Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota Duluth and Amsoil Arena will not host the 2020 Ice Breaker, and instead the event will return to Duluth for the start of the 2021-2022 season, the university announced Tuesday.
UMD was scheduled to host Minnesota, Minnesota State-Mankato and Providence on Oct. 9-10, 2020. The tentative dates for next season's Ice Breaker at Amsoil are Oct. 15-16, 2021. Minnesota State and Providence will take part, however, Minnesota will not due to a scheduling conflict.
"Given the latest input and guidance from the university, local and state officials as well as public health experts, we have decided at this time it is not possible to host the 2020 Ice Breaker Tournament in a successful manner," UMD athletic director Josh Berlo said in a statement. "Ultimately, the health and well-being of the participants, staff, coaches, campus and community led us to this decision."
The Bulldogs last hosted the Ice Breaker in 2017 featuring the Gophers, Michigan Tech and Union. Sponsored by the Hockey Commissioners Association and College Hockey Inc., the Ice Breaker games receive a special exemption from the NCAA limit of 34 games in a season. None of the four teams scheduled for the 2020 Ice Breaker will be able to replace the games lost.
UMD confirmed last month it will not host the University of Guelph, located near Toronto, in an exhibition on Oct. 3 after Canada’s national governing body of college sports, U Sports, canceled all events through Dec. 31, 2020, due to the coronavirus. That game has already been removed from the schedule.
A nonconference flight to UMass-Lowell scheduled for Oct. 16-17 is also being pushed back a year due to coronavirus concerns. Instead the Bulldogs will take a bus trip to Northern Michigan that weekend. The Wildcats were originally scheduled to host Boston University that same weekend, but the Terriers reportedly asked the series to be moved to 2021-22 due to uncertainty over COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus — which halted the 2019-20 college hockey season just as men’s conference tournaments were getting underway and days before the start of the NCAA women’s tournament — has shown no signs of slowing down in the United States this summer.
Even before the cases began to rise in the U.S. in mid-June, COVID-19 had already reportedly forced many NCAA men’s and women’s hockey programs to reconsider long-distance nonconference trips, whether it included teams from the West heading East or vice-versa. Holy Cross cancelled a trip to Arizona State and St. Cloud State has reportedly considered pulling out of a trip this year to Boston to play Boston College and Northeastern.
On July 8, the Ivy League — with six members who play hockey in ECAC — announced none of its members will take part in athletic events prior to Jan. 1. Meanwhile, other leagues — including the Big Ten — have announced their fall sports teams will only play conference opponents in 2020. No decision has been made about nonconference games for its seven men’s hockey members.
The NCHC has not announced any changes to its conference schedule at this time. UMD is scheduled to host Nebraska-Omaha to open league play Nov. 6-7.
Swapping out Lowell for Northern, the Bulldogs are currently scheduled to play four nonconference series against teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — at NMU Oct. 16-17, home vs. Wisconsin Oct. 23-24, at Minnesota State Oct. 30-31, and home-and-home with Bemidji State Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Alaska Fairbanks is scheduled to visit Amsoil Arena Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 27-28. The Nanooks are at Northern Michigan the week before.
But as with everything for the upcoming 2020-21 college sports season, all schedules carry a “subject to change” disclaimer.