In what has been most definitely not a normal year, the Big Ten is getting ready for what will be most definitely not a normal hockey season. To prove that point the Big Ten released a partial season schedule on Thursday that includes games for the seven conference schools and Arizona State through the Christmas Break. The Minnesota Golden Gophers will kick off their season at home when they host Penn State on Thursday November 19th.
The Gophers had four series announced for the first part of their season. Minnesota will host Penn State for a Thursday/Friday series on November 19th and 20th. They will then have a short turnaround as they will host the Ohio State Buckeyes for a pair of games on Monday and Tuesday November 23rd and 24th. Minnesota gets Thanksgiving weekend off before opening the road portion of their schedule on Thursday and Friday December 3rd and 4th at Michigan State. They will stay in the Mitten State and head to Ann Arbor to play the Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday and Wednesday December 8th and 9th to close out the announced portion of their schedule.
Minnesota will play only eight games in this portion of the schedule while everyone else will play ten. All of the schools will play eight conference games during this stretch with every other team besides Minnesota playing two of their four non-conference games against Arizona State in the early portion of the season. Minnesota will have four games against the Sun Devils in the 2021 portion.
It’s obvious that there are some very non-traditional game days on this schedule. In fact there will most likely be some very non-traditional game times as well. With no public crowds allowed at any of the games the Big Ten has maximized the schedule for TV purposes. That’s why you literally have games being played over all seven days of the week. Game times and TV assignments have yet to be announced but you should not be shocked at all to see multiple 4PM faceoffs on weekdays to get a game televised on BTN leading into basketball coverage.
That is of course assuming all of the currently scheduled games can be played. All seven Big Ten hockey teams and Arizona State are all abiding by the same medical protocols that were developed by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force and announced on Sept. 16, 2020, including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition. As we have seen on the football side of things it does not take much of a problem to create an epic snowball of consequences—and obviously you have a lot smaller hockey rosters.
Hopefully we will have game time and TV assignments sooner rather than later—especially as conference games kick off a week from today with Wisconsin and Notre Dame facing off in South Bend. The rest of the 2021 portion of the schedule will be announced at a later date as well—keeping maximum flexibility for the ability to reschedule series that may get postponed due to COVID issues over the next seven weeks.
Hopefully things will go well and we will have Gopher Hockey in thirteen days. Look for season preview articles to begin to appear here starting next week.