Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin will open the 2021-22 season with an exhibition at 1 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Chippewa Area Ice Arena in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
The late addition to both the Bulldogs and Badgers schedules comes after the NCAA approved a waiver for NCAA teams to play each other in exhibitions in 2021-22. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has once again made season-opening exhibitions against Canadian universities impossible in 2021-22.
The event is being advertised as an "exhibition scrimmage" with a mix of scrimmaging, special teams and drills. Tickets will be sold by the Chippewa Youth Hockey Association from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday in Chippewa Falls for $10, with a limit of six per person.
UMD coach Scott Sandelin said the Badgers reached out to him last week about playing each other somewhere between Madison and Duluth to limit travel for both sides. Stevens Point and Eau Claire were also discussed, but in the end the Badgers settled on Chippewa Falls, Sandelin said.
“Neither one of us really wanted to drive to each other’s place,” said Sandelin, whose Bulldogs will make the 144-mile drive down U.S. Highway 53 in the morning and return right after the game. “I’m glad we were able to take advantage of the waiver, certainly. We’ve done Canadian universities. This was in the works last year if teams could play, there was talk about it and nothing really happened. I wish it would have happened sooner, but it’s fine. It’s good to get a game. We can do some different things.”
UMD opens the regular season on Oct. 8 at Bemidji State, with the Beavers then coming to Amsoil Arena in Duluth on Oct. 9. Wisconsin hosts Michigan Tech on Oct. 8-9 in Madison to open its regular season.
The Bulldogs and Badgers are not scheduled to play each other in 2021-22, however, Wisconsin is tentatively scheduled to come to Amsoil Arena in 2022-23.
UMD has played a season-opening exhibition in just two of the previous five seasons, losing both times to University of Alberta at Amsoil Arena. UMD hosted Lakehead University for three consecutive seasons from 2013-15.
Recent season-opening exhibitions for UMD
2021-22: vs. Wisconsin (at Chippewa Falls, Wis.)
2019-20: vs. Alberta (5-3 L)
2017-18: Alberta (4-3 L)
2015-16: vs. Lakehead (6-1 W)
2014-15: vs. Lakehead (4-2 W)
2013-14: vs. Lakehead (7-1 W)
Because of the pandemic, the Bulldogs opened last season without a nonconference slate, playing nine NCHC games in a Pod in Omaha, Nebraska.
Sandelin said he would like to see the NCAA extend the exhibition game waiver beyond this season, and even allow teams to play up to two or three exhibition games to start the season.
But more than that, Sandelin said he would like more time for his team to practice in full prior to the start of the season. Programs are currently limited to just four hours of on-ice time per week up until Oct. 2, when it increases to 20 hours. Oct. 2 is also the first day teams can schedule competition.
Sandelin said being able to get in a full 20-hour week of practice prior to that first day of competition is important.
“We need to start practicing. It’s a safety thing, for me,” Sandelin said. “We should be able to be on the ice that week before you can officially play games.”