MANKATO — Fans in the State of Hockey wanting to get a look at the University of St. Thomas in the Tommies’ first NCAA Division I season will get at least one look at them on statewide television.
A matchup between the men’s teams from Minnesota State University-Mankato and St. Thomas will be one of the highlights of Hockey Day Minnesota 2022, it was announced on Monday. While details of the date and other teams in the event have not yet been revealed, it will be the first known appearance of by the Tommies on Bally Sports North, the state’s best known regional sports network.
"I think it's awesome. We're really excited to be a part of it," said Tommies coach Rico Blasi. "For Minnesota State to consider us was very gracious of them and important for our program as we grow here."
Mankato will host Hockey Day Minnesota at Blakeslee Stadium, the 7,000-seat home of MSU Mavericks football, located on the school’s campus and previously home to Minnesota Vikings training camp for 50 years. It will be the first time HDM is held in southern Minnesota, and comes on the heels of Mavericks hockey making their first trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
“It’s such a celebration at all levels, the youth and high schools, college and the NHL. I think it’s a very, very special day for our state,” said Mavericks coach Mike Hastings.
With the Mavericks and Tommies playing outdoors in what could be extreme cold conditions, Hastings spoke to coaches Tom Serratore from Bemidji State and Joe Shawhan from Michigan Tech about their experiences playing outdoors with temperatures well below zero at HDM 2019 in Bemidji.
“They didn’t exactly play in balmy weather for that time of year, and I asked if they’d do it again. Both of them said, 'Absolutely,'” Hastings said. “To me it’s not a game, it’s an event and a celebration for myself, our players, our staff and our community. You grow up watching these games that have been played at Soldier Field and the Big House and warm-weather states where maybe it didn’t go as well. It’s an experience.”
Previous incarnations of HDM, which began in 2007, have been held from St. Paul as far north as Baudette. Mankato was scheduled to host the event in 2021, but it was scaled back due to the pandemic, with most events done via video and some outdoor hockey held in Roseville on Feb. 27.
The Tommies are preparing for their inaugural D-I season as members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, where conference games versus the Mavericks, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and others in the eight-team league will be commonplace.
Blasi coached Miami University in two outdoor games previously in at Soldier Field in Chicago, beating Western Michigan in 2015, and falling to Notre Dame in 2013. He recalled the game versus the Irish was played in the afternoon in blinding sunshine, and was so warm Blasi actually took his jacket off.
The Mavericks won their fourth consecutive WCHA regular season title last season, finishing 22-5-1 overall. They beat Quinnipiac and Minnesota in the NCAA Regional in Loveland, Colo., in March, advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time in their more than two decades as a D-I program. At the national semifinals in Pittsburgh, the Mavericks fell to St. Cloud State on a goal scored in the last minute.
MSU previously participated in HDM 2018 when St. Cloud was the host community, beating the Huskies 5-2 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.