State of Hockey
by Joshua Berhow/CHN Writer
Finally, the ‘State of Hockey’ will get its stage.
Boston has always had the Beanpot. Michigan has the Great Lakes Invitational. Now Minnesota has something of its own.
Saturday, the four Minnesota-based WCHA teams will be on display in the first annual Minnesota College Hockey Showcase at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Minnesota-Duluth will host St. Cloud State at 4:07 p.m. in the first matchup, followed by Minnesota State hosting Minnesota at 7:37 p.m.
“It has a Beanpot feel to it,” said WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod, referring to the annual Boston tradition. “The idea’s been floating around for 20 years to do something like this and it’s been talked about off and on."
The Gophers host the Mavericks at Mariucci Arena the night before the showcase, with UMD and SCSU both having Friday night off. The pair will play just a single game Nov. 29 in Duluth, concluding UMD’s home schedule with SCSU.
The Mavericks enter the series after an idle weekend and 1-1 WCHA record. The Gophers lead the WCHA early in the season with a 3-0-1 record. SCSU was swept by the Gophers to open conference play and the Huskies split with Bemidji State last weekend.
UMD is 0-1-1 in league play, earning its only point in a tie Saturday in Anchorage. The Bulldogs swept the Huskies last season in Duluth, 2-1 and 4-2, in their only series of the season.
The Huskies are one of two WCHA teams without points this season, but might get a break Saturday, playing in a neutral setting even though they are the visitor.
“We’re still on the road in another WCHA game,” said Huskies head coach Bob Motzko. “We only get one crack this week and all four WCHA teams want a win this weekend.”
Although both games will be important early-season matchups within the conference, the spotlight might be on the later game.
The Gophers and Mavericks meet for the first time since last year’s WCHA playoffs in Mankato, where the Gophers came from a game down to win the last two, earning a Final Five bid and an eventual NCAA tournament appearance.
The series may have also rejuvenated a rivalry, in a series where all three games went to overtime, combining for 262 minutes and 10 seconds of hockey.
“It’s a different team this year and we’re a little more experienced this year,” said MSU junior forward Trevor Bruess. “I don’t know if [last year’s series] will carry over so much, but it’s just going to be another battle like it is every series against them. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Mavericks, however, will be the home team at the Xcel, though the arena is just mere miles for the University of Minnesota campus and Mariucci Arena.
“Hopefully we’re playing in the ‘X’ in March,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting, referring to where the Final Five is held. “But it’s a good time for us to have a game there and get some experience in the building. It’s nice to play at home, but if you’re going to be a good hockey team you got to be able to play everywhere.”
Though McLeod said it’s not clear whether the showcase will happen next year since scheduling is already underway, it should start being an annual event the following year at the latest. Bemidji State, the other Division I Minnesota team, has also been thrown around in discussions for future inclusions into the showcase.
“If it works in the schedule I think it would be great,” Jutting said. “It’s a great opportunity for the hockey fans of Minnesota to see all four WCHA Division I teams at one time in one setting. If it works out scheduling wise I think it would be great to do.”
UMD and MSU, acting as the home teams, will receive the financial funds from the games. Around 8,000 tickets were already sold about a week before face off.