Friday, Feb. 7
Saturday, Feb. 8
* National Collegiate Hockey Conference game
FOUR MORE: Although not all NCHC teams are in action this weekend, all eight NCHC teams have four conference weekends remaining (eight NCHC games) in the regular season. First-place North Dakota is idle this weekend and holds an eight-point cushion on second-place Minnesota Duluth, which hosts Omaha this weekend. No team has overcome more than two points at this point in the season to win the Penrose Cup, previously. The only other conference series this weekend has St. Cloud State traveling to Colorado College. Both are rematches from earlier this season with UMD sweeping at Omaha and CC sweeping at SCSU. Denver and Miami are also idle with UND, while Western Michigan plays a non-conference series.
POLL POSITIONS: The NCHC is once again home to the No. 1 team in the country, as North Dakota reclaimed the top spot in both the USCHO.com Poll and USA Hockey Magazine Poll, coming one first-place vote short of unanimous in each poll. UND has now been No. 1 in the polls five weeks this season. Three NCHC teams are ranked in both national polls, with all three in the top seven in each poll.
NUMBER ONE IN NON-CONFERENCE: Only two non-conference series remain this season among NCHC teams, and one of them takes place this weekend in Kalamazoo as Western Michigan welcomes RPI of ECAC Hockey for a pair. The other is next weekend as Colorado College faces cross-city rival Air Force in a home-and-home series. So far this season, NCHC teams have combined to go 45-26-12 in non-conference play, with the .614 win percentage tops among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences. NCHC teams are 4-2-2 against ECAC foes so far this season. The NCHC has posted the best combined non-conference regular-season win percentage among the conferences four of the last five seasons, including last year at .659 (52-25-8).
GAME-WINNERS GALORE: Four players share the national lead for game-winning goals with five each and three of the four reside in the NCHC in North Dakota junior forwards Jordan Kawaguchi and Collin Adams, as well as Denver sophomore forward Cole Guttman. Four of Kawaguchi’s five game-winners came in November, while he has 15 goals this season and his 41 points rank second nationally. Adams has eight goals total and 23 points overall, while Guttman has 10 goals and 20 points this year. Omaha freshman forward Joey Abate and DU sophomore forward Emilio Pettersen are tied for fifth nationally with four game-winners each this season.
SCORIN’ SCOTTY: Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich, the two-time NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, is tied for the NCAA lead among defensemen with 32 points this season with Boston University’s David Farrance. Perunovich’s 28 assists (1.08 apg) lead all NCAA defensemen and rank second nationally among all NCAA skaters.
THAT’S OFFENSIVE: Five NCHC teams rank in the top 17 nationally on offense in goals per game. North Dakota leads the way, ranking first nationally scoring 4.19 goals per game. Omaha is ninth in the NCAA (3.36 gpg), while Western Michigan (3.23 gpg), Denver (3.18 gpg) and Minnesota Duluth (3.15 gpg) rank 15th through 17th nationally in goals per game.
WHAT A SHOT SHOW: Three NCHC teams rank in the top 10 nationally in shots on goal per game, including two of the top three. Western Michigan is second in the country and tops in the NCHC in shots on goal per game averaging 35.50 shots on target per game. Denver is third nationally in shots on goal (35.11), while Minnesota Duluth is 10th (32.12). North Dakota leads the country in fewest shots on goal allowed per game, giving up only 21.19 shots on goal per game to its opponents, more than one shot per game fewer than any other NCAA team.
CENTURY CLUB ACCESS: Only two active NCHC players have at least 100 career points, while two more are within three points of the mark. St. Cloud State senior defenseman and captain Jack Ahcan sits at 97 points (19g, 78a in 137 GP), as does Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich (18g, 79a in 107 GP). Perunovich would become only the second active junior in NCAA hockey to reach 100 career points. With four points in a sweep of St. Cloud State two weekends ago, Western Michigan senior forward and captain Hugh McGing became the 60th Bronco in program history to join the Century Club as he now has 105 career points (38g, 67a) in 137 career games. The active career leading scorer in the NCHC is Miami senior forward and captain Gordie Green, who became the first active NCHC player and 53rd Miami player to record 100 career points with three points at Bowling Green on Dec. 30. He now has 106 points (44g, 62a), also in 137 career games.
MR. IRONMAN HIMSELF: Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Hunter Shepard, the reigning NCHC Goalie of the Year, has started 107 straight games in net, extending his NCAA record. He broke the NCAA record for consecutive starts by a goaltender on Jan. 25 in a start against North Dakota. Shepard topped Cornell’s Ben Scrivens, who started 104 straight from 2007-10. Shepherd’s iron-man streak dates back to Oct. 21, 2017. Shepard has 110 starts overall in his career, which ranks fourth in NCHC history. Current Miami senior goaltender Ryan Larkin ranks third with 114 career starts, one back of former Omaha netminder Evan Weninger, who had 115. Former Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet holds the NCHC record with 127 career starts.
HOBEY HOPEFULS: Fan voting for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award opened in mid-January and 14 NCHC players were nominated by their schools, with all eight teams having at least one representative. The NCHC’s lone Hobey Baker Award winner is former Denver defenseman Will Butcher in 2017. Among the NCHC’s 14 nominees, nine are forwards, four are defensemen and one is a goaltender. By class, six NCHC nominees are seniors, five are juniors and three are sophomores. The 14 nominees trail only ECAC Hockey’s 16 among conferences. The 14 nominees are:
WILKIE THIS WAY: Colorado College senior forward Chris Wilkie is tied for third in the NCAA with 17 goals this season. He continues to lead the NCAA averaging 5.29 shots on goal per game, while his 127 shots on the season are also tops in the country. Minnesota Duluth junior forward Nick Swaney is second nationally, averaging 4.70 shots on goal per game.
YOU STAY CLASSY, HUGH MCGING: Western Michigan senior forward and captain Hugh McGing is among only 20 men’s ice hockey student-athletes named candidates for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award in 2019-20. McGing is the lone representative from the NCHC up for the national award, which honors seniors who excel both on and off the ice, and in the community. Ten finalists will be announced in February, while the winner is announced on April 10 at the Frozen Four in Detroit, Mich.
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