MINNEAPOLIS – The 103rd edition of the Golden Gopher men’s hockey season kicks off on Sunday evening with an exhibition game against in-state rival, Bemidji State. The game will take place at the newly-renovated 3M Arena at Mariucci and will be streamed live on B1G+ at 6 p.m.
The offseason saw the first major renovation project at 3M Arena at Mariucci in its 30-year history. The upgrades included a state-of-the-art ice plant, a more energy-efficient refrigeration system, and a reduction in the size of the ice sheet. The ice now measures 200-by-89 feet, resembling an NHL ice sheet, and has added approximately 257 seats to the arena, increasing the official capacity to 10,257. The dasher boards and glass have also been updated to enhance player safety, and a modern LED system has been installed to improve brightness inside the arena.
Minnesota and FOX 9 have partnered for local television broadcasts of 10 home games and four road games in the 2023-24 season. Additionally, the Big Ten Network will air 11 games, while one game will be broadcast on FS1. Fans can check the schedule page on GopherSports.com for the latest information on viewing options.
The Gophers are aiming to become the first team in the history of college hockey in the Big Ten Conference to win three consecutive regular season titles. After winning back-to-back titles and being picked to finish first in the conference standings in the preseason poll, Minnesota is determined to achieve this three-peat.
Six players from the Gophers, including Jimmy Snuggerud and Luke Mittelstadt, were named to the Preseason All-B1G Teams for 2023-24. Snuggerud, the defending B1G scoring champion, and Mittelstadt were selected for the All-B1G First Team, while Bryce Brodzinski, Justen Close, and Mike Koster made the All-B1G Second Team. Ryan Chesley received honorable mention honors.
Minnesota ended the 2022-23 season with the highest-scoring offense in the nation, averaging 4.2 goals per game. With the return of five players who scored double-digit goals last season, the Gophers boast the nation’s top returning offense, bringing back 108 total goals from 13 different players. Snuggerud, with 21 goals as a freshman, leads the group, followed by Brodzinski with 19 goals. Rhett Pitlick, Jaxon Nelson, and Mason Nevers, who each scored 10 goals, will also play key roles in the offense this season.
The Gophers’ freshman class and graduate transfer Nick Michel are predominantly from Minnesota, with over 90% of the roster consisting of homegrown talent. Of the 25 players on the team, 23 played youth hockey within the state, and 17 of them are from within 40 miles of the campus. Minnesota has the highest number of student-athletes from the state on NCAA rosters, with a total of 233 players.
The leadership crew for the Gophers this season brings a wealth of experience, with all four players wearing letters on their jerseys having played in over 100 college hockey games. Mike Koster and Jaxon Nelson serve as captains, while Bryce Brodzinski and Mason Nevers are alternate captains.
Minnesota’s hockey program has experienced a resurgence in recent years, making the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons and reaching consecutive Frozen Fours. The team holds a 6-3 record in the national tournament, outscoring opponents 36-22. With 61 NCAA wins, the most of any college hockey program, the Gophers continue to restore pride in their on-ice performance. Under Coach Motzko’s leadership, the team has consistently been ranked in the top five of national polls.
The Gophers faced Bemidji State in an exhibition game last season, winning 2-1. The two teams have not met for an official game since 2019, with Minnesota holding a dominant 20-2-1 record in the all-time series, including a 13-1-0 record in home contests.
In their final season on the Olympic-sized ice sheet at 3M Arena at Mariucci, the Gophers excelled with a 16-4 home record. They outscored opponents by a margin of 87-42 and held the opposition to two or fewer goals on 12 occasions, including four shutouts. The team had contributions from 21 different players at home, with 11 reaching double-digit scoring. Goaltender Justen Close had impressive stats with a 1.78 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 19 home appearances.