A rematch of last season's national semifinals to start, a home-and-home series with a team that's won two of the last three national championships, an appearance in the prestigious Ice Breaker Invitational, a chance to host Minnesota's newest Division I team on Hockey Day Minnesota, and a visit from an upstart Arizona State program.
And that's just Minnesota State University's non-conference men's hockey schedule for the 2021-22 season.
Just six weeks removed from their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Frozen Four, the Mavericks unveiled their schedule for next season on Thursday, coinciding with the release of the first-ever schedule for the new-look CCHA.
MSU will also play four of the other five Division I teams in Minnesota, with the University of Minnesota -- a team the Mavericks beat in late March to reach the Frozen Four -- being the lone exception.
The first two months of MSU's season alone will provide plenty to look forward to, and the last two months of the regular season might exceed those excitement levels.
The highlight of the regular-season schedule is a scheduled 4:30 p.m. opening faceoff on Jan. 22 against the University of St. Thomas, which is making its Division I debut this season. The Tommies will travel to Mankato that day to for a conference game outdoors at Blakeslee Stadium, one of the centerpiece games of Hockey Day Minnesota '22. MSU's first time hosting Hockey Day will mark the fourth of four meetings it has this season against St. Thomas, which is now a full-fledged member of the CCHA after moving up from the NCAA Division III ranks. The Tommies will play in the CCHA playoffs, too, but will not be eligible for the NCAA national tournament for their first five years at the Division I level.
The Mavericks and Tommies will play a pair of home-and-home series this season, the first of which is set for Nov. 18 and Nov. 20, with the first game set for Mankato and the second game to be held at St. Thomas. MSU will again travel to face UST on Jan. 20, two days in advance of Hockey Day Minnesota.
Strong non-conference schedule
After the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancelation of a strong non-conference schedule last season that included series against Minnesota Duluth and Providence, MSU has put together a challenging schedule outside of the CCHA this year.
It begins with a season-opening series at Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center on Oct. 8 and 9, when MSU will get a rematch with the team it lost to in the national semifinals in Pittsburgh in early April. St. Cloud State comes to Mankato to open the regular season; it's the Huskies first trip to Mankato since they played a single game against the Mavericks on Oct. 7, 2017, a 4-0 SCSU win. The Huskies came to Mankato the previous season for a non-conference series on Oct. 14-15, 2016. MSU swept that series, 4-1 and 6-4.
Following the opening series against SCSU this season, the Mavericks' first road trip is Oct. 15-16 to Duluth for the Ice Breaker Invitational. The Mavericks are set to face Providence in the opening round and either Michigan or Minnesota Duluth the next day.
MSU have a week off after the Ice Breaker, then will play its first-ever CCHA series at home on Oct. 29-30 against Northern Michigan.
Other highlights of MSU's schedule:
• The Mavericks play no more than three consecutive games at home or on the road this season.
• The two games MSU plays at the Ice Breaker are considered exempt from the NCAA maximum of 34 regular-season games that teams are allowed to schedule, meaning the Mavericks could have scheduled 36 total regular season games. However their schedule released Thursday shows 34 regular-season games.
• The Mavericks' weekends off include: Oct. 22-23, Dec. 12-29 (holiday break) and Feb. 11-12.
• MSU has a home-and-home series set with Minnesota Duluth. The teams are scheduled to play in Mankato on Dec. 30, then play again at Duluth on Jan. 1.
• MSU plays at Bemidji State on Dec. 10-11, and the Beavers go to Mankato Feb. 18-19, the Mavericks final home regular season games of the year.
• For a second consecutive season, the Mavericks will play at Lake Superior State, but the Lakers do not come to Mankato. Lake State's lone appearance in Mankato last season was for the WCHA final four, which the Lakers won and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This season, MSU makes the trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on Thanksgiving week, Nov. 26-27.
• MSU closes the regular season at Michigan Tech on Feb. 25-26.
• Arizona State comes to Mankato for the second time in three years. The Sun Devils are scheduled to play a two-game non-conference series against the Mavericks on Jan. 28-29.
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Minnesota State 2021-22 schedule
8-9 — St. Cloud State
15-16 — at Ice Breaker Tournament (at Duluth)
29-30 — *Northern Michigan
5-6 — *at Ferris State
12-13 — *Bowling Green
18 — *St. Thomas
20 — *at St. Thomas
26-27 — *at Lake Superior State
3-4 — *Michigan Tech
10-11 — *at Bemidji State
30 — Minnesota Duluth
1 — at Minnesota Duluth
7-8 — *Ferris State
14-15 — *at Northern Michigan
20 — *at St. Thomas
22 — *St. Thomas (HOCKEY DAY MINNESOTA '22)
28-29 — Arizona State
4-5 — *at Bowling Green
18-19 — *Bemidji State
25-26 — *at Michigan Tech
4-6 — CCHA quarterfinals
11-13 — CCHA semifinals
19 — CCHA championship
25-27 — NCAA Regionals
8-10 — NCAA Frozen Four (Boston)
* — CCHA games