It may only be Tuesday, but it's never too early to start looking forward to the weekend, and this weekend promises to be one of the most special hockey weekends in a long time.
First, the match-up everyone has been waiting all season for will finally take place in Oxford, Ohio between #1 Miami and #2 Michigan. Michigan has gone 0-1-3 over the last two weekends perhaps taking a bit of shine off the match-up now that Miami is the unanimous number one team in the meaningless polls. They're still the top two teams in the country though, and it should still be great hockey. Also, as many as 5 or 6 players will have a chance to make a serious case for the Hobey Baker this weekend with the entire country watching.
Meanwhile, out west, Saturday is Hockey Day Minnesota where Fox Sports North will have wall-to-wall hockey coverage for well over 12 hours.
The event isn't without some critics. Jon Marthaler opposes Hockey Day Minnesota on a grammatical level, Shane Frederick has this crazy notion that a day promoting hockey in Minnesota should be showing, you know hockey IN Minnesota, and I'm sure that I found some way to complain about it last year. But still, it's hockey! All freakin' day! You can't go too wrong with that.
The schedule for the day looks like this:
10 a.m., Eveleth High School vs. Lake of the Woods High School on Baudette Bay
1 p.m., St. Thomas Academy vs. Hill-Murray at Xcel Energy Center
5 p.m., Minnesota Wild vs. New York Islanders at Xcel Energy Center
8 p.m., University of Minnesota vs. Denver at Magness Arena
11 p.m., Roseau High School vs. Blaine High School on Baudette Bay (tape delay)
The only one that sticks out as a little weird to me is adding that STA/Hill game at the X, since, to put it gently, nobody likes them. I've never really cared about the whole public school/private school debate, but there are a surprising number of people in Minnesota who do. Needless to say, outside of alumni, there isn't much of a fanbase for either school. But who knows, maybe that cadre of public school kids who show up to the XCel Center every year for the state tournament to boo the private school teams will make an appearance and heat things up a little bit.
The Wild/Islanders game lost a little bit of excitement too, since this game was supposed to be Kyle Okposo's first trip back to Minnesota since he left the Gophers at midseason. But as it turns out, the guy the Islanders absolutely had to sign at mid-season wasn't really needed on Long Island, and he's playing down in the AHL with Bridgeport.