McLeod blog: Gophers make return to North Dakota in October

I'll save you the trouble as well as any further effort: the Minnesota Gophers will make their much-anticipated return to Grand Forks to play North Dakota on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21. That will be the third weekend of the 2017-18 schedule, which was released Thursday. It will be Minnesota's first trip to Engelstad Arena since 2012.

The new schedule opens with an exhibition game against Alberta and then the regular season powers up with a trip to Duluth for the Ice Breaker Tournament, joining Minnesota Duluth, Michigan Tech and Union. The Big Ten season kicks into high gear as Penn State comes to Mariucci Arena on Oct. 13-14.

Notably, the schedule is devoid of the Mariucci Classic for the first time in a few years. The five-team, all-Minnesota Division I tournament was axed following last season because of insufficient interest and revenue.

There's still a question concerning this season's Hockey Day Minnesota: while we know that much of the event will be played in St. Cloud's Eastman Park and Lake George, we still don't know when. The obvious date is Jan. 27 when Notre Dame is at Mariucci Arena. If it's the previous week, the Gophers will be on the road at Madison Square Garden as part of a Big Ten doubleheader.

Additionally, the 2017-18 campaign will see a new format to the Big Ten playoffs with the best-of-three quarterfinal series slated for March 2-4 followed by single-game matchups for the semifinals (March 10) and championship game (March 17). High seeds will host all games during the Big Ten playoffs while the top overall seed will receive a bye for the quarterfinal series.

DOUG McLEOD is a five-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports and a longtime voice of Division I and NHL hockey. This will be his 22nd season calling Golden Gopher hockey games.