The National Women's Hockey League announced its 2019-20 schedule on Monday, and the Minnesota Whitecaps will open defense of their league championship with a two-game series on Oct. 12 and 13 against the Metropolitan Riveters at TRIA Rink in St. Paul.

The five-team NWHL expanded its schedule to 24 games this season, up from 16, and its fifth season will run from October through March 1. The Whitecaps have one home series in October and one in December before playing half of their 12 home games during a three-week stretch in January, with series against Buffalo (Jan. 11-12), Connecticut (Jan. 18-19) and Boston (Jan. 25-16).

Minnesota, which won the Isobel Cup as an expansion team last season, closes the regular season with a home series against Connecticut on Feb. 29 and March 1. All of the Whitecaps' series will be played in a Saturday-Sunday format.

The Whitecaps also will play two exhibition games – against the Gophers at Ridder Arena on Sept. 22 and against Minnesota Duluth at AMSOIL Arena on Sept. 29.

For the NWHL, the upcoming season will be one of transition, with more than 200 of the top players in North America boycotting play in hopes of gaining a more financially viable league. The Whitecaps announced the signing of five players this spring and recently held a free agent camp.

The 2019-20 Whitecaps schedule:


Sept. 22 at Gophers, 2 p.m. (free admission)

Sept. 28 at Minnesota Duluth, 4 p.m.

Regular season

Oct. 12-13 vs. Metropolitan, 2 p.m., 3 p.m.

Oct. 19-20 at Boston, 5:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 26-27 at Connecticut, 2:30 p.m., 12:30 p.m.

Nov. 23-24 at Buffalo, 6:30 p.m., noon

Dec. 14-15 vs. Metropolitan, 7 p.m., 1 p.m.

Dec. 21-22 at Connecticut, 4 p.m., 12:30 p.m.

Jan. 4-5 at Metropolitan, 6:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.

Jan. 11-12 vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m., 1 p.m.

Jan. 18-19 vs. Connecticut, 1 p.m., 3 p.m.

Jan. 25-26 vs. Boston, 6 p.m., 1 p.m.

Feb. 22-23 at Buffalo, 1:30 p.m., noon

Feb. 29-March 1 vs. Connecticut, 7 p.m., 1 p.m.