While six NCHC teams officially opened the 2017-18 season with exhibition games last weekend, the games count starting this weekend as six teams begin regular-season play, while Omaha faces its first test of the season in exhibition action.
Highlighting the opening weekend of the regular season is the Ice Breaker Tournament, which is hosted by Minnesota Duluth this season. The 12th-ranked Bulldogs face rival No. 3 Minnesota in the semifinals Friday, while Michigan Tech and No. 16 Union meet in the first semifinal. UMD will then play in the night cap on Saturday regardless of Friday's result, against either the Huskies or Dutchmen. The two winners will meet for the championship while the two losers will meet for third place. Denver hosted the tournament last year, but dropped both games before going on to win the national title. North Dakota won the Ice Breaker in 2015 in Maine when it won the NCAA title.
Miami looks to rebound from a disappointing 2016-17 season when they welcome No. 5 Providence for a pair of games. The teams have met each of the last five seasons, including splitting in Providence last season. In another NCHC-Hockey East inter-conference series, Colorado College heads east for two games at Vermont.
A pair of former CCHA foes will renew their rivalry when No. 20 Western Michigan and Ferris State meet in a home-and-home series to start the year. Friday's game is in Kalamazoo, while Saturday the teams make the short trek to Big Rapids, Mich. In another NCHC-WCHA match-up, No. 7 North Dakota flies north to tangle with Alaska Anchorage twice to begin the new year.
Also on Friday, Omaha hits the ice for the first time this season when they host Nipissing in an exhibition contest at Baxter Arena. On Saturday, No. 6 St. Cloud State opens the regular season with an in-state battle at No. 15 Minnesota State, in the first half of a home-and-home series. The rivals complete the series on Hockey Day Minnesota, which is Jan. 20.
Six NCHC games this weekend can be seen on NCHC.tv, as well as the two additional Ice Breaker Tournament games (Ice Breaker Tournament pass available). Sign up for NCHC.tv and get access to watch games throughout the season. NCHC.tv has added several new enhancements to the digital network this year as well, including mobile apps.
NCHC notes and individual team previews, along with links to watch and follow the games, are below.
• After NCHC teams went 5-1 in exhibition play last weekend, six NCHC teams open the 2017-18 regular season this weekend while Omaha hosts its exhibition opener. Highlighting the weekend is the Ice Breaker Tournament, which is hosted by Minnesota Duluth. The 12th-ranked Bulldogs face in-state rival Minnesota Friday, with Michigan Tech of the WCHA and Union of ECAC Hockey also taking part. This is the second straight season an NCHC school has hosted the Ice Breaker Tournament after Denver held the 2016 event at Magness Arena. North Dakota won the Ice Breaker in 2015 in Portland, Maine, while UMD also participated in the 2014 Ice Breaker Tournament hosted by Notre Dame.
• NCHC teams have combined to post the best non-conference record among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences each of the last three seasons, including compiling a 48-21-14 regular-season non-conference record in 2016-17 for a .663 winning percentage.
• Four NCHC teams are ranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll this week, tying with the Big Ten and Hockey East for the most from one conference. Five NCHC teams are ranked in the USCHO.com Preseason Poll. Defending national champion Denver is No. 1 in both polls, including unanimously in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. St. Cloud State and North Dakota are in the top 10 in both polls with Minnesota Duluth No. 12 in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll.
• Three NCHC players are tied, along with Quinnipiac’s Landon Smith, for the most games played among active NCAA players. Minnesota Duluth forward Karson Kuhlman, Denver defenseman Adam Plant and North Dakota forward Austin Poganski, all seniors, have each played in 122 career games. Kuhlman has never missed a game, tying him with Smith for the most consecutive games played among active players.
