PURSUIT OF THE PENROSE: The pursuit of the Penrose Cup officially begins this weekend with the first conference series of the season as Western Michigan heads west to Colorado College for a two-game set. It is the lone NCHC series this weekend, before four other teams begin NCHC play next weekend. WMU and CC met in the NCHC Playoffs last season, with the Tigers upsetting the Broncos in three games in their best-of-three series in Kalamazoo, ending WMU’s season while Colorado College advanced to its first ever NCHC Frozen Faceoff. Revisiting the NCHC Preseason Media Poll, WMU was picked to finish third in the regular season, while the Tigers were selected to finish in sixth place. That’s also where the teams finished last season.
NON-CONFERENCE NUMBERS: Four NCHC teams face non-conference foes this weekend, including three two-game series (two of which are in NCHC venues), while North Dakota entertains Michigan Tech in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Last weekend, NCHC teams combined to go 8-3-1 in non-conference play, including 5-1-0 on Saturday when the five winning teams allowed only three goals combined. The NCHC is off to a 23-14-6 start in non-conference play overall this season, with the .605 win percentage second among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences (Big Ten at .676). The NCHC has posted the best combined non-conference winning percentage in four of the last five seasons, including last year at .659.
ON TOP OF THE POLLS: Four NCHC teams (Denver, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota & St. Cloud State) are ranked in the USCHO.com Poll, with Western Michigan, Omaha and Colorado College all receiving votes, as well. Denver remains No. 1 in both polls for the third straight week at a perfect 6-0-0. With the Pioneers still in the top spot, an NCHC team has now been ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Poll in 65 of the last 77 weeks dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season. Half of the NCHC teams have held the No. 1 spot during that span (Denver, UMD, North Dakota and St. Cloud State), while the NCHC is home to the last four NCAA National Champions. Only three NCHC teams are ranked in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll, with DU a unanimous No. 1, while UMD moved up to No. 6 and North Dakota entered the poll for the first time this season at No. 14.
SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS: Two NCHC teams are off to very strong starts on special teams. Omaha is tied for second nationally on the power play, converting 31.8 percent of the time (7-for-22), with the seven power play goals tying for third in the NCAA. On the flip side, Denver is second in the country on the penalty kill, killing 96.0 percent of opponent power plays (24-for-25). Three NCHC teams sit in the top 10 nationally on the penalty kill with North Dakota sixth at 94.4 percent (17-for-18) and UMD tied for ninth at 90.9 percent (20-for-22).
HOMEWARD BOUND: Omaha starts the weekend for the NCHC at Alaska Anchorage on Thursday night, with freshman goaltender Isaiah Saville returning to his hometown of Anchorage. Saville leads all NCAA freshman netminders with both a .938 save percentage and a 1.68 goals-against average in three games this season. Denver freshman Magnus Chrona is second among NCAA rookies behind Saville with both a .930 save percentage and a 1.83 GAA, while Chrona is the lone NCAA freshman goaltender with two shutouts already this season.
For more information, including team-specific notes and schedules, click here.