The University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux, who have reached the NCAA Tournament eight consecutive years with four Frozen Four appearances during that span, will be one of attractive matchups on the University of Maine’s men’s hockey team’s schedule which was announced Wednesday.
The Black Bears and the Fighting Sioux will square off at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22-23. It is the first of a home-and-home arrangement between the two schools with Maine traveling to Grand Forks, N.D., for a pair in 2011-2012.
North Dakota wound up 25-13-5 this past season and won the WCHA Tournament before losing to Yale 3-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Three of Maine’s six non-league opponents participated in the NCAA Tournament last season.
“I’m thrilled with the schedule,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Non-league games are usually done a couple of years in advance and you don’t know how the teams will line up when you play them. But this coming year’s schedule lines up real well.
“It’s going to be a very challenging schedule but we want to compete at the highest level and we need to test ourselves against the very best teams throughout the year,” said Whitehead. “This will great for the fans and the players.”
He also said strength of schedule is an important criteria in terms of NCAA Tournament consideration.
The 11th annual Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla., on Dec. 29-30 will have three NCAA tourney teams with Maine being the only team that didn’t qualify.
Miami, 29-8-7 this past season and a Frozen Four participant for the second straight year, will face Maine in the first round of the Florida College Classic. Miami lost to eventual national champ Boston College 7-1 in the semifinals. In 2008-2009, the RedHawks lost to Boston University 4-3 in overtime in the NCAA title game.
Miami has made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Maine will play either St. Cloud State, 24-14-5 and an NCAA Tournament quarterfinalist, or Cornell, 21-9-4 and a first-round loser in the NCAA tourney, in the championship or consolation game the next day. Cornell has two consecutive NCAA tourney appearances and St. Cloud has three in the past four years.
The Black Bears will travel to Michigan State for a two-game set on Oct. 14-15. The Spartans didn’t make the NCAA tourney, going 19-13-6 and losing to Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals.
Maine and Michigan State split a two-game series in Orono in October.
Maine’s other non-conference game will come against the University of Connecticut from Atlantic Hockey. Maine will entertain UConn, 7-27-3 this past season including a win over Frozen Four participant Rochester Institute of Technology, on Oct. 9.
That will be one night after Maine opens the season with a Hockey East game against visiting UMass Lowell.
Maine will play 27 Hockey East games.
Maine also has exhibition games against Acadia University (Nova Scotia) on Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. at Alfond Arena and the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad in Portland on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m.
Maine will return 11 of its top 12 scorers; its entire defense corps and two goalies off last year’s 19-17-3 team that lost to Boston College 7-6 in overtime in the Hockey East title game.