• Colorado College is the only team in the NCAA this season with no seniors on its roster. Only Boston College, with one, has fewer than two seniors on its roster besides CC. The Tigers have 19 freshmen and sophomores, the third-most underclassmen in the country, tied with Miami. On the flip side, Omaha has only three freshmen on the team this year, the fewest in the NCAA. The Mavericks feature 16 juniors and seniors, the most upperclassmen in the NCHC and tying for the third-most upperclassmen in all of NCAA men’s hockey.
• After no new head coaches last season, the NCHC has one new head coach this year -- Omaha’s Mike Gabinet, who replaced Dean Blais. Gabinet is the youngest head coach in men’s Division I hockey. Gabinet was an associate head coach for Omaha last season and is the first alumnus to serve as head coach of the Mavericks, having played at Omaha from 2000-04. He is only the third head coach in the program’s history.
• With Denver winning the 2017 NCAA national championship, the eighth in the program’s history, the NCHC is home to the last two NCAA champions with North Dakota winning the title in 2016. Minnesota Duluth joined Denver in the Frozen Four and national championship game last season, marking the third straight season the NCHC has placed two teams in the NCAA Frozen Four. In the conference’s four-year history, the NCHC has seen seven of its teams earn a spot in the Frozen Four, the most from any conference during that span (2014-17).
Friday, Oct. 6 | Gutterson Fieldhouse | Burlington, Vt. | 7:05 p.m ET
Saturday, Oct. 7 | Gutterson Fieldhouse | Burlington, Vt. | 7:05 p.m ET
Records: CC (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); Vermont (0-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA)
CC Notes | Live Stream (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• Colorado College won its exhibition opener Saturday, downing Lethbridge, 4-1. Junior forward Westin Michaud led CC with three points on two goals and an assist. He had eight points in 36 games last season.
• CC enters the 2017-18 season with zero seniors on the roster, the only team in the NCAA without a senior on the team. All four captains this year are juniors. Forwards Tanner Ockey and Mason Bergh will serve as co-captains while defensemen Andrew Farny and Cole McCaskill will be the assistant captains.
• Sixteen of the 22 Tigers that recorded at least one point last season return for the 2017-18 campaign. Junior Mason Bergh led the team in scoring last season, recording 24 points (14g, 10a).
• Goaltender Alex Leclerc, last season’s team MVP, returns for his sophomore season in the net. His 3.19 goals-against average last season as the team’s starting goalie was the best in one season since 2013-14.
• CC is 2-1-0 all-time against Vermont, but the teams haven’t met since the 1996-97 season.
Friday, Oct. 6 | Steve Cady Arena | Oxford, Ohio | 7:35 p.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 7 | Steve Cady Arena | Oxford, Ohio | 8:00 p.m. ET
Records: Miami (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); Providence (0-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA)
Miami Notes | NCHC.tv (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• The 2017-18 season marks the 40-year anniversary of Miami hockey. Since joining the NCAA ranks prior to the 1978-79 season, the RedHawks are 703-682-121 with 12 NCAA Tournament appearances.
• After having 14 freshmen on the 2016-17 roster, the Red and White return 17 of 21 letterwinners from last season. The top returners include junior forward Kiefer Sherwood (14-24-38), senior captain Louie Belpedio (6-11-17) and sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin (2.77 GAA, .910 save percentage). Sherwood is the NCHC’s top returning scorer in conference play after 26 points last season (9g, 17a), while Belpedio was the top defenseman on the Preseason All-NCHC Team.
• Miami saw one of its players get selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in June as sophomore forward Carson Meyer was taken in the sixth round by his hometown Columbus Blue Jackets after putting up 26 points (10g, 16a) last season as a freshman.
• Miami and Providence are meeting for the sixth straight season in 2017-18, with the RedHawks going 2-4-3 against the Friars over the last five years, including a split in Providence last season.
