The first home game for the University of St. Thomas men's hockey team has been moved.

The Tommies will play host to St. Cloud State at 5 p.m. Oct. 3 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the home of the Minnesota Wild. The game was originally scheduled to be played at St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights.

"We were looking for something that would be special and I think the relationship we have here in St. Paul with the Wild — (athletic director) Dr. (Phil) Esten was really the mastermind behind it," Tommies coach Rico Blasi said. "This is a historic event for us and it's going to be special. It's an unbelievable venue, one of the best in the country at the NHL level.

"We're excited to have our home opener there against a great St. Cloud State team."

Tickets for the game will be available at ticketmaster.com, and will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10.

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The last time that St. Cloud State played at Xcel Energy Center was March 23, 2019, when Minnesota Duluth beat the Huskies 3-2 in double overtime for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship.

"It's really fun for the guys to get a chance to play there," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said of Xcel Energy Center. "I talked to Rico a couple weeks ago and I know that St. Thomas was really pushing for it.

"I think it's going to create a really strong new rivalry with our two instate teams. Both sides are hoping to get a great turnout. It's an honor to be able to play there. For Minnesota players, anytime you play at the X, it's a big game, whether it's state tournament time or league championship, it tends to be where you're playing ... It'll have that big-game feel to it."

The Tommies and Huskies open the season with a nonconference game at 6:05 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.

Before St. Cloud State’s move to Division I hockey in 1987, the Huskies and Tommies played 40 times from 1931-1980. The Tommies lead the series between the two programs, 24-16. The last meeting between the two programs, St. Cloud State beat St. Thomas 8-7 in overtime during during the 1979-80 season.

Tommies to practice for 1st time Wednesday

Blasi said that he let his players find out the news about the game being moved to Xcel via social media. The Tommies are having their first team meeting late Tuesday afternoon and will have their first official practice as a Division I program on Wednesday.

"It's going to be a sleepless night with the excitement as we step onto the ice tomorrow as a group for the first time," Blasi said. "There's been a lot of preparation leading up to it. There's been a lot of excitement.

"Finally, we get to go to work on what we need to do to get ready."

St. Thomas will have 27 players on its roster, including 16 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies.

Blasi and his staff have kept 12 players from last season's St. Thomas roster: defensemen Vincent Weis (Madison, Wis.) and Kimball Johnson (Coppell, Texas), goalies Jacob Berger (Minnetonka) and Henry Baribeau (Hudson, Wis.), and forwards Andrew Kangas (Mahtomedi), Lucas McGregor (Lino Lakes, Grant Loven (East Grand Forks), Luke Manning (Stillwater), Justin Kelley (Maple Grove), Aaron Swanson (Sun Prairie, Wis.), Joey Sofo (Sylvania, Ohio) and Logan Ommen (Bolingbrook, Ill.).

Berger (Minnesota State University-Mankato), Sofo (Alaska-Anchorage) and Loven (Northern Michigan) all played at the Division I level before transferring to St. Thomas.

The other players with Division I experience on the roster are goalie Peter Thome (North Dakota, Minneapolis); defensemen Trevor Zins (St. Cloud State, St. Michael), Nolan Sawchuk (UMass-Lowell, Burnsville), Ethan Gauer (Bemidji State, Farmington), John Schuldt (Nebraska Omaha, Minnetonka) and forwards Matthew Jennings (Ohio State, Buford, Ga.) and Christiano Versich (Colorado College, St. Paul). Versich, 24, did not play last season and had 45 points in 106 games over three seasons (2017-20) with the Tigers.

There are 14 Minnesotans, five players from Wisconsin, two from Illinois and one player each from Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Austria and Ontario on the roster.

University of St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi (left) and athletic director Phil Esten showed off a Tommies hockey jersey when Blasi was introduced to the media on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, on the St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas
University of St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi (left) and athletic director Phil Esten showed off a Tommies hockey jersey when Blasi was introduced to the media on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, on the St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

Coaching responsibilities

With the hiring of Cory Laylin as an assistant coach on Aug. 20 to replace Stu Bickel, Blasi has his coaching staff together. Leon Hayward, who spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach at Colorado College, was hired an an assistant coach on June 24. Bickel was also hired at that time, but left the position to become an assistant coach for the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League on Aug. 17.

Hayward will work with the forwards and Laylin with the defensemen, but other responsibilities will be split among the staff. Laylin spent the last seven seasons as the head men's coach at Hamline University.

"Cory was just one of those guys who is well-respected in our community, well-respected in the hockey world," Blasi said. "We just felt that he was a perfect for our staff as we built this culture and with the transition and how we want to do things.

"The way we'll do things is everyone talks about everything and then we'll let Leon and Cory do their thing and we'll figure that out as we go. But there will be some instructional stuff that, as a head coach, I'd like to oversee and bounce around a little bit."

After playing St. Cloud State, St. Thomas will have back-to-back CCHA road series (Oct. 8-9 at Northern Michigan, Oct. 15-16 at Lake Superior State). The Tommies will play their first CCHA series in Mendota Heights on Oct. 22-23 against Ferris State.

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