The first hint of a normal college hockey season appeared Wednesday morning.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference revealed its 2021-22 schedule and there was no 38-game Pod, no three-game series, no heavy unbalanced schedule and no six-game marathons against one opponent.
It was just a regular 24-game schedule for each team -- six two-game road series, six two-game home series -- like the pre-coronavirus pandemic days.
Yes, it came with a disclaimer that the schedule is subject to change, but all things are currently on track for a normal college hockey season.
The Fighting Hawks will play 24 league games, 11 nonconference games and one exhibition. Here's a look at the 2021-22 UND hockey schedule with one note about every game or series.
UND's 2021-22 schedule
Oct. 2 -- MANITOBA (exh.)
UND is still trying to finalize the date on this one, but tentatively, the exhibition against the Bisons will be Oct. 2.
Oct. 8-9 -- NIAGARA
UND's regular-season opener against Niagara will feature a head-to-head matchup between former Moorhead High teammates Ethan Frisch (UND) and Carter Randklev (Niagara). The duo played two seasons at Moorhead together from 2016-18, leading the Spuds to the state championship game in 2017. Randklev also was committed to UND at one time.
Oct. 15-16 -- at Bemidji State/BEMIDJI STATE
The first road trip for UND goalie transfer Zach Driscoll is back to Bemidji, where he will face his old team. Driscoll spent the last three years playing for the Beavers, earning all-WCHA honors twice. The Friday game will be played in Bemidji and Saturday in Grand Forks.
Oct. 22-23 -- at Quinnipiac
UND will play in the state of Connecticut for the first time since Nov. 2, 2002, when it played at Yale in New Haven. This is UND's first time visiting Quinnipiac. The programs have played four games all-time. In October 2006, the Bobcats came to Grand Forks for a two-game series. In 2015, they played in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Fargo's Scheels Arena. In 2016, they played for the NCAA national championship in Tampa.
Oct. 30 -- vs. Penn State in Nashville
UND's destination game will be played Halloween weekend in Nashville against Penn State. It will mark UND's first-ever game against the Nittany Lions. They're one of eight D-I programs that UND has never played. The others are Arizona State, Connecticut, Bentley, Mercyhurst, RIT, Sacred Heart and Long Island. This also will be UND's first time playing a hockey game in Tennessee, which will become the 28th state where UND has played.
Nov. 5-6 -- DENVER
After playing Denver seven times last season -- twice in the Omaha Pod, twice in Denver's Magness Arena, twice in Ralph Engelstad Arena during the regular season and once in the NCHC semifinals in Grand Forks -- this will be the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
Nov. 12-13 -- at Miami
Like Denver, UND and Miami will only play once during the regular season. It will come in Oxford, Ohio in mid-November. UND transfer forward Connor Ford will play against his old Bowling Green teammate Will Cullen in this one. Cullen transferred to Miami in the offseason.
Nov. 19-20 -- MINNESOTA DULUTH
The Bulldogs will play UND in Grand Forks for the first time in three years. They did not come to Grand Forks in 2019-20. Their lone trip to Grand Forks during 2020-21 was for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, but Minnesota Duluth did not play against the Fighting Hawks (they played Western Michigan and St. Cloud State).
Nov. 26-27 -- MINNESOTA
The big North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry game will fall on Thanksgiving weekend, just as it did in 2019-20 in Minneapolis. UND was originally supposed to host Minnesota last season, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, this series was pushed back.
Dec. 3-4 -- at St. Cloud State
UND incoming freshman forward Nick Portz will head back to his hometown for the first time as a member of the Fighting Hawks. Portz is friends with fellow St. Cloud native Austin Poganski, who always seemed to have big games back in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Dec. 10-11 -- at Colorado College
This will be UND's first time playing at the new Robson Arena, located on campus in Colorado Springs. It also will be UND's first time seeing Kris Mayotte on the Tiger bench. Mayotte, a former Michigan and Providence assistant coach, was hired by Colorado College this month.