Friday, Oct. 6 vs. No. 3/3 Minnesota | AMSOIL Arena | Duluth, Minn. | 7:37 p.m. CT
Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. No. 16 Union/Michigan Tech | AMSOIL Arena | Duluth, Minn. | 7:37 p.m. CT
Records: UMD (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); Minnesota (0-0-0, 0-0-0 B1G); MTU (0-1-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA); Union (0-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC)
UMD Notes | NCHC.tv (all games) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
Television: My9 Sports Network (in Duluth)
• In its exhibition opener on Saturday, Minnesota Duluth was edged by Alberta, 4-3. UMD allowed three goals in the third period after leading 3-1. Freshman defensemen Dylan Samberg and Scott Perunovich and sophomore forward Riley Tufte tallied the goals for the Bulldogs.
• The Bulldogs bring in 11 newcomers this season, including three who were taken in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft -- defensemen Mikey Anderson (4th round) and Samberg (2nd round), and forward Nick Swaney (7th round). Samberg was named to the College Hockey News Preseason All-Rookie Team.
• Serving as captain this season is senior forward Karson Kuhlman of Esko, Minn., near Duluth. This is the fourth straight season UMD has had a captain hail from Duluth or a nearby suburb: 2014-15 Adam Krause (Hermantown), 2015-16 Andy Welinski (Duluth), 2016-17 Dominic Toninato (Duluth).
• The Bulldogs have won seven straight meetings against in-state rival Minnesota, which is the longest win streak against the Gophers in program history.
Friday, Oct. 6 | Sullivan Arena | Anchorage, Alaska | 7:07 p.m. AT
Saturday, Oct. 7 | Sullivan Arena | Anchorage, Alaska | 7:07 p.m. AT
Records: UND (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); UAA (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA)
UND Notes | WCHA.tv (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• North Dakota won its exhibition opener last Saturday, topping Manitoba, 6-2, behind a four-goal second period. Sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff tallied two goals to lead the way. He scored four goals his entire rookie season and had no multi-goal outings.
• North Dakota enters the 2017-18 season with more wins over the last 11 seasons than any other program, collecting 290 wins. Boston College is second with 284 wins since 2006-07 while NCHC rival Denver has 282.
• UND returns several key players from last season, led by junior forward Shane Gersich, who is the team’s leading returning scorer after a 21-16-37 campaign last year. He was named to the Preseason All-NCHC Team. Senior goaltender Cam Johnson is also back in net and currently holds the UND career record in goals-against average with a 2.08 career GAA.
• UND owns a 46-17-5 (.713) advantage in the all-time series with UAA, which has been dormant since 2012-13 when the two teams were both members of the WCHA. UND is unbeaten (6-0-1) in the last seven meetings between the two teams.
Friday, Oct. 6 | Lawson Ice Arena | Kalamazoo, Mich. | 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 7 | Ewigleben Ice Arena | Big Rapids, Mich. | 7:07 p.m. ET
Records: WMU (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); FSU (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA)
WMU Notes | NCHC.tv (Fri.) | WCHA.tv (Sat.) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• WMU opened the 2017-18 season with an 8-2 exhibition win over Wilfrid Laurier last Saturday. Junior forward Colt Conrad, the Broncos’ top returning goal-scorer, tallied two goals to lead the way. Sophomore goalie Ben Blacker, an NCHC All-Rookie Team selection last year, made 17 saves while playing the whole game.
• For the first time in three seasons, WMU will have a new captain. Senior defenseman Scott Moldenhauer takes over for three-time captain Sheldon Dries. Dries, now with the AHL’s Texas Stars, was one of just two players in program history to wear the “C” for three seasons. Moldenhauer served as an assistant captain each of the last two seasons.
• The Broncos are tasked with replacing 74 goals, or 56 percent of its scoring, from last season. Sixty of those goals came from only four players: Matheson Iacopelli (20), Sheldon Dries (16), Griffen Molino (15) and Frederik Tiffels (9). Of WMU’s 59 returning goals, 33 are from Conrad (13) and sophomores Wade Allison (12) and Hugh McGing (8).
• Former CCHA rivals WMU and FSU last met Oct. 9-10, 2015 with the Broncos winning in Kalamazoo and tying on the road.
