Friday, Feb. 21
Saturday, Feb. 22
* National Collegiate Hockey Conference game
PURSUIT OF THE PENROSE: Three weeks remain in the regular season with all eight NCHC teams in conference play each of those weekends. Even with three weeks to go, top-ranked North Dakota is closing in on its third ever Penrose Cup and could clinch it this weekend with some help. UND leads second-place Minnesota Duluth by eight points and is at St. Cloud State this weekend, while the Bulldogs are at No. 19 Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks can clinch at least a share of the Penrose Cup by gaining four points on UMD this weekend, while a five-point gain would secure the Cup outright (UND sweeps and UMD gets one tie or swept). Should North Dakota clinch the Penrose Cup, they would join St. Cloud State as three-time NCHC regular-season champions.
HOME FOR THE PLAYOFFS: North Dakota became the first NCHC team to lock up home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinal series, doing so last Friday with a win over Denver. UND had hosted the first round of their conference tournament 16 straight seasons until failing to do so last year when they finished fifth in the NCHC. Minnesota Duluth can clinch home ice this weekend with a sweep of Western Michigan, one win at WMU and a St. Cloud State loss to North Dakota, or UND sweeping St. Cloud State plus Omaha dropping one point to Colorado College. Western Michigan could also secure home ice for a second straight season with a sweep of the Bulldogs and SCSU gets swept by North Dakota, plus Omaha drops two points to Colorado College.
NUMBER ONE IN NON-CONFERENCE... AGAIN: Colorado College swept cross-town rival Air Force last weekend to finish out non-conference play for the NCHC in the regular season. NCHC teams finished with a combined non-conference record of 49-26-12, with the .632 win percentage tops among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences. The NCHC has now posted the best combined non-conference regular-season win percentage among the conferences in five of the last six seasons, including last year at .659 (52-25-8), and now this season.
POLL POSITIONS: The NCHC is still home to the No. 1 team in the country, as North Dakota remained in the top spot in both the USCHO.com Poll and USA Hockey Magazine Poll for the third straight week. UND has now been No. 1 in the polls seven weeks this season overall, and are unanimously No. 1 in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll. Western Michigan returned to the USCHO.com Poll this week, giving the NCHC four ranked teams in that poll and three in the top seven of the USA Hockey Magazine Poll.
• Western Michigan returned to the USCHO.com Poll at No. 19. It’s the first time WMU has cracked the top 20 since the Dec. 30 poll, when they were also No. 19, ending a run of three straight weeks in that spot.
• Three NCHC teams (Denver, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota) have now held the top spot in 13 of 20 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 73 of 92 polls.
• Over the last six seasons, an NCHC team has been ranked No. 1 in the USCHO Poll 90 weeks, 75 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.
GAME-WINNERS GALORE: Three of the top four game-winning-goal scorers in the country reside in the NCHC, including the NCAA leader. North Dakota junior forward Collin Adams leads the country with six game-winners this year, while his UND classmate Jordan Kawaguchi and Denver sophomore forward Cole Guttman are two of three NCAA players tied for second in game-winning goals with five each. Adams has 10 goals total on the season, as does Guttman, while four of Kawaguchi’s five game-winners came in November and he has 15 goals this season. Omaha freshman forward Joey Abate and DU sophomore forward Emilio Pettersen are tied for fifth nationally with four game-winners each this season.
HOLY KAWAGUCHI: North Dakota junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi ranks second nationally with 44 points this season, as are his 1.52 points per game. His 29 assists are tied for second in the NCAA, with his 1.00 assists per game rank third in the country. Last season, Kawaguchi also led the Fighting Hawks in scoring, but finished the season with 26 points total in 37 games (0.70 ppg, less than half of this season).
WILKIE THIS WAY: Colorado College senior forward Chris Wilkie is tied for second in the NCAA with 20 goals this season. He continues to lead the NCAA averaging 5.11 shots on goal per game, while his 143 shots on the season are also tops in the country. Minnesota Duluth junior forward Nick Swaney is second nationally, averaging 4.64 shots on goal per game, while UMD sophomore forward Cole Koepke is third at 4.18 shots on goal 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 35.30 shots on target per game. Denver is third nationally in shots on goal (34.53), while Minnesota Duluth is ninth (32.68). North Dakota leads the country in fewest shots on goal allowed per game, giving up only 21.55 shots on goal per game to its opponents, nearly one shot per game fewer than any other NCAA team.
THAT’S OFFENSIVE: Five NCHC teams rank in the top 20 nationally on offense in goals per game. North Dakota leads the way, ranking first nationally scoring 4.14 goals per game (the only NCAA team over four goals per game). Western Michigan ranks eighth nationally, scoring 3.47 gpg, while Omaha is 14th in the NCAA (3.23 gpg). Minnesota Duluth sits at 18th in the country, potting 3.18 goals per game on the season, while Denver is tied for 20th (3.03 gpg).
CENTURY CLUB ACCESS: Three active NCHC players have already topped 100 points for their career, all seniors, but Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich is next in line for the Century Club among NCHC players with 98 career points (18g, 80a in 109 GP). He would become only the third active junior in NCAA hockey to reach 100 career points and first junior blue liner. Active NCHC career scoring leaders:
1. Hugh McGing, Sr., F, WMU - 110 points (41g, 69a)
2. Gordie Green, Sr., F, Miami - 109 points (44g, 65a)
3. Jack Ahcan, Sr., D, SCSU - 100 points (20g, 80a)
Green was the first active NCHC player to join the Century Club on Dec. 30, but has since been edged by McGing for the lead. Ahcan was the first active NCHC defenseman to reach 100 career points on Feb. 8.
YOU STAY CLASSY, HUGH MCGING: Western Michigan senior forward and captain Hugh McGing has been named one of only 10 finalists among men’s ice hockey student-athletes 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. The winner is announced on April 10 at the Frozen Four in Detroit, Mich. No NCHC player has won the award since the NCHC started in 2013-14.
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:
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