That’s all that remains in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s regular season before all eight teams begin the climb to St. Paul and the Frozen Faceoff.
This is the debut installment of “NCHC Between the Boards”, where we’ll be catching you up on what’s happening around college hockey’s top conference each week from now until season’s end.
Let’s begin with a look back at this past weekend’s results, starting in Colorado Springs. Colorado College debuted a new logo and new uniforms before playing a pair of overtime contests against St. Cloud State that saw the Huskies come back from 2-0 deficits both nights. SCSU would win 3-2 in overtime on a goal from captain Jack Ahcan on Friday, though the Tigers would get some revenge 24 hours later, with Grant Kruikshank handing CC the extra point in a shootout after the game officially finished in a 2-2 tie.
The only other conference series of the weekend featured a sweep for suddenly red-hot Minnesota Duluth over Omaha at AmSoil Arena, with the Bulldogs winning Friday 3-2 and Saturday 4-1. Reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Year Hunter Shephard had the save of the season in Game 2, stopping Taylor Ward and then Nolan Sullivan in a 1-1 game and then getting the secondary assist on the ensuing Tanner Laderoute breakaway goal. Impressive stuff there.
The Bulldogs have now won four straight and find themselves within two points of North Dakota for top spot in the conference standings, though the Fighting Hawks have played two fewer games.
The only other NCHC team in action was Western Michigan, who finished the non-conference portion of their season by rolling past Atlantic Hockey’s RPI 8-4 and 6-2 at Lawson Arena. Eleven different Broncos found the back of the net in the series, with freshman goaltender Brandon BUSS-ee earning the win on both nights.
The Broncos have now won seven of their last eight, and that surge has launched Western into a tie with Denver for 3rd place in the conference standings. Those two, Duluth and UND are all in good shape to host an NCHC quarterfinal series, though St. Cloud State is still in contention after their four-point weekend in Colorado Springs. Keep in mind though that the Huskies have played two more games than the teams directly ahead of them, and they’ll finish the regular season with home series against North Dakota and Denver and a road trip to Duluth. In other words, if Brett Larsen’s team gets home ice, they’ll have earned it.
For the second weekend in a row, there are only two conference series on tap, as Duluth, St. Cloud and Omaha are on bye. Colorado College gets an in-city home-and-home with Atlantic Hockey rival Air Force that includes an outdoor game on Monday at the Falcon’s football stadium, while Western makes the relatively short trip to Oxford to battle 7th-place Miami for the first of two meetings between now and season’s end.
The marquee series to watch is in Grand Forks, as top-ranked North Dakota hosts No. 6 Denver in the renewal of a rivalry that started back in 1950 and has been played 291 times since. UND took five of six points off the Pios back in November, the first series win for North Dakota in Magness Arena since 2003. A similar return this weekend would see Brad Berry’s team officially clinch home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals, while a reverse would put Denver right back in the Penrose Cup conversation.