Gophers' Phase 2 men's hockey schedule starts on Jan. 3

The much-anticipated next phase of the Minnesota Gophers' 2020-21 schedule was released on Friday, with the nation's top-ranked team opening the new year with a non-conference home series versus Arizona State on Jan. 3-4 in Minneapolis. They have 20 games remaining between then and the first weekend of March.

Motzko Bob_Refs-2.jpg
Unmasked conversations between coaches and officials, like this one between Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko and two NCHC referees before an October 2018 game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, will not happen in the Big Ten this season, with the conference requiring face coverings for officials and non-players on the benches. Jim Rosvold / University of Minnesota Athletics photo.

MINNEAPOLIS — For those who watched the Minnesota Gophers’ last series, a men's hockey road sweep at Michigan, and complained that it wasn’t the “real” Gophers and Wolverines, with so many players from both rosters gone to the IIHF World Junior Championships, you will get another shot. Those teams close out the 2020-21 Big Ten regular season.

The much-anticipated Phase 2 of the conference schedule was released on Friday afternoon, and the Gophers will be back on the ice right away after the calendar flips to 2021, hosting Arizona State in a pair of non-conference games on Sunday, Jan. 3 and Monday, Jan. 4.

Some coaches, including the Gophers’ Bob Motzko, had expressed a desire to see the slate weeks ago, so they could plan the players’ holiday breaks, but on Friday he praised the Big Ten for COVID-19 protocols that saw only one series postponed due to the virus in Phase 1.


“The frustration never came from not having a schedule, because our league has done everything great for us to play," Motzko said. “We had one series cancelled in our first portion. That’s pretty good. We knew they were working on the schedule.”

As one of two independent teams in Division I hockey, the Sun Devils are playing their entire season on the road versus Big Ten teams, as they had few other options to get games.

The timing of the non-conference series is fortuitous for the Gophers, who are off to an 8-0-0 start and ranked atop the national polls. They will be without three of their top defensemen then, as Ryan Johnson, Jackson LaCombe and Brock Faber are off skating for Team USA. A loss to the Sun Devils would not damage the Gophers in the Big Ten standings, which they currently lead by eight points over second place Wisconsin.

“I’ve never looked at non-conference any different than I do conference games. They all matter toward the ultimate goal of getting into the NCAA tournament,” Motzko said. “We kind of knew we’d play without those three kids, and I hope we’re still without them then, because that means Team USA is still winning.”

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The Badgers will get a chance to close that standings gap on Jan. 9-10 when the Gophers play in Madison. Those games will be followed by four straight at home, versus Notre Dame and then Arizona State again. The Gophers end January with a two-game set at Ohio State on Jan. 29-30.
A home series with the arch-rival Badgers opens February, which has the Gophers playing two at Notre Dame, hosting Michigan State for a pair, making the long road trip to Penn State for two, then closing the regular season with that two-game set versus Michigan on March 5-6.

After playing a few midweek games in Phase 1 of the schedule, the Gophers are back to a traditional Friday-Saturday rotation for seven of their final 10 regular season series.


There were up to 250 fans allowed inside 3M Arena at Mariucci for the Gophers’ first two home games, Nov. 19-20. With more strict limits on gatherings in place after that, no fans were allowed at the team’s home series with Ohio State prior to Thanksgiving. It is unknown whether changes in state mandates will mean some fans allowed at games in January and beyond.

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Brad Rempel / University of Minnesota Athletics

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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