On Friday the WCHA announced the early portion of the conference schedule. Just like the Big Ten on the men’s side, each team will play eight conference games before the end of the year and the holiday break. Minnesota will open their season on Saturday November 21st at home at Ridder Arena against the team that ended their season a year ago in the Ohio State Buckeyes.
As we summarized last week, the WCHA needed to figure out what to do with testing discrepancies between the three Big Ten schools in the conference (Minnesota, Wisconsin, OSU), and the four Division II NSIC teams (UMD, St. Cloud, Minnesota State-Mankato, and Bemidji State). In the end the conference decided to buy themselves some extra time by only having Big Ten schools face one another and NSIC schools face one another in the 2020 portion of the schedule—with one exception. Minnesota-Duluth is the one team that will straddle the divide playing schools from both ends of the conference. The Bulldogs will play a series against both the Gophers and Badgers as well as a pair of games against St. Cloud and Mankato.
Minnesota will open the season with a home Saturday/Sunday series against the Buckeyes at Ridder Arena. It will be a rematch of the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal where the Buckeyes beat the Gophers 4-3 in what would end Minnesota’s season. The two teams were set to face off once more the following week in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, but the game and the rest of the season were cancelled due to COVID.
After the series against the Buckeyes Minnesota will head up I-35 to play a pair of games against UMD in Duluth on Thanksgiving weekend. The following week the Gophers will return to play against the Big Ten schools when Wisconsin comes to Minneapolis for a pair of games, and the week after that the Gophers will fly to Columbus to finish the season series against Ohio State. By playing the Buckeyes in December, the Gophers will not need to get on a plane the rest of the season easily bussing to the other four Minnesota schools and Madison. Definitely helps the flexibility in case games need to be moved due to COVID considerations.
With the exception of the opening Saturday/Sunday series the remaining three series are all the standard Friday/Saturday unlike the Gopher men who will play on just about every day but Friday and Saturday. This obviously means the majority of the games will not be televised, but the usual streaming options should be available—-for a fee of course.
As had been previously announced, no public tickets will be available to any Gopher game this season, and all Minnesota athletes will abide by the Big Ten testing and return to play standards. How this will apply to the other non-Big Ten schools is yet to be seen, but is something the conference is working on while setting the second half of the conference schedule.
For now, Gophers fans can just be excited that we will have both men’s and women’s Gopher hockey in less than two weeks!