Familiar foes, one notable newcomer included on the Gophers' 10-game nonconference slate
While we likely won't know the full Big Ten schedule for a month or two, the release of other teams' schedules has revealed the 10 nonconference games the Gophers will play between early October and early January.
MINNEAPOLIS – While dozens of other teams and a few of the other college hockey conferences have released their full schedules for the 2022-23 season, the Big Ten notoriously takes its time on these things. So in all likelihood, it could be another month or more before all 34 scheduled games for the Minnesota Gophers men’s team are known.
Of those NCAA-allowed 34 games, 24 will be versus the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, as within the Big Ten, every team plays two home games and two road games versus every other team.
Worth noting, the Big Ten’s propensity to wait until late in the summer to release their schedule causes myriad headaches for the teams’ hockey operations staffs, as hotel and flight arrangements need to be made for road games on short notice. And if you need, for example, to find 20 hotel rooms in South Bend on a Notre Dame home football weekend, good luck.
All of that aside, thanks to the release of other teams’ schedules in recent weeks, the dates and sites of all 10 Gophers nonconference games are now known.
The 2022-23 season will start on a Saturday, Oct. 1, as the Gophers host college hockey’s newest Division I men’s program – Lindenwood University – to 3M Arena at Mariucci for a two-game series. The Lions, who are based in suburban St. Louis, are not easing into things, choosing to open their D-I era on the road versus a Frozen Four team from last season. The Lions are coached by former North Dakota star and NHLer Rick Zombo.
Just five days later, what is quickly emerging as a Gophers nemesis comes to visit as Minnesota State Mankato will play Minnesota on Friday, Oct. 7, in Minneapolis and the next night in Mankato. The Mavericks have ended the Gophers’ last two seasons, beating them 4-0 in the Loveland Regional finale in 2021 and winning 5-1 in the Frozen Four semifinal in Boston two months ago.
After what is likely either a weekend off or an exhibition game, Minnesota’s longest-standing neighborhood rivalry is renewed as North Dakota comes to the Twin Cities for a pair of games on Oct. 21 and 22. The Gophers and Fighting Hawks split a series in Grand Forks last November, but the Red River rivalry dates back to 1930 and includes meetings in the Frozen Four semifinals and for the national title (won by the Gophers in 1979, in Detroit). The Hawks earned a sweep in their last trip to Minneapolis, winning a pair of games on Thanksgiving weekend 2019.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, if Gopher fans are looking for a warm-weather getaway where they can catch a few road games, they would be wise to plan on spending Black Friday in the desert. On Nov. 25 and 26 the Gophers will make their first trip to Tempe to face Arizona State in the Sun Devils’ new on-campus rink. Currently called Multi-Purpose Arena (although a corporate name should be coming along any minute), the arena will have seating for 5,000 and will also be home to the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes for the next few years while they figure out their messy rink situation. The Gophers are 6-0-0 all-time versus ASU, with all of the games this far being played in Minneapolis.
After the holiday break, the nonconference slate concludes on Jan. 7-8 with another in-state rival as the Gophers visit St. Cloud State on Friday and will have a Saturday night rematch in Minneapolis. The teams split a home-and-home last October, with the Huskies winning in Minneapolis and the Gophers winning on a controversial overtime goal in St. Cloud.
The most notable omission based on the Gophers’ past schedules is Minnesota Duluth, which was the only team to sweep a series versus Minnesota last season. The Gophers and Bulldogs have played in the regular season every year since 1962, either as nonconference foes or as former conference rivals in the now-defunct WCHA.
In-state rivals Bemidji State and St. Thomas are also excluded from the Gophers’ slate, although with the NCAA now allowing exhibition games versus other D-I teams, there is a strong chance the Gophers could play a “friendly” versus the Bulldogs, Beavers or Tommies, as they did last season. Gophers coach Bob Motzko enjoys getting his team out into the community, and was one of the driving forces behind them playing an exhibition game vs. St. Thomas at Doug Woog Arena in South St. Paul last Jan. 2, with the Gophers coming from behind to win 5-2.
The Gophers were 26-13-0 overall last season and 18-6-0 in the Big Ten, winning the conference regular season title and advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2014.