One of the most heated rivalries in college hockey will end a three-year hiatus starting in the 2016-17 season, now that the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota have agreed to a two-year deal to play each other.
The Gophers will host North Dakota for a two-game series in the 2016-17 season at Mariucci Arena and then travel to Grand Forks for a series in 2017-18 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Dates for both series between the powerhouse programs have yet to be set.
The two schools made the announcement Thursday and distributed to the news media a “Rivalry Renewed” flier with two current Minnesota Wild players wearing their respective college jerseys and engaging in a stare-down: Zach Parise for North Dakota and Keith Ballard for Minnesota.
The rivalry went dark this season when the two schools left the WCHA for new conferences; the Gophers to the Big Ten and North Dakota to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Gophers head coach Don Lucia said in September that the rivalry was on hold until 2016-17, once Notre Dame comes off the schedule. UND faithful, however, suggested that Lucia just assume have his Gophers take a break from the rough and tumble squad formerly known as the Fighting Sioux.
Games have often been pitched battles of emotion, even with scuffling during the postgame handshake during one recent game. The two programs also often find themselves competing for the same high school recruits, only adding to the tension when the puck is dropped.
“This is a rivalry that our fans, alumni and team look forward to renewing,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “It is one of the most heated in all of college sports.”
Hakstol should know. He had to apologize for making an obscene gesture during a game in 2008 that was caught on the Fox Sports North telecast.
The two programs’ battles started in 1930 and were an annual event from 1948 to 2013 before the conference realignment.
“We’re thrilled to officially get North Dakota back on our schedule and to renew one of the greatest rivalries in our sport,” Lucia said. “This rivalry is great for our programs, great for college hockey and great for our fans, and we’re excited to bring North Dakota back to Mariucci Arena.”
North Dakota and Minnesota have combined for 12 national championships, 39 NCAA Frozen Four appearances, and six Hobey Baker Award winners.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482