COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Fresh off its fourth consecutive National Championship, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) unveiled its 96-game 2019-20 conference schedule on Wednesday for its seventh season of competition. As was the case for the NCHC’s first six seasons of play, all eight NCHC teams will play a 24-game conference slate, culminating in the seventh annual NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Saint Paul, Minn.
While the official start date for the 2019-20 season is Saturday, Oct. 5, NCHC action doesn’t get underway for more than a month with three series opening the conference slate on Nov. 8-9. Dropping the puck on the first weekend in the pursuit of the Penrose Cup are Denver at two-time defending National Champions Minnesota Duluth, in a match-up of 2019 Frozen Four teams, along with Miami at North Dakota, and Western Michigan at Colorado College, in a rematch from this past season’s NCHC three-game quarterfinal series that was played in Kalamazoo (and won by CC).
The following weekend on Nov. 15-16, the remaining two NCHC teams begin conference play with two-time defending Penrose Cup champions St. Cloud State starting at home against Colorado College, while Omaha opens NCHC play on the road at Western Michigan. The Nov. 15-16 weekend also marks the first of two-straight weekends with a full slate of conference games, with Nov. 22-23 the only other full slate of NCHC action during the 2019 calendar year.
Three NCHC series are set for Dec. 6-7, while the unofficial first half of the season closes Dec. 13-14 with two conference clashes. The final two NCHC series of 2019 see the battle for the Gold Pan get underway with a home-and-home series between in-state rivals Colorado College and Denver, while Omaha heads north to take on St. Cloud State. The Tigers won the Gold Pan from DU for the first time since 2013-14 this past season. All eight NCHC teams will play eight conference games (four series) prior to the December break.
NCHC play resumes after the holiday break on Jan. 10-11 with a full slate of conference action. SCSU heads to Denver, Miami also travels west to take on CC, WMU faces the Bulldogs in Duluth and Omaha clashes with rival North Dakota in Grand Forks. The Jan. 10-11 weekend marks the first of four-straight full-slate weekends of conference play.
On. Jan. 17-18, another set of rivals meet for the first time during the season as the 2019 Frozen Faceoff champion Bulldogs make the short trek to St. Cloud for two games with the two-time Penrose Cup champs in a rematch of their thrilling 2019 Frozen Faceoff championship game won by UMD in double overtime. On Jan. 24-25, UND plays at rival Minnesota Duluth in the teams’ only regular-season meetings of the year. The following weekend, the Bulldogs head to Denver to complete their four-game season series in a match-up of the 2017 National Championship game participants.
Like the past handful of years, all eight teams will get a bye weekend in February on either Feb. 7-8 or Feb. 14-15. Three series are set for the first weekend with byes as Omaha visits UMD, SCSU travels west to CC, and Western Michigan takes on rival Miami for the first time all season in Oxford. The next weekend those six teams are idle from NCHC play, while Denver heads to rival North Dakota for the only NCHC series on Feb. 14-15. The SCSU at CC series was originally slated for Feb. 14-15 but was moved at CC’s request.
The final three weekends of the regular season, starting Feb. 21-22, are again all full slates of conference play, with the pursuit of the Penrose Cup concluding March 6-7. For the second straight season, NCHC teams will close the regular season against their protected rival, with UND at Omaha, CC and Denver closing out the Gold Pan series, SCSU traveling to Duluth for a two-game set with UMD and Miami facing Western Michigan in Kalamazoo as those rivals meet for the second time in five weeks.
The 2018-19 season marked the first time protected rivals closed the season against each other, and that will continue for the foreseeable future to help limit travel prior to the postseason. The NCHC regular-season champion receives the Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup, which has been presented to St. Cloud State each of the last two seasons.
Like in previous seasons, all eight NCHC teams will play five teams, including their protected rival, in both home and away series, while facing the other two teams for just one series (one home and one away). All eight teams will play 12 home and 12 away conference games.
Following the regular season, the NCHC Tournament begins with the best-of-three quarterfinal series March 13-15, 2020 with the top four seeds hosting the bottom four seeds on campus sites. The series winners then advance to Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. for the seventh annual NCHC Frozen Faceoff on Friday and Saturday, March 20-21, when a champion will be crowned. Minnesota Duluth won the Frozen Faceoff for the second time in three years in 2019. The Frozen Faceoff winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, as well.
All dates listed are subject to change and times are all still to be announced. The television schedule with NCHC nationally and regionally televised games will be unveiled as the season nears. The non-conference portion of the 2019-20 schedule will be added once all NCHC teams announce their own non-conference schedules.
The NCHC is coming off another banner season following its sixth year of competition. Three NCHC teams made the 2019 NCAA Tournament, with Denver making the Frozen Four and Minnesota Duluth repeating as National Champions, giving the NCHC a four-peat. The NCHC becomes the first conference to win four straight national titles since the WCHA won five in a row from 2002-06. The NCHC has now placed 23 teams in the NCAA Tournament and 10 teams in the Frozen Four in its six-year history. Five NCHC teams finished the 2018-19 season ranked in the top 20 nationally in the USCHO.com Poll, as well.