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2016 North Star College Cup Preview

Matt Christians

What: North Star College Cup presented by TRIA

Where: XCel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

When: Saturday January 30th(St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota State 1:05pm, Bemidji State vs. Minnesota 4:05pm), and Sunday January 31st(Consolation 1:05pm, Championship 4:05pm)

Television: All games broadcast on Fox Sports North, Minnesota's two games will also be streamed via BTN2Go

Overtime: The overtime procedure for the first three games of the tournament will follow the Big Ten's overtime protocol: a five-minute 5-on-5 overtime period, followed by a three-round shootout to determine a winner. Sunday's championship game will have a full 20-minute periods until a winner is decided.

The third annual North Star College Cup faces off this weekend at the XCel Energy Center with a slight twist in schedule this year. This year, the tournament moves to a Saturday/Sunday afternoon format after trying out a Friday/Saturday evening format in the first two years. The change definitely makes it easier for fans to make it to the first semifinal game, especially since the majority of fans coming for that first game are traveling from out-state.

This year's tournament should be a good one. St. Cloud State comes in as the heavy favorite this year. They sit second nationally in the Pairwise Rankings and already have sweeps over first round opponent Minnesota State and potential championship match-up Minnesota. For Minnesota and Minnesota State, both teams are currently sitting outside the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and these last non-conference games of the season are one of their last best shots to push themselves into at-large tournament bid consideration, especially if they can notch a win over highly-rated St. Cloud State. Bemidji State comes into this year's tournament playing the role of spoiler, much as they did last season when they upset Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State to take home the title.

All four teams come into this weekend playing some of their best hockey of the season too. Minnesota has won their last five games to surge to the top of the Big Ten standings. St. Cloud State only has one loss in their last ten games dating back to late 2015 and currently leads the NCHC. Minnesota State only has one loss in their last five games and leads the WCHA conference standings. Even Bemidji State is on a roll with just one loss in their last eight games.

It should make for a fast-paced, fun weekend of hockey with any of the four teams capable of taking home the title.