I’ve been a St. Cloud State University hockey road warrior since 1986 and have literally been to nearly every hockey venue the team has visited since. As such, it probably gives me a bit of credibility to compile a list of the top destinations for SCSU hockey fans to attend during the 2018-19 season. Keeping in mind that fans have different travel budgets and tastes my list won’t be suited to every fan. Unfortunately, this season only allows 4 of 9 road trip destinations to be traveled to by car and that includes Western Michigan which is a journey of about 9 hours. Thus, with a tremendous road trip schedule this may be the year to dig into the piggy bank and consider a flying trip. These rankings take into consideration ease of travel, budget, attractions and expected competitiveness of the contests. So, with that said here’s my list of the top road trip destinations (with comments) for SCSU hockey fans for the 2018-19 season:
#1 Boston College Eagles | Northeastern University Huskies (Boston, MA) | October 25/27, 2018
It’s taken a road trip to Boston to knock the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and Duluth, MN out of the #1 road trip destination it has held for two seasons. Sure, it’s going to dig into the pocketbook and requires a flight but there’s simply too many attractive things about this trip to not place it perched at the top of this years schedule. This trip includes an unusual Thursday game vs Boston College on October 25 and a Saturday contest with Northeastern on October 27. The great thing about this schedule is it will allow a mini-vacation to Beantown with an open day on Friday to experience all the attractions and dining Boston and the surrounding area has to offer. As of the date of this writing, round trip airfare via Sun Country Airlines, Delta Airlines and Jet Blue are all extremely competitively priced at under $350. Thus, if you’re interested in this trip my suggestion is to book early. As far as lodging there are literally hundreds of hotels to choose from in the vicinity of Boston College and Northeastern University located only 5 miles apart. Attractions are too numerous to mention but top attractions for tourists include Fenway Park, Boston Common, Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Samuel Adams Brewery, Harvard University, New England Aquarium and for the ambitious a short trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Although the schedule has not been released yet, with some luck one could catch a Boston Bruins game at TD Garden. On game day, another attraction for the hockey fan is visiting Matthews Arena, home of the Northeastern Huskies. A little known fact is this was the original home of the Boston Bruins. Opened in 1910, it is the oldest indoor ice hockey arena still being used for hockey and is the oldest multi-purpose athletic building still in use in the world. As far as weather, it should be comfortable with historical temperatures in the high 50’s this time of year. Tickets: Boston College | Northeastern University
Favorite Places to Dine
While there are no Michelin Star rated restaurants in Boston (a surprise) there are a never-ending selection of restaurants and pubs to satisfy the craving of the out of town visitor. For asian food, consider Boston’s China Town. For Italian, I strongly suggest North Boston. In particular, in the North End I would suggest Al Dente, a restaurant I have personally dined at but there are many others. Simply go to the North End and stroll around until you find something that appeals to you. If Irish pubs are your thing, here’s a link to many of the best Irish Pubs Boston has to offer. The great thing about Boston is that a lot of the touring can be done by foot or by taxi. Other resources to peruse are the following: bostonusa.com massvacation.com cambridgeusa.org
As far as the games, expect two very entertaining games with teams that finished first (BC) and second (NU) in Hockey East in 2017-18. The Huskies swept the Eagles on their visit to St. Cloud in 2017 and you can be sure that’ll be in the back of their mind on October 25th. This is a “Five-Star” road trip and well deserving of my #1 ranking for 2018-19.
