Zach Driscoll will get used to seeing his old team in a hurry.
UND will play Bemidji State in a preseason exhibition Oct. 2 instead of the University of Manitoba after the NCAA Committee For Legislative Relief passed a waiver allowing college hockey teams to play against other college hockey teams in exhibition games this season.
The waiver was approved because programs frequently play exhibitions against Canadian colleges, but those will be difficult, if not impossible, this season due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions and because the border is still closed for Canadians wishing to enter the United States.
Bemidji State is the closest Division-I program to Grand Forks, just a two-hour drive.
“We look forward to the opportunity to play our Oct. 2 exhibition game against a collegiate Division-I opponent before the start of our regular season,” UND coach Brad Berry said in a statement. “I want to thank both administrations for making this happen.”
It is believed that this is UND's first exhibition game against another Division-I team since 1992, when it played Minnesota Duluth in Eveleth, Minn.
It also means the Fighting Hawks will see a lot of Bemidji State in the season's opening month.
First, it will be the exhibition game Oct. 2 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
A week later, UND will host Niagara in a two-game series to open the regular season.
Then, the Fighting Hawks will play Bemidji State once again — this time in a two-game, regular-season series. The series opener will be in Bemidji and the series finale in Grand Forks.
Driscoll, UND's presumed starting goalie, spent the last three years at Bemidji State before transferring to the Fighting Hawks in the spring.
He led Bemidji State to the NCAA tournament in the spring. The Beavers knocked out top-seeded Wisconsin in the first round before falling in the national quarterfinals.
Driscoll is one of 14 new players on UND's roster this fall. Three of them are goalies: Driscoll and rookies Jakob Hellsten and Kaleb Johnson. They are replacing Adam Scheel (signed with Dallas Stars) and Peter Thome (transferred to St. Thomas).
UND has one other exhibition game on its schedule — a New Year's Day contest against the U.S. Under-18 Team.
That game is expected to remain in place.
More on the waiver
The NCAA initially granted the waiver to play exhibition games against other college programs last season, but it was passed too late for anyone to take advantage.
Late last week, the NCAA extended the waiver to this season.
If a team uses the waiver to schedule another college hockey team in exhibition play, it will not be allowed to play a Canadian college. And if a team chooses to play a Canadian school, it will not be allowed to use the waiver to play an exhibition against an NCAA team.
The waiver allows Division-I teams to play other Division-I teams as well as Division-II, Division-III and even ACHA club teams.
Many college hockey teams didn't even bother scheduling exhibitions this season. In fact, UND is the only National Collegiate Hockey Conference team that had announced exhibition games for 2021-22.
That will change in the wake of the NCAA's waiver, though.
Colorado College has kept Oct. 2 open on its schedule for an exhibition game "to be announced." With the waiver, the Tigers will now try to line up an exhibition against Air Force Academy to open its new home, Ed Robson Arena.
The preseason exhibition
UND prefers to have an exhibition game under its belt before opening the regular season.
Last season marked the first time since 2003 that UND opened with a regular-season game, and that was only because all eight NCHC teams agreed to start in an Omaha-based Pod to prevent coronavirus infections.
Prior to that, Manitoba was the opening exhibition opponent for eight years in a row and 15 of the last 16.