Thursday, May 4, 2017

Minnesota's 2017-2018 Schedule & Thoughts

Via @GopherHockey

Consider it schedule day. Minnesota, the Big Ten and WCHA all announced its 2017-2018 schedules.

In it the Gophers face three Frozen Four finalists, six Big Ten opponents, a service academy, and a temporary break of a 25 year-plus tradition.

The first half of this morning's article remains relevant. Go ahead and ignore the second half.

2017-18 Minnesota Schedule

All games Friday/Saturday unless otherwise noted

10/1/17 (Sunday) - vs. University of Alberta (Mariucci Arena) - EXHIBITION
10/6/17 - University of Minnesota Duluth (Amsoil Arena) - Ice Breaker Tournament
10/7/17 - Michigan Tech/Union (Amsoil Arena) - Ice Breaker Tournament
10/13/17 - vs. Penn State (Mariucci Arena)*
10/14/17 - vs. Penn State (Mariucci Arena)*
10/20/17 - at North Dakota (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
10/21/17 - at North Dakota (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
10/27/2017 - vs. Clarkson (Mariucci Arena)
10/28/2017 - vs. Clarkson (Mariucci Arena)
11/3/2017 - vs. Michigan State (Mariucci Arena)*
11/4/2017 - vs. Michigan State (Mariucci Arena)*
11/10/2017 - at Michigan (Yost Arena)*
11/11/2017 - at Michigan (Yost Arena)*
11/17/2017 - vs. Harvard (Mariucci Arena)
11/18/2017 - vs. Harvard (Mariucci Arena)
11/24/2017 - at Notre Dame (Compton Family Ice Arena)*
11/25/2017 - at Notre Dame (Compton Family Ice Arena)*
12/1/2017 - vs. Wisconsin (Mariucci Arena)*
12/2/2017 - vs. Wisconsin (Mariucci Arena)*
12/8/2017 - at Ohio State (Schottenstein Center)*
12/9/2017 - at Ohio State (Schottenstein Center)*
12/29/2017 - vs. Army (Mariucci Arena)
12/30/2017 - vs. Army (Mariucci Arena)
1/6/2018 - at St. Cloud State (Herb Brooks National Hockey Center)
1/7/2018 (Sunday) - vs. St. Cloud State (Mariucci Arena)
1/12/2018 - vs. Michigan (Mariucci Arena)*
1/13/2018 - vs. Michigan (Mariucci Arena)*
1/18/2018 (Thursday) - at Michigan State (Munn Ice Arena)*
1/20/2018 - vs Michigan State in NYC (Madison Square Garden)*
1/26/2018 - vs. Notre Dame (Mariucci Arena)*
1/27/2018 - vs. Notre Dame (Mariucci Arena)*
2/2/2018 - BYE
2/3/2018 - BYE
2/9/2018 - at Wisconsin (Kohl Center)*
2/10/2018 - at Wisconsin (Kohl Center)*
2/16/2018 - vs. Ohio State (Mariucci Arena)*
2/17/2018 - vs. Ohio State (Mariucci Arena)*
2/23/2018 - at Penn State (Pegula Arena)*
2/24/2018 - at Penn State (Pegula Arena)*

3/2-3/4/2018 - Big Ten Quarterfinals (Best of 3)+
3/10/2018 - Big Ten Semifinal (Single Game)+
3/17/2018 - Big Ten Championship+

3/23-3/25/2018 - NCAA Tournament Regionals (Sioux Falls, SD; Allentown, PA; Bridgeport, CT; Worcester, MA)
4/5/2018 - Frozen Four Semifinals (Xcel Energy Center)
4/7/2018 - Frozen Four Championship (Xcel Energy Center)

*Big Ten Conference Game
+At higher seed on campus

Some quick notes and thoughts:

-The annual Mariucci Classic to kick off the second half is off the schedule this year due to schedule conflicts. Minnesota expects it to return from hiatus for 2018-19, per a source.

Minnesota hosting the Mariucci Classic goes back to December 1991 when Bowling Green, Boston College and Providence all came to old Mariucci Arena. Each year since featured a tournament in one format or another without interruption.

In its place, the Gophers host Army December 29-30. For consolation I'll take it. The Black Knights remain one of the few college hockey teams I've yet to see in person (Tate Rink is on the bucket list) as the last time Army faced Minnesota was December 1966.

-Mentioned in this morning's blog: Conference games are no longer second half-only. Big Ten play will be an all-season deal. The home opener against Penn State doubles as the conference opener. Minnesota faces the Nittany Lions to begin and end the regular season.

Last time the Gopher home opener was against a conference foe? Denver in 2009-2010.

-At first glance Minnesota faces a tough opening stretch with the Ice Breaker, Penn State and North Dakota being the opening three weeks.

-Final tally: 19 home games (12 conference, 7 non-conference), 15/16 road games (11 conference, 4/5 non-conference) , 1/2 neutral site games (1 conference, 0/1 non-conference). Not sure how to classify the second Ice Breaker game.

Minnesota had 16 home games plus 2 at Xcel Energy Center in 2016-17.

-Speaking of strength of schedule, the Gophers will face seven 2017 NCAA Tournament teams (UMD, Harvard, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, North Dakota and either Michigan Tech or Union in the Ice Breaker). Minnesota plays three of the four Frozen Four teams, missing only national champion Denver.

-Schedule conflicts with football are kept to a minimum. Minnesota's schedule lists only one hockey home game (October 14th vs Penn State) currently scheduled for the same night as a Minnesota football home game.

-Gopher hockey travels to Michigan the week after Minnesota football is at the Big House. Too bad those don't happen the same weekend.

-For those traveling to Ann Arbor or South Bend, both football teams are away that weekend.

- Was right in the previous blog about when the Gophers travel to Notre Dame. Wrong about Minnesota State. Sorry everyone.

-A little disappointed on top of the North Star College Cup's demise to see only one home game with another Minnesota school. No Mankato. No Bemidji. While cuts needed to be made with added Big Ten games, it seems off to be so "State of Hockey" light. There are more road games with the Gophers facing UMD in Duluth, SCSU in St. Cloud (and UND in Grand Forks for that matter).

-Minnesota's single bye week comes February . How does that compare to last season? The Gophers had 2 byes (albeit one was an exhibition) in the first six weeks. 2017-18 opens with 10 straight weekends of games (11 if the exhibition opener counts).

Due to that, the six game November-December stretch of Harvard through Wisconsin (eight including Ohio State on the road) to end the first half stands out in several ways.

-The St. Cloud State series was moved from January 5-6 to January 6-7 because of World Juniors, which run through January 5th. Huskies head coach Bob Motzko will double as the US WJC head coach for the second straight year.

-Last but certainly not least, I am very interested in seeing how the new Big Ten schedule helps/hurts teams. Getting some conference games - enough where an October loss can make a difference in the final standings - early mixed with non-conference in theory should help younger teams (i.e. Michigan in 2014-15) finding their legs. Pairwise isn't settled before the conference games begin. This ends up being a more even schedule.

I also wonder whether BTN will start broadcasting men's hockey in October with conference games being played all season.

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