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UND, Minnesota target rivalry return

FNS Photo In this 2011 file photo, University of North Dakota and University of Minnesota players crash the net during the third period of the WCHA Playoffs at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

GRAND FORKS -- One of the great college hockey rivalries won't be dormant for long.

North Dakota and Minnesota have verbally agreed to renew the rivalry series in 2016-17, a source confirmed to the Grand Forks Herald.

Contracts are in the process of being drawn up. When they are completed and signed, an announcement is expected.

The agreement is for the teams to play a pair of two-game series. The first one, in 2016-17, will be played in Minneapolis. The following year, the teams will play in Grand Forks.

Those matchups will end a three-year stretch without a regular-season series between the longtime rivals who played every year from 1948 to 2013.

The break in the rivalry is happening, in large part, as a result of the teams moving into separate conferences. The charter Western Collegiate Hockey Association members both have moved into startup leagues this season. UND will play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Minnesota will play in the Big Ten.

The teams were unable to nail down a nonconference agreement immediately.

One of the hurdles was UND's Fighting Sioux nickname. Minnesota said it could not schedule UND because of a school policy against playing teams with Native American nicknames. That hurdle has been removed.

The last meeting between the teams was a 4-4 tie on January 19 in Mariucci Arena. Their last meeting in Grand Forks came in January 2012.

UND now has lined up nonconference series against three Big Ten programs. It has a four-year agreement with the University of Wisconsin starting in 2014-15 and a two-year agreement with Michigan State.

This season, UND's nonconference games are against Vermont, Boston University, St. Lawrence, Northern Michigan and Bemidji State.