The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team will bring three in-state rivals to Ridder Arena this weekend—but not for WCHA games. The Gophers will host the inaugural Minnesota Cup at Ridder Arena this weekend. It will be much like the former North Star Cup on the men’s side—except that this tournament will rotate between the various teams’s home rinks, and Minnesota will not be a guaranteed entrant every single season. They will rotate out just like the other four Minnesota schools.
As Nate Wells describes in The Athletic, this tournament is coming about to solve a problem. Since North Dakota disbanded their women’s team and left only seven teams in the WCHA, the WCHA schools have struggled to schedule an additional four non-conference games on their schedule on short notice. Its not easy being the westernmost college hockey conference and needing to find room in a budget for an extra flight to play eastern teams. Thus with the support of the WCHA and the five in-state Minnesota teams they decided to come up with the Minnesota Cup.
The tournament will be held for at least the next four years and will feature four of the five Minnesota WCHA schools every year. The tournament will also rotate to each school’s home arena. Thus while the Gophers will host this year’s tournament at Ridder Arena, they will rotate out in 2020 and will not participate while the tournament heads up to Duluth. Minnesota will rotate back in in 2021 at the tournament moves to St. Cloud.
This year it is Bemidji State that will be the team looking in from the outside. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State will play in one semifinal Saturday and the Gophers will face UMD in the second game. They two losers and the two winners will both play on Sunday with the Gophers playing the late game no matter what. While all the schools are WCHA foes, this games will be classified as non-conference games and will not count in the conference standings.
Minnesota will look to remain hot to start 2019. The Gophers ended 2018 on a ten game wining streak including a 6-0 non-conference stretch to end the year. Minnesota is currently ranked #2 in the country behind only rival Wisconsin. With the Badgers coming to Minneapolis in two weeks, the Gophers would like to regain their stride after the holiday break quickly. While UMD will not be an easy test with US Olympian Maddie Rooney in net, the Gophers should be able to pick up a sweep this weekend and at Mankato next weekend setting up the massive Border Battle tilt.
HOW TO WATCH
Minnesota Cup @ Ridder Arena
Saturday 1PM—Minnesota State Mankato vs St. Cloud State
Saturday 4PM UMD @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
Sunday 1PM : MSU/SCSU vs UMD
Sunday 4PM MSU/SCSU @ Minnesota
All games will stream on BTN+ ($$). Free Live audio can be heard for the Gopher games HERE