(Sioux Falls, SD)  —  The No. 7/7 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team begins the 2024 NCAA Sioux Falls Regional as the No. 2 seed heading into Thursday’s opening round matchup against No. 11/12 Omaha. Minnesota is set to battle the host Mavericks, the region’s No. 3 seed, at 7:30 p.m. in game two of the action from the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. The regional also features No. 1 Boston University and No. 4 RIT at 4 p.m.  The winner of each game Thursday will faceoff Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU with a spot in the 2024 NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., on the line.

Minnesota’s win over Boston University in the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four a year ago was the program’s 61st all-time victory in the NCAA Tournament, the most of any college hockey program in the country. The Gophers own a 61-41 record (.598) in 40 trips to the national stage since 1953 and are making their fourth-consecutive appearance in 2024. Under the guidance of head coach Bob Motzko, the Maroon and Gold own a mark of 6-3 in the postseason event, including at least one win in each of the last three seasons, and are going for its third-straight appearance at the NCAA Frozen Four. Minnesota has 18 players on its roster that have made at least one trip to the NCAA Tournament, 16 of which have taken the ice, while six members are returning to the national spotlight for the fourth time.

For the first time in the 103-year history of the Minnesota men’s hockey program, it will play a game in the state of South Dakota when it takes the ice Thursday in the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional. The Gophers played in Fargo, N.D., a season ago for the NCAA regional round and will travel approximately four miles less during their trip to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in 2024 with the arena located 238 miles from campus.

For graduate student Jaxon Nelson, Sioux Falls, S.D., is as close to home as you can get for the postseason as the Magnolia, Minn., native grew up less than 40 miles from the largest city in South Dakota and played prep hockey at Luverne High School, 15 miles from the state’s border. Nelson also played two seasons for Sioux Falls in the USHL, making 112 appearances between 2016-18. The Gophers have three other players that spent at least two years with the Stampede in Garrett Pinoniemi (2019-22), Max Rud (2020-23), and Cal Thomas (2020-22), while Rud’s father, Eric, is the current head coach for Sioux Falls. The Gophers’ Bob Motzko served as the general manager and coach of the Stampede during the team’s first three seasons in the USHL (1998-2001) and was named the USHL General Manager of the Year in 2000.

(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)

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