#2 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (Duluth, MN) | January 11/12, 2019
We head back closer to home for our next destination. Duluth drops a notch after two years at the top of the list. But hey, #2 isn’t bad either. The reasons are obvious – ease of travel to the port city, overall impact on the pocketbook and the option to attend just one of the weekends contests if desired. This is a beautiful city two and a half hours from St. Cloud with ample lodging and numerous restaurant options. With a little pre-planning, hotel rates are reasonable and the availability of a refurbished skywalk allows you to walk to the game from several downtown hotels with a light pullover. If you’re into craft beer there’s no less than ten on the Duluth Craft Beer Trail to visit. If you are a skier, at the right time you can take in an afternoon of skiing at Spirit Mountain. If you’re into shopping, Canal Park has numerous unique shops and restaurants to kill several hours before game time. An excursion along the north shore of Lake Superior is a beautiful experience in the fall or during the winter months. The University of Minnesota-Duluth campus is in a beautiful setting and worth the visit. You simply can’t go wrong with a trip to Duluth. As for the hockey, the SCSU / UMD rivalry continues to heat up and the games almost always have you on the edge of your seat. Amsoil Arena is one of the top hockey venues in college hockey with good sight lines and good concessions. As a result I consistently rank Duluth highly on my list. This years schedule has the Huskies traveling to Duluth on January 11/12. This could very well be the coldest weekend of the year and that’s been typical lately when the Huskies are scheduled to be in Duluth. It can be a chilling experience if you’re not in the skywalk. But heck, we’re hardy Minnesotans aren’t we?
Favorite places to dine: Mine are at opposite ends of the dining spectrum. The Cantonese House at 24 W 1st Street has been in business since 1972 serving americanized asian cuisine. Let’s just say it’s a little rustic but the owners are very accommodating and the family servings are sizable and reasonably priced. It also gets a four-star ranking from Trip Advisor. This is a post game dining location as there’s nothing better than food like this after an evening of beverages. For pre-game dining, Bellisio’s at 405 Lake Avenue South in Canal Park is a can’t miss. It’s primarily Italian fare and they have the best wine list in Duluth. The service is excellent, the quality of the food is good and it’s a short walk post meal to the Amsoil Center. Other suggestions are Va Benne Caffe, Tavern on the Hill, Valentini’s, At Sarah’sTable, Pickwick , Northern Waters Smokehaus and OMC Smokehouse which is only one block from Bent Paddle Brewing. I’m just touching the surface as there are many more.
This season’s meeting will pit the defending NCHC Penrose Cup Champion SCSU Huskies vs the defending National Champion UMD Bulldogs. Adding to the drama of the weekend will be the return of first-year SCSU Head Coach Brett Larson to his former team, the Bulldogs. This is a can’t miss weekend in 2018-19. Tickets: University of Minnesota-Duluth
#3 Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh, PA) Robert Morris University, Union College, TBD | January 4/5, 2019
The Huskies return to the site of one of their most memorable road trips as a participant in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh on January 4 and 5, 2019. Consul Arena was the venue for the Huskies lone appearance as one of the four finalists in the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four. Robert Morris University of the Atlantic Conference hosts this annual tournament which will include the Huskies, Union College and one other ECAC team to be determined. This tournament has been in existence since 2012 and Providence was the champion in 2017. Host RMU has won the tournament three of the six years this tourney has played. Originally named Consol Energy Center, the arena was renamed PPG Paints Arena in October of 2016. Although the city limits restrict the population to about 300,000 the metropolitan arena is close to 2.3 million. Much like Boston, along with the large population base comes a multitude of attractions and dining opportunities for the visiting fan. With early planning, airfares are fairly reasonable from $300-400 as of the date of this writing. Both Delta and Jet Blue have non-stop flights to Pittsburgh. For lodging the two closest hotels to PPG Arena are the Cambria Suites at PPG Arena and The Pittsburgh Marriott City Center. Both are within close walking distance to the Arena. Other hotel choices near the arena are listed here. Although the historical temperature is in the mid 30’s for early January don’t be surprised to see the teens or even single digits this time of year. City attractions are numerous including Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Art, Duquesne Incline, Station Square, PNC Park and Heinz Field. Other suggestions are listed here. Tickets: PPG Arena
Favorite Places To Dine
Dining is varied and you have your choice of pubs, ethnic restaurants and price points. If you’re looking for a place to dine near PPG Arena consider the following; the Souper Bowl,The Commoner (in the Hotel Monaco), Buford’s Kitchen and Pizza Milani. Primanti Brothers is famous for their sandwiches and worth a stop. Pittsburgh Magazine has their best restaurants of 2017 here. The magazine also has its list of the best bars in Pittsburgh here.
