The Big Ten announced the conference schedule for the 2016-17 hockey season on Thursday. You obviously knew the 20 games the Gophers would play in the Big Ten portions of their season, but here is the when.
The Gophers will open the conference season at home against Ohio State. They will also make a trip to East Lansing to take on the Spartans before the holiday break. The Gophers will jump back into Big Ten play on January 13th at Mariucci when Michigan makes the trip to Minneapolis. The following weekend the Gophers will the their shortest road trip in conference play to Madison for a weekend series with the Badgers. After taking a weekend off from Big Ten teams for the North Star Cup, the Gophers open February with Penn State at Mariucci before back to back road weekends to Columbus and University Park against the Buckeyes and Nitttany Lions. The Gophers will close out Big Ten play with a home series against Wisconsin, a trip to Ann Arbor and finally host Michigan State in the last series of the season before the Big Ten Tournament in Detroit.
So....positives and negatives to the Gophers Big Ten Schedule:
- NO WEIRD DATES!!! All of the Big Ten games this season for Minnesota will be your standard Friday/Saturday dates. No Thursday or Sundays...at least in the conference schedule.
- FAIRLY EVEN SPLIT BETWEEN HOME AND ROAD. The Gophers never play more than two series in a row at home or on the road. In fact, the Gophers never have back to back home weekends this season, and will have just one back to back road trip to Columbus and University Park.
WEIRD BYE WEEK. The Gophers are used to a bye week in the middle of the Big Ten Season, but thanks to the way things are schedules this season, they won't get a single week off after the holiday break. The Gophers play two conference series in 2016 before taking two weeks off. The Mariucci Classic will close 2016, and then the Gophers will get one additional week off before starting up Big Ten Play again against the Wolverines. The only non-Big Ten week on the schedule between January and the Big Ten Tournament is filled with the North Star Cup at X for Minnesota....so no getting healthy weekends between January and March.
What About the Non-Conference Schedule??
Minnesota has not yet announced their non-conference schedule, but from their opponents schedules being announced, we can piece together almost every singe remaining game. They are as follows:
Friday Oct 7-Sunday Oct 9--Kendall Classic in Alaska
October 7 vs Alaska Anchorage
October 9 vs Alaska Fairbanks
Friday October 21 vs St. Cloud State
Saturday October 22 @ St. Cloud State
Friday October 28 @ Clarkson
Saturday October 29 @ St. Lawrence
Friday November 4 North Dakota
Sunday November 6th North Dakota
Friday November 18 Minnesota State-Mankato
Saturday November 19 @Minnesota State-Mankato
Friday December 30-Saturday December 31 Mariucci Classic
(UMass, Mercyhurst, Alabama-Huntsville)
Friday January 27-Saturday January 28th--North Star Cup (Xcel Energy Center)
January 27 vs UMD
January 28 vs Bemidji State/ St. Cloud State
Minnesota will also have a series in Boston with one game against Boston College and the other against Northeastern. No dates are set for that, but the only two available weekends are either November 11-12, or November 25-26.
The one slightly disappointing thing will be that since the North Dakota series is scheduled for a football weekend (Gophers host Purdue on 11/5) the hockey games will almost surely be Friday/Sunday. Having the main marquis non-conference series extend to Sunday, where crowds and crowd excitement have been severely depressed in the past is disappointing, but a necessary evil.
The official announcement of the non-conference schedule should occur soon, and the full TV schedule and game times will most likely be announced some time in August.