Don Lucia has hinted that the Gophers would be in the Ice Breaker Tournament this coming season.
Well, on Friday, the official announcement was made.
The 2013 Ice Breaker Tournament will be at Mariucci Arena. As its name implies, it is sorta the traditional start to the college hockey season.
Dates are Oct. 11-12. Pairings have not been set yet. but the other three teams are all from the East: Clarkson, Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. Not the greatest field:
* Clarkson. Finished ninth in the suddenly powerful ECAC, which had two teams in the Frozen Four title game. Clarkson was 8-11-3 in conference, 9-20-7 overall. So only 1-9-4 in nonconference games.
* Mercyhurst. Was 12-11-4 in Atlantic Hockey to finish sixth. Was 19-17-5 overall.
* New Hampshire. Wildcats tied for third in Hockey East with Boston University and Providence. All had 32 points -- two behind conference champion UMass-Lowell. NH was 17-14-7 overall.
The Gophers, of course, tied for first in the WCHA with St. Cloud State. They were 16-7-5 in conference play, 26-9-5 overall finishing with a thud, losing 3-0 to Colorado College in the Final Five semifinals and to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in the West Regional semifinals.
Expect U of M to be matched up with either Clarkson or Mercyhurst in first game, setting up a possible meeting with New Hampshire in the championship game.
This is the 17th annual Ice Breaker.
And, in 2013-14, more than any other season, there will be a lot of changes in college hockey. The Gophers will be in the new Big Ten Conference, for instance.
“Next year will be the beginning of a new era for the Gopher hockey program, and we’re excited to open the season at Mariucci Arena with the Ice Breaker Tournament,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a U of M news release. “It’s a great event for college hockey as a whole, and considering we haven’t seen these teams for a few years, I think it will be an exciting weekend for our program as well as our fans.”
“Mariucci Arena is one of the best venues in college hockey and a terrific location to celebrate the start of the 2013-14 season,” College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee said. CHI is putting on the Ice Breaker along with the Gophers. “The four participating programs have storied histories, outstanding coaches and talented student-athletes who will showcase our sport in the Ice Breaker.”
The four schools in the 2013 field have combined for 89 NCAA Tournament appearances.
New Hampshire was also in the NCAA tournament this year.
Ice Breaker Tournament tickets will be included in season-ticket packages for Minnesota season-ticket holders. Single-day and standing-room tickets will be available at a date to be determined.
Minnesota is hosting the Ice Breaker Tournament for the third time. In 1998, the second year of the tournament, Boston College won the title at Mariucci Arena. In 2007 the event took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with the host Gophers winning the tournament.
What comes to mind from the 2007 tournament -- which I covered -- is that forward Ryan Stoa suffered a season-ending knee injury. He took a medical redshirt that season and played the next season for the Gophers before turning pro.
Clarkson and New Hampshire are each making their third Ice Breaker appearances. The Wildcats captured championships in both their previous appearances (2000 at Michigan, 2004 at UNH).
Clarkson was part of the first Ice Breaker Tournament, in 1997, and in 2001 at Maine.
Mercyhurst will be making its first Ice Breaker appearance.
This will be an unusual hockey season for the Gophers. They will play in three regular-season tournaments. They also will host their traditional holiday tournament in late December and then be part of a four-team, all-Minnesota tournament at the Xcel in January, playing St. Cloud State in their first game. Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato will meet in the other game the first day.
That tournament does not have a name yet. Its modeled, roughly, after the Beanpot in Boston.