The Minot State University men's hockey team began its first-ever title defense Saturday by revealing its 2013-14 regular season schedule.
The Beavers schedule features 34 games, 18 of which come at Maysa Arena - both program records. Half of MSU's opponents are against teams ranked in the top 20 of last year's final American Collegiate Hockey Association poll.
"That's always been our problem, either not enough games or the gaps were too large," MSU coach and ACHA coach of the year Wade Regier said. "This year it's absolutely huge for our fans. The community is a hockey community and they look forward to those huge weekends. When they come to the arena they are going to see some exciting hockey."
MSU opens the season on Sept. 13 at Briercrest College (Sask.) before the teams travel to Minot for the Beavers' home opener on Sept. 20 at Maysa Arena. Two weeks later, MSU raises its championship banner against No. 14 Central Oklahoma on Oct. 5.
"I'm pretty excited," Regier said. "The banner came in two weeks ago and it looks outstanding. Something of this magnitude is big. It's exciting for the community to witness something like this. It's energized our alumni and they are anxious to see the banner."
The Beavers eliminated the Bronchos in the second round of the 2012 ACHA National Tournament. UCO isn't the only tournament rematch on MSU's schedule. The Beavers host No. 2 Lindenwood (Mo.) for two games beginning Oct. 18 in a rematch of the national championship game. Regier said it's the first time Lindenwood has come to Minot since 2005, when he was a sophomore on the Beavers' roster.
All Times Central
September - 13, at Briercrest (Sask.), 8 p.m.; 14, at Briercrest, 3 p.m.; 20-21, vs. Briercrest, 7:30 p.m.
October - 4-5, vs. Central Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m.; 11-12, at North Dakota State, 7:30 p.m.; 18, vs. Lindenwood (Mo.), 7:30 p.m.; 19, vs. Lindenwood, 2 p.m.; 25, vs. Colorado State, 7:30 p.m.; 26, vs. Colorado State, 5 p.m.
November - 1-2, vs. Williston State, 7:30 p.m.; 7, at Arizona State, 10 p.m.; 8-9, at Arizona, 9:30 p.m.; 15-16, at Iowa State, 7:30 p.m.
December - 5, at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.; 6-7, at Colorado State, 8:30 p.m.
January - 10-11, vs. Ohio, 7:30 p.m.; 15, at Williston State, 7 p.m.; 22, at Williston State, 7 p.m.; 24-25, vs. Oakland (Mich.), 7:30 p.m.; 31, at Illinois, 8:30 p.m.
February - 1, at Illinois, 8:30 p.m.; 14-15, vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m.; 28, vs. North Dakota State, 7:30 p.m.
March - 1, vs. North Dakota State, 7:30 p.m.; 7, vs. TBD at national tournament.
MSU hosts No. 4 Ohio University on Jan. 10-11 in a national semifinal rematch.
Regier said the success of the program in the last year has helped draw interest from teams across the country when it comes to scheduling.
"Just the fact that we were a top five team going into the tournament, that helped," he said. "For future planning it's been huge. Even this year we're going to Illinois, we're going to Iowa State and they are guaranteed to come back here (next year)."
The Beavers go on a two-month hiatus from Maysa Arena from Nov. 7 to Jan. 10 for an eight-game road trip. Included in that trip is a game against No. 3 Arizona State, followed by two with No. 20 Arizona. Arizona comes to Minot in mid-February, but Arizona State doesn't make the trip to Maysa Arena this season.
"It's part of the nature of being an independent," Regier said. "For our team, we schedule long road trips because it prepares you for the national tournament."
MSU plays four games each against North Dakota State and NJCAA defending champion Williston State College. The season concludes with the national tournament in Delaware beginning March 7.
Mike Kraft covers the Minot Minotauros and racing at Nodak Speedway while assisting with Legion baseball coverage. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft_23.