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Four NCHC Teams Open 2020 Facing Non-Conference Foes

By NCHC, 01/02/20, 3:30PM EST

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DU hosts UMass in top-10 tilt, while WMU battles Notre Dame in top-20 tussle; UND, Omaha also in action

Weekend Schedule

Friday, Jan. 3

  • Omaha at Maine, 6:00 p.m. ET
  • No. 19 Western Michigan at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. ET (TV: NBC Sports Network)
  • Alabama-Huntsville at No. 1/1 North Dakota, 7:37 p.m. CT
  • No. 9/9 Massachusetts at No. 7/5 Denver, 7:07 p.m. MT (TV: Altitude)

Saturday, Jan. 4

  • Omaha at Maine, 12:00 p.m. ET (in Portland, Maine)
  • Alabama-Huntsville at No. 1/1 North Dakota, 7:07 p.m. CT
  • No. 9/9 Massachusetts at No. 7/5 Denver, 7:07 p.m. MT

Sunday, Jan. 5

  • No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 19 Western Michigan, 5:05 p.m. ET

NCHC Facts and Figures

NEW YEAR, SAME SUCCESS: Four NCHC teams open 2020 with a non-conference series, including a pair of top-20 tussles. Two NCHC teams face Hockey East foes, while one each battles a Big Ten and WCHA opponent. So far this season, NCHC teams have combined to go 41-24-10 in non-conference play, including 5-2-0 last weekend, with the .613 win percentage tops among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences (Hockey East second at .600). The NCHC has posted the best combined non-conference regular-season winning percentage among the conferences in four of the last five seasons, including last year at .659.  

CENTURY CLUB ACCESS: With three points at Bowling Green this past Monday night, Miami senior forward and captain Gordie Green became the first active NCHC player to record 100 career points. He now has 42 goals and 59 assists for 101 points in 129 career games. Two other NCHC players are inching closer to the Century Club with Western Michigan senior forward and captain Hugh McGing six away with 94 points (35g, 59a in 127 GP) and St. Cloud State senior defenseman and captain Jack Ahcan seven away at 93 points (18g, 75a in 127 GP). 

WE’RE GOING STREAKING: Top-ranked North Dakota heads into its series with Alabama-Huntsville this weekend on a 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1), which is the longest active unbeaten streak in the NCAA. UND is also on a seven-game winning streak in NCAA play, which is the second-longest active win streak in the country. North Dakota ranks in the top three nationally in both offense (4.18 gpg/1st in NCAA) and defense (1.59 gapg/3rd in NCAA) on the season, while only Cornell also ranks in the top five in each category.

GOING FOR GOLD: After the U.S. was eliminated from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic in Thursday’s quarterfinals, North Dakota sophomore defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker is now the NCHC’s lone hope to earn a medal. He is the only college hockey player on Canada’s National Junior Team, which advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a win over Slovakia Thursday. Bernard-Docker is only the third ever NCHC player to play for Team Canada and scored his first goal of the tournament in the quarterfinal win against Slovakia.  

PINTO PUTS ON A SHOW:
North Dakota freshman forward Shane Pinto was named one of the Top-3 Players of the World Junior Championship for the U.S. National Junior Team after they fell to Finland, 1-0, in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Pinto tied for the team lead with four goals and was second on the squad with seven points in five games. Denver freshman forward Bobby Brink had a goal and an assist at the tournament for Team USA, which was coached by Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin. 

HATS OFF AND RECORDS TIED: After only two hat tricks were tallied by NCHC players over the first 11 weeks this season, hat tricks were recorded by NCHC players on back-to-back nights last weekend. First, St. Cloud State freshman forward Zach Okabe tied an NCHC record with four goals last Saturday in a win over Minnesota State, the first four goals of his career. He’s the fourth NCHC player ever to score four goals in a game, including second Husky (Joey Benik on Nov. 14, 2015 at Western Michigan) and the first since current Colorado College sophomore forward Ben Copeland tallied four as a freshman last season on Feb. 23, 2019 also against WMU. CC senior forward Chris Wilkie then tallied his first career hat trick on Sunday in a win over St. Lawrence. Omaha junior forward Kevin Conley recorded his first career hat trick on Nov. 16 against WMU, while WMU sophomore forward Rhett Kingston was the first NCHC player to notch a hat trick this season with his first career hat trick on Nov. 9 at Ferris State, which were his first three goals of the season. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA CALLS NCHC HOME: Western Michigan sophomore defenseman Mattias Samuelsson served as captain of the U.S. National Junior Team this year at the IIHF World Junior Championship, marking the third straight season Team USA’s captain has come from the NCHC after former Minnesota Duluth defenseman Mikey Anderson held the honor last year and his brother, former UMD forward Joey Anderson, did so in 2018. Former Miami forward Riley Barber also served as the U.S. captain in 2014 giving the NCHC four U.S. National Junior Team captains in seven years.

HOISTING THE SPENGLER CUP: While five NCHC players were at the World Junior Championship, Denver junior defenseman and captain Ian Mitchell played for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, helping Canada win the Spengler Cup for the 16th time overall and fourth time in five years. The Blackhawks draft pick scored a goal and added two assists in the tournament. Mitchell was the only current college hockey player on the roster and marked the second straight season the NCHC has been represented on Team Canada at the Spengler Cup after former Western Michigan forward Colt Conrad played in the six-team club tournament last year. 

POLL POSITIONS: The NCHC is home to the No. 1 team in the country for the second straight poll after North Dakota remained in the top spot. Four NCHC teams are ranked in the latest USCHO.com Poll (Dec. 30), including three in the top 10. Three NCHC teams rank in the top 10 in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll, as well. 

  • Three NCHC teams (Denver, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota) have now held the top spot in eight of 13 USCHO.com Polls so far this season. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, an NCHC team has been ranked No. 1 in the USCHO Poll in 68 of 85 polls.     
  • Over the last six seasons, an NCHC team has been ranked No. 1 in the USCHO Poll 85 weeks, 70 more weeks than any other conference combined (Big Ten second at 15 weeks). Four different NCHC teams (DU, UMD, UND and St. Cloud State) have all held the No. 1 ranking for at least 19 weeks during that span, all more than any other conference combined.

WHAT A SHOT SHOW: Three NCHC teams rank in the top nine nationally in shots on goal per game. Denver is fourth in the country and tops in the NCHC in shots on goal per game averaging 35.11 shots on target per game. Western Michigan is sixth nationally in shots on goal (33.62), while Minnesota Duluth is ninth (32.50). North Dakota leads the country in fewest shots on goal allowed per game, giving up only 21.88 shots on goal per game to its opponents.

ALL THEY DO IS (SCORE TO) WIN: Six players nationally have scored an NCAA-best four game-winning goals this season and two reside in the NCHC in North Dakota junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Omaha freshman forward Joey Abate. All four of Kawaguchi’s game-winners came in November, while Abate’s first four goals this season were game-winners. Both now have seven goals overall on the season.

WHAT HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE?: A third of the way through the 96-game NCHC conference slate and road teams are having more success than home teams in conference play. Road teams went 2-2 in the last conference games on Dec. 13-14 and are now 16-12-4 in NCHC conference play this season for a .563 win percentage away from home.

For more information, including team-specific schedules and notes, click here.

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