Jan. 7-8 -- CORNELL
UND was supposed to play at Cornell last season, but that one will be rescheduled and Cornell will still come to Grand Forks this season. It will be Cornell's second-ever trip to Grand Forks. The first one was November 2008, when the teams split. The World Junior Championship gold-medal game will be Wednesday, Jan. 5. So, it's possible UND could get its World Junior players (expected to be Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven for USA) back for the Cornell weekend, but they won't get much rest.
Jan. 14-15 -- OMAHA
UND is 29-2 in its last 31 home games. The two losses? Omaha and Omaha. The only team to win in Ralph Engelstad Arena the last two seasons comes to Grand Forks in mid-January.
Jan. 21-22 -- at Western Michigan
UND incoming transfer Ashton Calder of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., will head back to his home state for this series in Kalamazoo. UND has had a Michigander on its roster in each of its NCHC seasons outside of the inaugural year of 2013-14. In 2014-15, Cam Johnson joined UND's roster. He was followed by Christian Wolanin and Collin Adams.
Jan. 28-29 -- ST. CLOUD STATE
Former Grand Forks Red River forward Mason Salquist will come back home for the first time as a member of St. Cloud State. Salquist could be going head-to-head with former teammate Jackson Kunz. Salquist and Kunz played together in Ralph Engelstad Arena at the 2018 state tournament, where the Roughriders took third.
Feb. 4-5 -- COLORADO COLLEGE
UND is 16-2-1 at home against the Tigers during the NCHC era, but the memories of The Ralph won't be all bad for Colorado College. It left the rink last month to an ovation from UND fans, who appreciated the Tigers' effort when playing St. Cloud State in the NCHC quarterfinals with an extremely shorthanded roster due to COVID-19 protocol.
Feb. 18-19 -- at Minnesota Duluth
UND has a winning record in AmsOil Arena (8-7) since it opened in December 2010, but the Fighting Hawks haven't swept there since Dec. 11-12, 2015, when goalie Cam Johnson posted back-to-back shutouts. UND went on to win the NCAA national championship that season.
Feb. 25-26 -- WESTERN MICHIGAN
Western Michigan coach Andy Murray says he enjoys coming to Grand Forks, but forgive him if he's a little bit anxious about it this time. The last two games Western Michigan has played in Ralph Engelstad Arena, it lost in overtime. In both games, controversial calls played a role. In 2020, the Broncos thought they won it, but had an overtime goal disallowed, only to be scored upon by UND's Shane Pinto seconds later. Last month in the NCHC quarterfinals against Minnesota Duluth, the Broncos lost on a play where the linesman dropped the puck for a faceoff off of a player's arm. While several Broncos stopped, waiting for the play to be blown dead, Bulldog defenseman Connor Kelley shot it into the net for the winner.
March 4-5 -- at Omaha
After playing 13 games last season in Omaha's Baxter Arena, UND doesn't have to go back until the final weekend of the regular season. UND and Omaha play to end each regular season, alternating sites. Last season, Omaha played in Grand Forks to conclude the regular season.
March 11-12 -- NCHC first round, site of higher seed
UND has played at home in the quarterfinals in seven of eight years in the NCHC.
March 18-19 -- NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
After a two-year absence, the Frozen Faceoff will finally be back in St. Paul. In 2020, the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the entire event was moved to Grand Forks because of the pandemic.
March 25-27 -- NCAA regionals (Loveland, Colo., Allentown, Pa., Albany, N.Y., Worcester, Mass.)
If UND makes the NCAA tournament it will have to get on an airplane to play its regional for the first time since 2016, when it won in Cincinnati. In fact, the last two times UND has taken a flight to a regional it has been Cincinnati. The Fighting Hawks have never played in Loveland or Allentown. The last time they played in Worcester was 2010, when they lost to Yale 3-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The last time they played in Albany was the 2001 NCAA national championship game against Boston College.
April 7-9 -- NCAA Frozen Four, Boston
This will be Boston's first Frozen Four since 2015, when UND lost to a Jack Eichel-led Boston University team 5-3 in the semifinals.