Start making plans for next season Gopher fans.
Minnesota released its full 35 game regular season 2015-16 schedule on Tuesday, opening the year October 10th against Vermont in a stretch where 7 of the first 11 games are at home.
The Gophers will play 19 times at Mariucci - including its first US Hall of Fame Game since 2012 - and go on the road for 14 games. The team will also participate in the third annual North Star College Cup at neutral site Xcel Energy Center with Bemidji State (Friday's opponent), St. Cloud State and Minnesota State.
In addition to the NSCC, Minnesota will play in St. Paul for the Big Ten conference tournament on March 17-19 as well as the West Regional the next weekend if the Gophers make the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year. The team is the host of the region, meaning that it will automatically be placed there if it is one of the 16 teams fighting to reach the Frozen Four.
It's likely Minnesota also will host a Canadian team in an exhibition before the season, however, that has not been announced.
Earlier this month the Big Ten released the 20 game conference schedule for all six teams. You can click on that for some thoughts I had on the conference schedule. One thing to point out is that there officially is no outdoor game for the third time in four seasons despite the Minnesota Wild playing one at TCF Bank Stadium.
Non conference games:
- October 10 vs. Vermont - US Hall of Fame Game
- October 16/17 vs. Minnesota Duluth (Friday October 16 at Mariucci, Saturday October 17 in Duluth)
- October 23/24 vs. Northeastern
- November 6/7 at Notre Dame
- November 13/14 vs. Minnesota State (Friday Nov. 13 in Mankato, Saturday Nov. 14 at Mariucci)
- November 27/29 vs. St. Cloud State (Friday/Sunday)
- January 1/2 Mariucci Classic with Ferris State, UConn and Harvard. The Gophers play UConn first and the corresponding Ferris/Harvard winner/loser the next day.
- January 29/30 North Star College Cup at Xcel Energy Center.
(All dates are Friday/Saturday unless noted)
The Gophers open the year with an extra game - the US HOF Game, like the Ice Breaker or playing in Alaska, does not count against the 34 game limit. Minnesota then faces familiar 2014-15 foe Minnesota Duluth - the team which eliminated Minnesota in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament and went 4-1 against the Gophers - in a home-and-home series. Minnesota State is also a home-and-home series.
Minnesota travels to South Bend, Indiana for the third consecutive year. That series and the Northeastern one likely will be part of the Big Ten/Hockey East championship provided that still is a thing or the B1G hasn't lost the trophy partying too hard.
Gopher football hosts Wisconsin in the Axe Game on November 28th, which is why the second game against St. Cloud State is delayed a day. Normally at least one series during football season gets pushed back to Friday-Sunday when both teams are at home.
It's a more difficult non-conference slate compared with the two Big Ten teams that have previously released their schedule. As Chris pointed out Thursday with Michigan's release, Northeastern, St. Cloud State and one game of UMD/Minnesota State is more difficult than Robert Morris, Dartmouth and Mercyhurst. The Gophers play 4 different Hockey East teams, 2 NCHC teams, 2 WCHA teams (possibly 3), possibly 1 ECAC team and 0 Atlantic Hockey teams.
Partially it helps that 8 of the 15 non-conference games are against in-state Minnesota schools, of which 4 of the 5 made the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Lastly, since several people ask every offseason: North Dakota and Minnesota will begin playing one another in non-conference series beginning NEXT season. That's next season as in 2016-17.
Big Ten Conference Games
- December 4/5 vs. Ohio State
- December 11/12 at Michigan
- January 8/9 at Penn State
- January 15/16 vs. Michigan State
- January 22/23 at Wisconsin
- February 5/6 vs. Penn State
- February 12/13 at Ohio State
- February 25/26 (Thursday-Friday) vs. Michigan
- March 4/5 at Michigan State
- March 11/12 vs. Wisconsin
- March 17-19 (Thursday-Saturday) Big Ten tournament at Xcel Energy Center
(All dates are Friday/Saturday unless noted)
Minnesota will be defending both the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament championships. Head coach Don Lucia's will be doing so without six seniors who graduated in the spring as well as juniors Brady Skjei, Adam Wilcox and Mike Reilly. All three will forego their senior year after signing pro contracts (or will soon, in the case of Reilly).
In their places are transfer Nick Seeler, who had to sit out last year, and a number of freshmen who started summer classes last week. Minnesota hasn't released its roster for 2015-16 yet.
Check back here for when that happens.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate