Gophers coach Don Lucia said the five Minnesota Division I hockey schools have agreed to play in a tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, modeled after the Beanpot in Boston, although nothing has been officially signed.
It would be held starting in 2013-14 when the five state schools get separated. The Gophers will join the Big Ten, Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State will join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Bemidji State and Minnesota State will stay in a much different-looking WCHA.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi also recently confirmed such a four-team tournament was in the works.
It will be held the weekend before Super Bowl in February 2014, Lucia said, which also happens to be the same weekend as the NHL all-star game. So there will not be any competing NFL or NHL games on TV.
The Gophers will be in Minnesota's Beanpot -- a name for it has not been chosen -- every year. Their first-round opponent will be the one Minnesota team they do not have a series scheduled with that season.
Lucia said the Gophers will have a two-game nonconference series with the other three Minnesota teams, either at home or away. That ensures the Gophers will play all four of the other state teams every season.
"That is something that are in-state fans can really look forward," Lucia said on Monday during his radio show on 1500-AM, "and hopefully we can make the Xcel Center that weekend a destination weekend and have 18,000 [to] 19,000 people there every year.
"[The Beanpot] is a big alumni deal and, hopefully, that is what we can make ours, too. Because if you go to school in Bemidji or Duluth or Mankato or St. Cloud -- well, a lot of those alums live in the Twin Cities. So there is no reason that can't be a big alumni event much like the Beanpot.and we can make it into that."
* The 60th Beanpot, which is always held the first two Mondays in February, began today. In the first semifinal, game Boston University beat Harvard at the Garden before 17,565. Boston College and Northeastern, two other Boston-area teams, played in the second semifinal.
THE DON'S WEEKEND
Even with the Gophers idle, Don Lucia still had a busy weekend. His schedule:
Friday: Attended junior game
Saturday: Went to tribute for the late Lefty Smith -- a mass and dinner -- at Notre Dame and then attended the Irish's hockey game at their new arena. ... His son Mario was at Notre Dame for a visit; he has signed with the Irish for next season.
"That is the first time I have been back to watch Notre Dame play a hockey game since I graduated," coach Lucia said.
Sunday: At Super Bowl in Indianapolis with Mario. "For him, it was his first NFL game," The Don said. "We picked a good one to go to."
"Watching that celebration makes you envious," Lucia said. "How fun it is, and how much goes into it. And what a great accomplishment something like that truly is."
* Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel went to Colorado to watch his son Gabe, a defenseman for Colorado College, play against Denver on Saturday.
THE WCHA RACE
The Gophers go into the final month of the regular season with a three-point lead over second-place UMD.
"It's a nice situation for us to be in, but we don't want to spend any business looking at what is down the line," Lucia said. "We know we have a very difficult weekend with Denver. They have certainly given us fits over the years. Going into Magness has never been an easy place for us to play well or win at."
Lucia said the off week for the Gophers came at a good time for his team. It enabled some players to recover from injuries. "It was important for Nick and Kyle, who didn't get that break [because] of the World Juniors," Lucia said, referring to Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, "to have a little physical and mental down-time."
Bjugstad and Kyle played for the U.S. team in the World Junior Championships in Calgary and Edmonton over the holiday break.