Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Gophers vs. UND in January will be hot, hot ticket

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey, North Dakota Updated: November 8, 2012 - 8:40 AM

John Reynolds, who has followed Gophers hockey for 40 years, is not a happy camper.

He can't understand why the Gophers will not play North Dakota the next few seasons.

The Don tried to explain why on his weekly radio show on Monday. He said, in matter-of-fact fashion, that the U could not schedule a team with an American Indian nickname in a nonconference game by school rules. That dispute -- to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname or not -- at UND has only been settled recently.

In late September, UND and the NCAA agreed which signage could stay and which had to go at Ralph Engelstad Arena. A month later, workers took down the "Home of the Fighting Sioux" sign on the front of the building.

By then, Lucia seemed to imply, the Gophers' schedule, which will include a whopping 14 nonconference games -- the U will have only 20 conference games in the six-team Big Ten -- was all filled up for the next few seasons. The U will be playing the other Division I teams in the state and schools like Notre Dame, where his son Mario is a  freshman, Boston College and Northeastern, Lucia said.

UND? They might return to the U schedule in three, four years, Lucia said.

 Last year on the Gophers' trip to Grand Forks, UND coach Dave Hakstol told boosters at a Friday lunch that he would love to play the Gophers every year. He would keep a spot open for them. He even proposed a home-and-home series so fans of both teams could see the other team every year.

Because it's such a long bus trip from Grand Forks to Minneapolis, a home-and-home series would have to have a travel day in between. So games would be either Thursday-Saturday, or Friday-Sunday if the Gophers agreed. No sure thing.

Hakstol made it clear UND wants the rivalry to continue.  Lucia has often said the Gophers' trips to Grand Forks are his favorite. But he does not seem particularly broken up about the Gophers not playing UND for a few seasons.

Certainly not like longtime Gophers fan John Reynolds is.

Here are John's  top five reasons to keep the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux on the U's schedule:

1. PairWise rankings support playing tougher schedule. (Those rankings, which factor in strength of schedule, are used by the NCAA to pick nine at-large teams for its postseason tournament.)

2. Attendance and revenue at Mariucci (go) through the roof for those games. (Yes, they do.)

3. Tradition. The thing Mariucci fought for…let MN kids play college hockey who are every bit as good as the Canadians ND brings in. This more than anything else has fueled the intensity over the last 50 years. (John Mariucci is a former Gophers player and coach.)

4. TV ratings. By far the most watched Gopher games of the year. More ad revenue for FSN means more money for U athletics.

5. History. No games in college hockey match the historical significance of this game and rivalry. And no teams produce more amazing finishes. Broten's game-winner in '79 finals, Blake Wheeler's diving play in WCHA finals. I could go on and on.  ... This (break in the rivalry) is like saying Ohio State and Michigan should stop playing football.

This season the Gophers and North Dakota meet only once. They play their last WCHA series on Jan. 18-19 at Mariucci. UND will be joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference next season.

 




 

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