With nearly a month off from their previous game with Omaha why not head to one of the best sports cities in the USA for some Husky hockey. A great hockey venue, loads of attractions and convenient lodging make this one of the top road trip destinations for the 2018-19 season.
#4 Colorado College Tigers (Colorado, Springs, CO) | November 2/3, 2018
For those of us in Minnesota, traveling to a location with 247 days of at least partial sunshine is just what the doctor ordered. That’s just one of the reasons why hockey trips to Colorado Springs are always at the top of my list. But, it doesn’t stop there. With a flight time of less than two hours to Denver or Colorado Springs one can hardly get settled in before you are at your destination. And, with flights to Denver typically one of the best bargains around it doesn’t bleed the pocket-book to get there. After that It’s a car rental and an hour and twenty-minute drive to Colorado Springs. For those that wish to pay a little more, you can fly directly into Colorado Springs and shuttle to any of a number of hotels near the Broadmoor World Arena without the need of a car rental. However, that wouldn’t be advised as there is a whole lot of sight-seeing to do once you get there. Some of the best attractions include Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, US Air Force Academy, Olympic Training Center and Old Colorado City Historic District which are all very short drives. For the adventurous ones, a one hour and fifteen minute drive to see the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, the worlds second highest is a spectacular 955 feet above the Arkansas River. Or, if you are into wine, a trip to Canon City and the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey is an interesting side trip.
Hotels within walking distance of the Broadmoor World Arena are abundant and reasonably priced. Or, if you’re into a more luxurious experience spend some of that hard-working money on a weekend at the Broadmoor Hotel, one of the top luxury hotels in the country including a world-class golf course. Although there are interruptions for snow, generally speaking, the Broadmoor golf course is a year round facility. The Sunday brunch at the Broadmoor has to be experienced to understand how over the deep end it is. Food is set up in a huge ballroom with nearly anything you can imagine for breakfast. Reservations suggested of course. Hands down, the World Arena has the best concessions of any college hockey venue in the country. Whether it’s BBQ, asian stir fry, Italian, pizza, subs, grass-fed Colorado beef burgers or a whole host of desserts you really don’t need a pre-game meal. Beer stands including local craft beers are also conveniently available in the concourse. The World Arena sets the standard for concessions in my opinion. Tickets: Colorado College
SCSU travels to Colorado Springs on November 2/3 providing a good opportunity to catch weather in the mid 50’s to 60 degrees with a lot of sun.
Favorite Places to Dine
Once again, they are too numerous to mention. But suggestions are Phantom Canyon Brewing Company 2 E Pikes Peak Road, Golden Bee 1 Lake Avenue, Paninos 1721 S 8th Street (coincidentally they have a location in North Oaks, MN) and Fratelli Ristorante Italiani 124 N Nevada Avenue. I can’t say enough good things about Famous Steak House 31 N Tejon Street. Excellent wine and beer selections,outstanding steaks and great “Chicago Steakhouse” type atmosphere. If you are into crepes you’ve got to visit the Paris Crepe Euro Cafe 218 N Tejon Street. Finally, the Broadmoor Hotel for Sunday brunch is an experience in itself. Reservations required.
On the ice, the Tigers have once again become relevant and it’s a fun experience to catch a game at the Broadmoor World Arena. This also ranks as one of my top road trips and have made it too many times to remember the number.
