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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Wisconsin expecting big drop in ticket revenue for first Big Ten hockey season

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: February 21, 2013 - 12:51 PM

Andy Baggott of the Wisconsin State Journal recently wrote that the Badgers' athletic department is predicting a loss of $470,000 in ticket revenues next season when UW -- and the Gophers -- leave the WCHA for the new Big Ten Conference.

The Kohl Center, which has a capacity of 15,237 for men's hockey, only averaged 11,773 for 20 games last season, 2011-12.

And the average attendance this season, 2012-13,  has fallen off even more.

Eight games in the first half of this season drew 75,350 or an average of 9,419. Of course, the Badgers had an awful start. Since Jan. 1, seven games have drawn 78,991 or 11,284. (The outdoor game last Sunday at Soldier Field was not included because that was a special event. It drew over 50,000 for two games.)

Add those numbers up and the Badgers have drawn 154,341 for 15 dates, or  10,289. The largest crowd so far in 2013 has been for the Friday game of the Gophers series last week. It drew 13,611. Still not close to a sellout.

One especially troubling sign for next season is what fans at games this season do when promos for the Big Ten Conference hockey are shown on the scoreboard. Fans boo loudly, Baggot tweeted. Truly  a bad sign.

The Badgers host Penn State, another future Big Ten, on Sunday and Monday. Have to check  what those crowds will be like?

UMD RIVALRY WITH U RENEWS AFTER LOOONG WAIT

The last time the Gophers and Minnesota Duluth played was 16 months ago. The Gophers played the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena on Oct. 14-15, 2011.

I had the privilege of covering those games for the Star Tribune. And they were great. Probably the best series I saw all of last season.

In Game 1 on Friday, the Gophers won 5-4 in overtime on a goal by Nate Condon at 4:04 of the five-minute extra period. Condon scored just after stepping on the ice. He was so excited.

Kent Patterson, the Gophers senior goalie, stopped 46 shots! Three in OT.

UMD was coming off an NCAA title in 2011, so it was a big opening WCHA series for the Gophers on the road.

It was racehorse hockey with the teams combining for 36 shots in the first period, 28 in the second, 22 in the third and eight in overtime.

Ken Reiter made 39 saves for UMD in front of 6,751 fans, a packed arena in other words.

Game 2 was more of the same. And Patterson stole the game. The Bulldogs outshot the Gophers 50-16 -- that's not a typo -- but still won 5-4, the same score as Friday night.

Nick Bjugstad and Condon, with his second goal of the game and third of the series, gave the Gophers a 4-2 lead with unanswered goals in the second period. Kyle Rau scored the game-winner, on a power play at 10:02 of the third period, to make it 5-2.

But UMD kept attacking. Caleb Herbert scored at 11:38 and J.T. Brown, now a pro hockey player, at 14:55 to set up a wild final five minutes.

Somehow the Gophers hung on to sweep the series. It was a great start to a season in which Minnesota was in first place in the WCHA from start to finish exept for part of one weekend in January when UMD took first. 

The Gophers are 11-3-1 in their last 15 games against UMD.

Both teams have struggled of late. UMD more so.

The Bulldogs had a six-game losing streak until tying Bemidji State 1-1 last Saturday.

The Gophers have split three series in a row, a home and home with Minnesota State, a road series with St. Cloud State, and a series with Wisconsin last weekend when one game was at the Kohl Center and the other outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The last five games were on the road and the Gophers went 3-2.

"You look at 3-2 against the teams we played that is good," Gophers coach Don Lucia said, adding it was disappointing to lose the second game the last two weekend  when the U had a chance to sweep.

Said junior defenseman Jake Parenteau of the Bulldogs: "[They're] fast, physical. Same kind of play as us. They are going to be shooting hard and passing hard."

UMD is only 10-16-4 overall and 8-12-4 in the WCHA, tied for eightt place with Colorado College. The 'Dogs only have  a slim mathematical chance of home ice left.

Even so, UMD still can shoot the puck. The 'Dogs have outshot their opponent 25 times in 30 games. They average 33.17 shots per game, 10th in the nation.

THE FUTURE OF UMD-U SERIES

 Next season, UMD will play the Gophers in a two-game nonconference series on Nov. 22-23 at Mariucci, according to Kevin Pates, 'Dogs beat writer for the Duluth News-Tribune. He adds that the Gophers and UMD will play home and home series in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The rinks, Mariucci and Amsoil,  are about 150 miles apart. Not-too-bad of a 2-1/2 hour car or bus ride.

Next season, UMD and the Gophers will also be in the all-Minnesota teams tournament at the X in the second half of the season, but won't play the first day so they might not meet. The Gophers will open with St. Cloud State, UMD with Minnesota State Mankato. Then, I believe, the winners and losers meet the second day.

ETC.

* The final Blue Line Club luncheon of the season will be held at 11:45 a.m. on Friday at Jax Cafe in Nordeast Minneapolis.

* The last time UMD played the Gophers was Friday and Sunday, Dec. 10-12, 2010. A snowstorm close the U of M campus down on Saturday and delayed the second game by one day. The same storm caused the Metrodome to collapse. So it was a memorable weekend. 

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