For the first time in 31 years, UND will play a hockey game on Thanksgiving Day.

UND and Minnesota will open their two-game on Thanksgiving Day in Mariucci Arena this season and the longtime rivals will play a Thursday-Friday series, the Gophers announced Wednesday.

The reason for the Thanksgiving Day game is to avoid a conflict with Minnesota's home football game against Wisconsin that Saturday.

"We are hosting the game on Thursday to ensure that the matchup with North Dakota gets its own day to shine," Minnesota's men's hockey Twitter account wrote, "and to ensure that all #Gophers can enjoy the weekend without added stress of hockey following/coinciding with the Minnesota/Wisconsin football game."

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Mariucci Arena is located across the street from Minnesota's football home of TCF Bank Stadium. To avoid traffic and parking problems, the Gophers have traditionally tried not to play home hockey and football games on the same day, especially if football is playing against a marquee opponent.

They've only played home football and hockey on the same day five times since TCF opened in 2009. The football opponents were Northwestern (three times), Purdue and South Dakota State. They've moved 10 games to Sunday when the opponents have been Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska and Penn State.

In UND's last trip to the Twin Cities in November 2016, the Gopher football team hosted Purdue on the same day that the hockey team hosted UND.

The Fighting Hawks probably won't be complaining about the Thanksgiving Day game. It is a better option for them than going Friday-Sunday, because the UND is on the road the following week at Western Michigan. The Gophers also are on the road the following weekend at Ohio State.

UND's previous Thanksgiving games

This won't be the first Thanksgiving Day game for UND.

It has happened twice.

In 1988, UND hosted Air Force in a single game in the old Ralph Engelstad Arena on Thanksgiving. Matt Morelli had a hat trick in that game and UND won 8-1.

In 1968, it played at Minnesota Duluth in a two-game series that started on Thanksgiving Day. UND swept the Bulldogs 4-1 and 7-4 in the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

Continuing the rivalry

UND and Minnesota, who jumped to different leagues in 2013, are currently in the middle of a seven-year scheduling arrangement. This will be Year No. 4 of that agreement.

The series will be played in Grand Forks during the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons. It will be in Mariucci Arena during 2021-22 season.

The Fighting Hawks and Gophers last played in Mariucci Arena in November 2016. The Gophers earned a win and a tie. They played in Ralph Engelstad Arena in October 2017. The teams split that series.

Last season, they played a single game -- the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game -- in Las Vegas. UND won 3-1 at Orleans Arena.