#5 University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (Omaha, NE) | February 22/23, 2019
Omaha earns my #5 ranking this year based on a number of factors including ease of getting to the destination, cost of lodging, weather, attractions, dining and outstanding hockey venue in Baxter Arena. A case could easily be made to rank it higher. Despite a drive time of just over 6 hours from St. Cloud it’s very manageable as it’s literally all freeway if taking 35W / I80. With a gas tab between $30-40 one way it’s fairly painless on the pocketbook. That goes for lodging as well as choices are plentiful including a number within walking distance of Baxter Arena in the newly developed Aksarben Village a retail/student housing/lodging area integrated with the University of Nebraska-Omaha campus. Baxter Arena, completed in 2015 reminds one of Amsoil Arena in Duluth with great sight lines, plentiful concessions and wide concourses. The Omaha metropolitan area has a population of approximately 800,000 and along with that comes all the attractions of a larger city with numerous historical sites and a multitude of dining options. For example, it’s home to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium named by Trip Advisor as the best zoo in the world. Omaha boasts four Fortune 500 companies and is the home of Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway empire. And, how can you go wrong with a city that is home to Omaha Steaks and invented the reuben sandwich and raisin bran. The weather is typically fairly mild and with this years games on February 22 and 23 you can expect the temperatures to be near 30 degrees. With the Huskies 20-10-2 vs Omaha all-time, odds are you’ll see some road team success as well. Tickets: University of Nebraska-Omaha
Favorite Places to Dine
If you are staying in the Aksarben Village area (highly recommended) there are numerous choices. If it’s pizza you want I’d suggest Dudley’s Pizza just a short walk from Baxter Arena. If you don’t mind the drive, I’d strongly suggest heading to the Old Market Area, the art and entertainment district. It’s about a 15 minute drive but is a great place to walk around, enjoy the surroundings with lots of shops and galleries and numerous restaurant choices. Some suggestions are M’s Pub, Jackson Street Tavern, Upstream Brewing Company and for breakfast Wheatfield’s. Obviously Omaha is known for its steaks and two of the best steakhouses are Brother Sebastians and Mahogany Prime Steakhouse.0
The road trip to Omaha is a great venue and worth the six-hour drive. If you haven’t taken in a game at Omaha and the flying trips are out of the question this season I strongly suggest this for a weekend getaway.
#6 Western Michigan University Broncos (Kalamazoo, MI) | March 1/2, 2019
Once again this year I rank the trip to Kalamazoo highly and could easily be up a few notches. I always loved the road trip to Houghton MI to play the Huskies when SCSU was in the WCHA and this has been a good replacement. I’ve made the trip three times – once by vehicle, once via flight to Chicago and the balance of the trip by rental car and once via non-stop flight to Grand Rapids International (GRR). Driving may be at the end of being tolerable at nine hours and inevitably during the winter months you’ll hit some snow as Kalamazoo is located on the Eastern side of Lake Michigan. Other options include flying to Chicago a few days early to catch one of Minnesota’s professional sports teams on the road or to do some dining, shopping or hit some broadway shows. For the adventurous, you can also catch an Amtrak train from St. Cloud and it’ll take you within two blocks of the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo – a good central location to stay. Another option is to fly to Grand Rapids, MI and drive from there. That is my suggested choice if you can get an agreeable airfare. You can catch a non-stop 47 minute flight from MSP, rent a car at the terminal for $50 and make an incredibly easy freeway drive to Kalamazoo in 52 minutes (no tolls and little traffic). Hit a Biggby’s Coffee en route or Tim Horton’s as you hit Kalamazoo to start your weekend. Kalamazoo is a great college town and once you get there there’s a ton of things to do before catching games at Lawson Arena. Once again, if you are into craft beer, the Kalamazoo Craft Beer Trail has 12 breweries on it’s list including well-known Bell’s Brewery. Possibly lesser known by most folks, Southeast Michigan is dotted with numerous vineyards and wineries. The Lake Michigan Circle Tour is a huge attraction for those traveling to the area. You can easily kill an entire day visiting tasting rooms at some surprisingly gorgeous wineries. Granted, the wine is not going to rival that of California, Oregon or New York but the tasting rooms are well-run and the owners very accommodating. If you like older rinks, Lawson Arena is great. The Lawson Lunatics are some of the loudest and most boisterous fans in all of college sports and hockey is their favorite sport. The rink brings you back to a simpler time in sports arenas and the fans are welcoming and pleased to have opposing visitors at their games. The Huskies travel to Kalamazoo for games on March 1 and 2 so the weather could fairly decent from a temperature standpoint but dicey from that of precipitation. Temperatures should be in the high 30’s on average but you can expect can figure there will be a 20-30% chance of precipitation in early March due to the lake effect.
