Fans attending the third annual North Star College Cup next January will get their nights back after watching two games at Xcel Energy Center.
Rather than play a traditional Friday-Saturday series, 2016's edition will instead occur on Saturday January 30th and Sunday January 31st. The change from the first two tournaments was announced Tuesday.
Originally the North Star College Cup was scheduled for Friday January 29, 2016 and Saturday January 30th.
Minnesota State and St. Cloud State will open the battle for state bragging rights at 1 p.m. CT Saturday with Minnesota and Bemidji State playing the other semifinal at 4 p.m. CT. The winners play for this fabled trophy Sunday at 4 p.m. CT. Saturday's two losers will precede the championship with a game at 1 p.m. CT Sunday.
The North Star College Cup is an in-season tournament at an NHL arena among the five Division 1 programs in Minnesota. Four play every year with one rotating out; this year is Minnesota Duluth's turn. (Bemidji State sat out in 2014, St. Cloud State did in 2015 and Minnesota State will in 2017.) At its core the NSCC is similar to the Great Lakes Invitational in Michigan or Massachusett's Beanpot without the decades of history, Monday starts and entitlement of a "best tourney evah!"
Changing the date does not appear to be a scheduling conflict. Nothing is currently booked at Xcel Energy Center on Friday. January 29-31 is the NHL's All-Star weekend along with the week before the Super Bowl. Downtown St. Paul, however, has hosted a parade as part of the Winter Carnival the same weekend as the NSCC, making a trip to Xcel Energy Center a crawl at best.
From a logistical standpoint, moving to Saturday-Sunday also should in theory help with attendance in the early game. Getting fans of schools like Bemidji (four hours from St. Paul) to drive in for a Friday afternoon game is asking a lot out of them. Attendance at those in each of the first two tournaments - despite officially being announced in the 14K range - showed. There were plenty of empty seats filled in as the night went on.
Plus Sunday games stand out from a crowded schedule, helping create a "best tourney ever dontcha know" feeling.
College hockey TV schedules have yet to be announced, but all four NSCC games has been shown on Fox Sport North each of the past two seasons.
Bemidji State won the 2015 North Star College Cup, defeating then-#1 Minnesota State 3-1 in an all-WCHA championship. Minnesota won the inaugural version by tying UMD and winning a shootout.
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