Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BLOG: North Star College Cup comes to an end + 2017 Nonconference Schedule

(Photo Credit: Nate Wells)

Enjoy this weekend's North Star College Cup. It will be the last one for a while.

The demise of the NSCC after the fourth year of the original deal has been rumored for a while and was confirmed earlier today. Paul Bunyan's Pimp Chalice, as I fondly like to call it, will soon be a memory, a nostalgic piece of hardware going the way of the DQ Cup.

Here's the official statement:

"Following discussions between the five institutions, the decision has been made that the North Star College Cup will not continue after this year's upcoming tournament.

Our institutions had hoped the tournament would appeal more to fans, however the interest level has not grown over the last four years as we had hoped. In addition, teams have expressed interest in rewarding their fans with games at their home venues."

Sadly the in-state Minnesota tournament at Xcel Energy Center, the North Star State's version of Boston's Beanpot or Michigan's GLI never found a crowd. Attendance dropped vastly after the first year. Different times and days were tried. Promotion seemed to be few and far between as the NSCC got lost between Hockey Day Minnesota, the Winter Carnival and (last year) Stadium Series.

If there's time this week or early next I'll try to write a column on what went right, wrong and general thoughts on the matter. We'll see - every day the to-do list keeps growing.

There were some great moments in the first three years of the North Star College Cup. Minnesota won the first year in a shootout over UMD. Bemidji State, the fourth team after three conference leaders, won on the back of Michael Bitzer. St. Cloud State's performance last year showed why it was worthy of being a #1 seed come tourney time.

At the end of the day it was one of those events where everyone agreed it needed to happen. Minnesota schools should play other Minnesota schools. No one could agree on how to do it. Teams would rather host the Gophers at their own rinks to get a sellout than play at a neutral site, which when it comes down to dollars and cents makes sense.

(An example is Minnesota Duluth announcing that the Gophers will return to AMSOIL Arena in two years as part of the 2017 Ice Breaker the day Minnesota last played in Duluth. Another is the difference in attendance Minnesota State and St. Cloud State had this year when the Gophers came to town versus every other team, including other in-state schools.)

A number of you asked how this effects Minnesota's non-conference schedule. Short answer? It doesn't. The Gophers still play 3 of the other 4 in-state schools, plus North Dakota next season as part of its 36 game schedule.

2017-18 University of Minnesota non-conference schedule
-Ice Breaker tournament in Duluth (UMD, Union and Michigan Tech)
-At North Dakota
-Host Clarkson
-St. Cloud State
-Minnesota State
-Host Mariucci Classic

The Ice Breaker is an exempt tournament, which is why the Gophers (who will face UMD in the opening round) can schedule 36 games. Other exemptions are the Hall of Fame Game, which Minnesota played in 2015 and will in 2018 against North Dakota in Las Vegas. Games in Alaska, which Minnesota did this year to open the season, also are exempt.

Minnesota's number of non-conference games drops from 14-16 to 10-12 with the addition of Notre Dame to the Big Ten conference adding 4 conference games.

The four-year series between BC/Northeastern came to an end with this year's series. Those two teams are off the schedule. Clarkson/St. Lawrence remain with a similar four-year deal that began this year. The Gophers head out back to the North Country in 2018-19 and welcome St. Lawrence the following season.

Other long-term schedule agreements are UMD from 2018-19 to 2022-23 and North Dakota from 2019-20 to 2022-23. Don Lucia mentioned in November that other Minnesota schools will be scheduled, but with non-conference limitations it will be impossible to schedule every team every season.

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