Favorite places to dine: I’m still a neophyte on dining in Kalamazoo after only three trips to the city. However, for breakfast Sophia’s House of Pancakes 4700 Stadium Drive is a classic place to go to start the day. For fine dining Zazios at 100 W Michigan Avenue and Rustica at 236 S Kalamazoo Drive are good choices. The Olde Peninsula Brew Pub and Restaurant is another safe bet. Specialty locations such as Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken (2 locations) and Sweetwaters Donut Mill (2 locations) are worth checking out. However, I need to explore more places to be of more help. Tickets: Western Michigan University
Lawson Arena is usually a lively atmosphere with friendly fans and a genuine college atmosphere. The Huskies and Broncos have developed a healthy rivalry and the games are usually quite entertaining. Personally, I’ll make this trip as often as I can. It’s always enjoyable.
#7 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (Grand Forks, ND) | January 25/26, 2019
North Dakota takes a dive as a road trip destination after its #4 ranking for the 2017-18 season. Granted, this is THE finest college hockey venue in the country and it should be at a price tag of $104 million but there are some negatives. Obviously, it’s a reasonable three-hour and forty-five minute drive up the freeway to Grand Forks which is attractive to SCSU hockey fans. The North Dakota fans are probably the most fanatical and loyal followers in college hockey. As a result, tickets at times are hard to get and lodging becomes a problem if you do not plan ahead. And, despite the $104 million price tag, no general admission parking is available for visiting fans at the Arena. That means you take a public off-site shuttle or pay a nominal fee to take a bus from one of many restaurants, taverns or hotels. However, it comes with the price tag of rushing to get out of the arena at the conclusion of the game to find your designated bus and then many times prying yourself into an obviously over-capacity bus filled with throngs of well-lubricated fans that may or may not appreciate the presence of a fan dressed in cardinal and black. Add to this the fact that it is usually brutally cold and windy and well … you get the picture. An alternative is to seek out one of several off-site parking locations located 2-3 blocks from the arena at a typical parking fee of $10. At the rink, the visiting fans are usually sequestered into an upper level area with some of the steepest grade seats I’ve ever seen. I’m always amazed that I’ve never heard of someone taking a tumble-down the seats. There are two club lounges in the arena and they are typically a four-hour party and again, packed to capacity. I’m willing to bet they sell more alcohol per square foot than any other venue in college athletics. Don’t get me wrong, if you haven’t been to the “Ralph” you owe it to yourself to go. The big attraction is the games themselves. The North Dakota | St. Cloud State rivalry continues to grow and the games are always entertaining and highly competitive. Some of the most entertaining collegiate games I’ve been to have been at Ralph Engelstad Arena vs UND. Probably the most unusual aspect of the UND vs SCSU rivalry is the fact that the fan bases do get along and host each other in a Saturday pre-game event. Last seasons event in Grand Forks was well-organized and the fans are extremely cordial to the SCSU fans. Where else does that happen in college hockey? The “Challenge Cup” is the annual trophy passed back and forth between the fan base and recognizes the winner of the annual series between the two teams. This annual event is an ideal way to spend some time with our opponents fans and is a convenient way to catch transportation to the Arena for a nominal fee following the event. I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to attend this pre-game event put on by Dave Berger and crew of SiouxSports.com. As far as tourist attractions go, they are somewhat limited. Travel Advisors two top attractions are the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the University of North Dakota. And again, I have a hard time recalling any balmy weather days on a hockey trip to Grand Forks. Once again, the games are in late January and odds are it’ll be brutally cold and a chilling walk from parking to the Arena. Tickets: University of North Dakota
Favorite places to eat: The Toasted Frog at 124 N 3rd Avenue is an interesting and eclectic place. The Blue Moose is a popular restaurant located at 507 2nd street NW. The Speedway 805 Grill and Bar 805 North 42nd Street is a can’t miss. Outstanding french fries (probably the best I’ve ever had), paremeson crusted walleye is delicious as is the shrimp basket. They also serve exotic burgers and ribs. They also have a bar fr pre or post-game libations. Unfortunately, old school classics like the bronze boot have closed leaving a void in some of the legacy steakhouses in the city. Otherwise, there are a lot of chain restaurants in Grand Forks.
