COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With the 2019-20 season disappointingly cut short, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has turned its attention to next season, revealing the 2020-21 conference schedule on Wednesday for its eighth season of competition. As has been the case in each of the NCHC’s first seven seasons of play, all eight NCHC teams will play a 24-game conference slate, culminating in the 2020 NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Saint Paul, Minn.
While the official start date for the 2020-21 college hockey season is Saturday, Oct. 3, the pursuit of the Penrose Cup doesn’t get underway for more than a month. The 96-game conference slate opens the weekend of Nov. 5-7 with all eight teams in action. The first game will take place on Thursday, Nov. 5 with Miami visiting Colorado College, due to a building conflict on Saturday, Nov. 7. That series concludes Friday, Nov. 6, while the three other NCHC-opening series: Denver at Western Michigan, Omaha at Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State at defending Penrose Cup champion North Dakota, occur Nov. 6-7.
The following weekend, Nov. 13-14, also has a full slate of conference play, with Miami (vs. UMD), St. Cloud State (vs. CC), Omaha (vs. WMU) and Denver (vs. rival North Dakota) all holding their conference home-opening weekend. Three other weekends of NCHC action take place in 2020, with three conference series each on Nov. 20-21, Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 11-12.
Following the winter holidays and IIHF World Junior Championship, conference play resumes in the New Year with a full slate of NCHC games on Jan. 8-9. Among the series that weekend are Miami visiting rival Western Michigan and Minnesota Duluth heading to Denver for a battle of second and third-place teams from 2019-20. The following weekend, Jan. 15-16, features three series, including UND heading to Duluth to battle the Bulldogs in a showdown of the top two teams from this past season.
After full conference weekends on Jan. 22-23, which includes DU’s return trip to rival North Dakota, and on Jan. 29-30, NCHC action slows down the first two weekends in February with the annual byes. The only conference game on Friday, Feb. 5 has in-state rivals colliding as St. Cloud State heads to Minnesota Duluth. That series wraps up on Feb. 6 in Duluth, while the battle for the Gold Pan gets underway that night as Colorado College travels to in-state rival Denver.
The next weekend, Feb. 12-13, has UND at WMU and Miami at Omaha, while Denver makes a return trip to Colorado Springs on Saturday, Feb. 13 to tangle with the Tigers. The final three weekends of the regular season are loaded with conference play, as all eight teams face NCHC foes down the stretch. The Feb. 19-20 weekend is highlighted by UMD heading to Grand Forks for another showdown with UND, while the Feb. 26-27 weekend features match-ups of what would have been the four NCHC Quarterfinal series this past season (two in different locations).
For the third straight season, NCHC teams will close the regular season against their protected rival, with Omaha at North Dakota, Denver and CC finishing up the battle for the Gold Pan (regular-season finale at CC), UMD making the drive south to face St. Cloud State for the second time in a month, and the Broncos traveling to Oxford to finish their season series with Miami.
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 was presented to North Dakota for the third time in the NCHC’s seven seasons in 2019-20.
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 12-14, 2021 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 19-20, when a champion will be crowned. The 2020 NCHC Tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 2020-21 schedule will be added once all NCHC teams announce their own non-conference schedules.
The NCHC is coming off another strong season, finishing with the best combined non-conference record among the conferences, while four NCHC teams finished the 2019-20 season ranked in the top 20 nationally in the USCHO.com Poll, including three in the top six.