Long rumored, two of college hockey's biggest and brightest fanbases will head out to the lights of Las Vegas in a couple years.
North Dakota hosts Minnesota on Saturday, October 27, 2018 as part of the 2018 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at the arena inside Orleans Hotel & Casino, the two schools announced Wednesday.
"This is both a great experience for our student-athletes and an opportunity to grow the game in a non-traditional college hockey market," Gopher head coach Don Lucia said in a statement. "Taking our rivalry with North Dakota to Las Vegas will be great for both programs, our fans and college hockey, and we are certainly looking forward to it."
The Fighting Hawks will play in the exempt U.S Hockey Hall of Fame Game each of the next 3 seasons. Going to a college hockey-desolate area like Las Vegas is just one trip for the defending national champions, who travel to New York City this year to face Boston College.
Situated 2 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, Orleans Arena seats approximately 7,500. It once hosted the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL before the team folded. Playing there is a more intimate atmosphere than T-Mobile Arena, which opened in April on the Strip and will host an NHL expansion team beginning in 2017-18.
If college hockey teams taking their rivalry halfway across the country to Sin City is not your cup of tea then the two longtime rivals extending a four-year agreement to play one another might be instead.
"Continuing this rivalry is a big deal for our program and our fans," said UND head coach Brad Berry in a statement. "These are two very proud and historic programs, and the memories these games have created throughout the years has cemented it as the best rivalry in college hockey."
The two teams will play for the first time in the regular season this November since January 2013. (The Gophers defeated North Dakota when the two teams met in a 2014 Frozen Four semifinal, a game that neither fanbase needs much reminding.) The past two seasons without games were the first time since the 1940s love was not lost between Minnesota and UND.
After playing in Minneapolis this season, the Fighting Hawks host in Grand Forks the following year before the 2018 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Following the trip out west to Las Vegas, the 2019-20 and 2021-22 series will be at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Games in 2020-21 and 2022-23 will be played at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.
All in all, North Dakota and Minnesota are slated to face each other 13 times over the next 7 seasons.