• Mike Gabinet takes over as head coach of the Mavericks this season, replacing Dean Blais, who stepped down following the 2016-17 season after eight years leading the team. Gabinet is the third head coach in program history and the first former Maverick to lead the program, having played at UNO from 2000-04. Omaha also added new assistant coaches in Dave Noel-Bernier, who played with Gabinet at Omaha for one season (2000-01), and former Denver goalie Peter Mannino.
• Senior forwards Tyler Vesel and Jake Randolph are both within reach of 100 career points to begin the 2017-18 season. Vesel needs 24 points to reach 100 after scoring a career-best 35 points last season. Randolph needs 29 points to hit 100, which would be three more than his career best.
• Omaha boasts seven NHL draft picks on its roster in 2017-18 -- four forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender -- all of whom were also on the team last season.
• Two of UNO’s four exhibition losses have come in the last three years. Last year Omaha dropped a 3-2 decision to Alberta while the Mavericks lost to NAIT to open the 2014-15 season. Gabinet was then an assistant coach for NAIT. That same year, UNO made its first appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four.
Saturday, Oct. 7 | Verizon Center | Mankato, Minn. | 7:07 p.m. CT
Records: SCSU (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); MSU (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA)
SCSU Notes | WCHA.tv | Live Audio | Live Stats
Television: Charter Cable ch. 191/826 (in Minnesota)
• The Huskies opened the season with an 8-0 win over Regina last Saturday in exhibition action. The goalie trio of junior Jeff Smith, freshman David Hrenak and junior David Zevnik combined for the 25-save shutout. Freshman forward Blake Lizotte tallied a hat trick in the win.
• The Huskies return their top 12 point producers from the 2016-17 season and 95 percent of their goal-scoring, which is second in the NCAA. The group is led by junior forward Mikey Eyssimont, who tallied a team-leading 14 goals and 30 points as a sophomore. Junior forward Patrick Newell is also back after leading SCSU with 20 assists last year.
• SCSU head coach Bob Motzko returns for his 13th season in 2017-18. He owns a career record of 251-183-43 with the Huskies since 2005-06. Motzko will serve as the head coach of Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. This marks Motzko’s second consecutive season as the Team USA head coach after guiding Team USA to the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.
• Last season, the Huskies lost a pair of games at Minnesota State by scores of 4-1 and 6-4 on Oct. 14-15, 2016. At the Division I level, SCSU owns a 25-17-7 record against the Mavericks. SCSU is 5-4-1 in the last 10 outings against Minnesota State.
Friday, Oct. 13 | Compton Family Ice Arena | Notre Dame, Ind. | 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 14 | Compton Family Ice Arena | Notre Dame, Ind. | 6:05 p.m. ET
Records: DU (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 NCHC); ND (0-0-0, 0-0-0 B1G)
Live Stream | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
Television: NBC Sports Network (both nights)
• Denver enters the 2017-18 season as favorites to repeat as national champions after winning the 2016-17 NCAA title and being ranked No. 1 in both national preseason polls. The Pioneers have repeated as national champs thrice before – in 1960 & ’61, 1968 & ’69 and 2004 & ’05. Denver is also the first team in the NCHC’s four-year history to be unanimously chosen as the favorite to win the Penrose Cup in the NCHC Preseason Poll.
• The Pioneers won their exhibition opener against Lethbridge on Sunday, 3-1. Sophomore forwards Tyson McLellan and Liam Finlay and junior forward Troy Terry scored the goals
• Denver had four players named to the seven-man Preseason All-NCHC Team in sophomore forward Henrik Borgström, junior forwards Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell, and senior goalie Tanner Jaillet, who won the Mike Richter Award last season. Borgström and Terry shared the NCHC goal-scoring lead last year with 22 goals each.
• The meetings between Denver and Notre Dame mark a rematch from last season’s national semifinal in the NCAA Frozen Four, which Denver won, 6-1.