Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Scheduling stories

Perhaps nothing has shed more light on the impending breakup of the WCHA quite like Minnesota and North Dakota playing each other for the final time last weekend. Currently, the two teams, which are leaving the WCHA for the Big Ten and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, respectively, will not square off again in the regular season for at least three years, and fans seem to be more than a little perturbed about it.

Gophers coach Don Lucia said that North Dakota's at-the-time-unresolved nickname issue forced Minnesota to move on and schedule other opponents, including other national powers like Boston College and Notre Dame. (Minnesota has a policy that it cannot schedule nonconference events against schools with Native American nicknames and mascots; that issue at UND was finally resolved last summer, apparently after the U set its schedules.)

Ironic, isn't it, that many folks on the UND side who are irate that Minnesota didn't automatically continue the rivalry or save a spot on the schedule for the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux are some of the same people who have told angry fans of the WCHA left-behinds to get over it?

While keeping that rivalry going would be good for college hockey (as would keeping the WCHA intact, with or without the Big 10 schools), I think Minnesota deserves some kudos for maintaining the other Minnesota programs on its schedule. 

According to Star Tribune writer' Roman Augustoviz's blog, the Gophers will host series against Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth, travel to Bemidji State for two games and play St. Cloud State in the first round of the yet-to-be-named all-Minnesota tournament next January (MSU will play UMD in the first round). That's good for college hockey, too.

"That was a priority," Lucia said on his radio show Monday. "They all wanted to play us. That is important for our state."

Speaking of schedules, Minnesota State and the other future WCHA programs are in the midst of looking over their slate of games for next year and beyond and trying to find a way to get Alabama Huntsville on immediately as a full-time conference member. Huntsville isn't on MSU's schedule for next year, and the league schedule and many nonconference weekends were already set. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said the schedule is being considered at the conference level right now.

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