One thing the new Big Ten Conference in hockey has going for it is strong fan support.

Four of the top 10 programs in average attendance last season will be members of the Big Ten in 2013-14.

The Gophers were second in average attendance, Wisconsin third, Michigan State eighth and Michigan 10th. The other two members of the Big Ten will be Ohio State and Penn State.

The only other conference close to the Big Ten in turnstile numbers is the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The eight-team league also had four teams in the top 10 in attendance last season, including No. 1 North Dakota, which averaged 11,592 fans for 21 home dates.

2012-13 Average Attendance Leaders
1. North Dakota 11,592
2. Minnesota 9,950
3. Wisconsin 9,521
4. Nebraska Omaha 7,233
5. Colorado College 6,979
6. Boston College 6,384
7. Minnesota Duluth 6,206
8. Michigan State 5,869
9. New Hampshire 5,521
10. Michigan 5,357

Source: UND



Almost a third of the 30 players inited to the U.S. women's under-18 evaluation camps in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 22-25 are Minnesotans.

Defenseman Sydney Baldwin of Shorewood (Minnetonka HS) and forward Taylor Williamson of Edina (Edina HS) attended the camp a year ago and played against Canada in a series that followed.

Those two and forward Maliya Rodgers of Minnetonka (Minnesota Junior White Caps) played on the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the U18 World Championships in January in Finland.

Rodgers is a third Minnesotan with a camp invite. The other six are:

* Goalies Erin O'Neil of Minnetonka (Hopkins HS) and Maddie Rooney of Andover (Andover HS)

* Defensemen Grace Bizal, Minnetonka (Hopkins HS), Mary Kate Hallet, Edina (St. Paul United) and Patricia Marshall, Thief River Falls (Shattuck-St. Mary's)

* Forward McKenna Brand, Nevis, Minn. (North American Hockey Academy) 

Two staff members are also from Minnesota: Joel Johnson, White Bear Lake, video coordinator, and Dean Thibodeau, St. Cloud, hockey operations assistant.


* The Gophers' web site still does not list whom they will play in the first game of the 2013 Ice Breaker. But Mercyhurst's site does. The Lakers of Atlantic Hockey will play the U of M at Mariucci on Oct. 11.

Clarkson's site concurs. It has the Golden Knights playing New Hampshire in the other first-round game. UNH has the same pairing in the early game.

Which all makes sense. If the Gophers and the New Hampshire Wildcats of Hockey East both win, the two strongest teams in the field, based on records last season, will meet in the championship game.

* The Texas Tornado of Frisco, Texas, is pulling up roots and the NAHL franchise is moving south to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. It will play in the suburb of North Richland Hills and be known as the Lone Star Brahmas.

* Denver recently added three more players for this season: F Emil Romig of Vienna, Austria; D Nick Neville of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and G Greg Ogard of Wilmette, Ill.

Romig had 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points in 54 games with Corpus Christi of the NAHL. ... Neville played the past two seasons with the Texas Tornado and had 12 goals and 52 assists in 119 games. ... Ogard had a 2.84 GAA and a .925 save percentage with Bay State of the Eastern Junior Hockey league last season. The Pios will have nine freshmen, including Matt Van Voorhis of Edina.

* Second-year St. Cloud State AD Heather Weems has started a monthly blog, called Words with Weems. The first blog reviews what happened in the 2012-13 school year in athletics with the Huskies.


Days to Gophers' first game in Ice Breaker: 71

Days until first practice, presumably Sat., Oct. 5: 65

College and state hockey preseason blog No. 3.