, as part of a home-and-home series.
The dates, road opponents and broadcast information will be announced later. While some NCHC teams have begun releasing schedules this week, the Big Ten teams usually wait until later in the summer.
The announcement means the Gophers will have 18 home games, plus the USA Hockey exhibition game. The road schedule will include 12 games at the Big Ten opponents (Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin), a two-game series at North Dakota over Thanksgiving weekend and single road games at SCSU and at UMD. In the past, the Gophers have hosted a Canadian college in late September for an exhibition game, but none has been announced for the coming season.
St. Cloud State released its schedule on Monday, showing a home-and-home series with the Gophers on Oct. 15-16, with the Friday game in Minneapolis. The Saturday rematch in St. Cloud will be the first game as head coach of the Gophers for Bob Motzko in the place where he directed the Huskies program for 13 seasons. The Mercyhurst series is expected to be played Oct. 8-9.
“We can’t wait to celebrate the first century of Gopher hockey and get started on the next 100 years with our fans, our alumni and all of our supporters,” Motzko said, in a statement released by the school. “We're also really excited about the team we will put on the ice. We’ve got a great core group coming back after a terrific season last year, and if you liked watching our team play in 2020-21 you can plan on more of the same in 2021-22.”
Of note is the lack of a home holiday tournament on the Gophers’ schedule. They have hosted the Mariucci Classic between Christmas and New Years in most seasons, starting in 1991 and had an all-Minnesota affair in 2019, where they beat SCSU in the title game and Bemidji State beat Minnesota State Mankato for third place. Colorado College was originally slated to play in the 2020 Mariucci Classic, but the tournament was scrapped after a massive remake of the schedule due to the pandemic.
Playing only Big Ten opponents and Arizona State (which had a one-year scheduling arrangement with the Big Ten) last season, the Gophers went 20-6-0 in the regular season, finishing second in the conference behind Wisconsin, and winning the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers return goalie Jack LaFontaine and all of their defensive corps from last season’s team, which finished one game shy of the Frozen Four, falling to Minnesota State University-Mankato in the NCAA regional finale in late March.
Alaska, located in Fairbanks, is expected to play as an independent in 2021-22, as their previous conference, the WCHA, is going away and the Nanooks were not invited to join the new CCHA. Mercyhurst, located in Erie, Pa., is a member of Atlantic Hockey. The Gophers are 3-1-1 all time versus Alaska and 3-0-0 versus Mercyhurst, having last played both teams in 2016.
Season ticket renewals are currently underway and new season tickets are available via the Gophers ticket office.