North Dakota continues to be one of SCSU’s top league rivals and it is a reasonably priced weekend for the fan if you do your planning early. The games are always highly entertaining and worth the price of admission. Availability of key seating locations, the weather, city attractions and the general lack of parking are drawbacks to making this one of the top-ranked road trips for Husky fans. That’s unfortunate as it is an unbelievable venue. On the other hand, if it’s your intention to have a party weekend, it certainly fits the bill both at the “Ralph” and off site locations.
#8 Miami University RedHawks (Oxford, OH) | November 30 and December 1, 2018
Miami’s ranking as a road trip destination for SCSU fans suffers due to its location. The 11 hour drive to Oxford pretty much makes this an airline destination. Even so, one has to fly to Cincinnati, not known for competitive airfares from Minneapolis. From there, one has to rent a vehicle and make the hour drive to Oxford. Another option would be to check fares to either Dayton, OH or Indianapolis, IN. It’s about a two-hour drive from Indy and about an hour from Dayton. Another issue can be the availability of lodging in Oxford. With a population of about 24,000 there are a limited number of hotels. When there are other major events going on in Oxford or on the Miami campus the availability of lodging becomes scarce. Thus, planning in advance is a must if planning a road trip to Oxford. However, Oxford, OH is a wonderful college town with a beautiful campus and top-notch athletic facilities including the Goggin Ice Center where the Steve Cady Arena is housed. The rink seats 2500 and is generally full to capacity making it a very lively atmosphere. Because this is a recent league competitor, the rivalry has not risen to the level that this is a “must” road trip for SCSU fans. The price tag for the weekend exceeds that of most other locations in the league. SCSU faces Miami on November 30 and December 1. The historical average is historically close to 50 degrees so weather is usually not an issue for this road trip. Tickets: Miami University
Favorite places to eat: Paesanos Pasta House for good Italian food located near the campus at 808 S Campus Avenue. The Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub 107 East Church Street and since Cincinnati is known for Chili try Skyline Chili located at 1 East High Street. If you enjoy German food, the Steinkeller is worth a try.
It’s always a tough battle for the Huskies in Oxford and you’re sure to see two competitive contests. Unfortunately, the logistics will never make this a top-ranked road trip for SCSU fans.
#9 University of Alaska Nanooks (Fairbanks, AK) | October 12/13, 2018
As a road trip destination, Fairbanks suffers from being a remote location. As such, air travel can be a 10 hour or more journey and without searching for a bargain early, it can be a pricey ticket. Unless your plans are to make a vacation out of this trip, it would be advisable to do your best to take the Minneapolis to Fairbanks route with a single stop in Seattle. I’ve done the Anchorage trip and that involved a red-eye flight on Saturday night making for an awfully long day on my return. Being that Fairbanks is 360 miles from Anchorage that pretty much rules out a flight to Anchorage and driving the balance of the trip unless you are vacationing and have nothing but time on your hands. And, lets face it – the Nanooks who finished 8th in the WCHA last season are not the most desireable opponent from a fans standpoint considering the other road trips available in the 2018-19 season. Having not been to Fairbanks I can’t be of much help in regards to local attractions. However, this link may be of help. For the outdoor enthusiast planning to visit keep in mind the ideal time to visit is from May through September. After that, you are pretty much in the “off-season”. Surprisingly the historical temperatures are not that bad in early October – generally the mid 30’s. However, October is not prime fishing in the Fairbanks area but you may catch a nice glimpse of the Northern Lights. Tickets: University of Alaska
Favorite Places to Eat
I cannot be of much help not having been to Fairbanks. The best I can do is provide you a link to an article rating the top 10 local restaurants here.
I’m sure this would be an interesting trip if one was to make a longer vacation out of it. However, the location, logistics, opponent and time of the year simply won’t make this a high demand trip for SCSU fans. Other competing road trips this season are much more attractive. I would like to do this trip as it’s one of the few college hockey venues I have not visited but this probably won’t be the year.
I do hope this is of help in planning your 2018-19 SCSU men’s hockey road trips.
Tickets: SCSU Ticket Office