COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – After releasing its plans and format for the 2020-21 season on Oct. 16, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) unveiled the updated conference schedule for its eighth season of competition on Monday, Nov. 9. All eight NCHC teams will play a 26-game conference slate for a total of 104 conference games in 2020-21.
The NCHC season will be divided into two portions. The first portion will take place at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Neb., where all eight teams will compete in the ‘Pod’ from Dec. 1-20. The second portion of the campaign will consist of regular travel hosted on campus sites, beginning in January. Forty of the 104 games will take place in the Pod, while the remaining 64 games will occur in campus arenas.
With the focus on the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, staff, and officials, the Conference has intentionally attempted to limit team travel this season. Because of this, NCHC teams have been divided into two divisions based on geography for 2020-21 scheduling purposes: East and West. The East Division consists of Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. The West Division consists of Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota and Omaha. Teams will play each of their divisional opponents six times (18 games total) and each cross-division opponent twice (8 games total), with all cross-division clashes taking place in the Pod.
“The ingenuity of our membership to think creatively about how to construct a schedule that focuses on the health and safety of people associated with our programs has been impressive,” NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton said. “The geography of the Conference makes it nearly impossible to truly regionalize the schedule, but through this unique approach, we were able to build something that provides deserving student-athletes the competitive experiences they’ve earned, while prioritizing their health and safety.”
The 2020-21 pursuit of the Penrose Cup begins in the Pod on Tuesday, Dec. 1 with a doubleheader between Colorado College and host Omaha, as well as St. Cloud State taking on No. 18 Western Michigan. The other four teams get underway Wednesday, Dec. 2 with defending Penrose Cup champion and top-ranked North Dakota battling Miami, while a top-5 tussle takes place between No. 3 Minnesota Duluth and No. 5 Denver. During the three weeks in the Pod, games will take place Tuesday through Sunday, with Monday an off day. Most weekdays (Tuesday-Friday) will have two games per day, while weekends (Saturday-Sunday) will have three games per day. Each team will play 10 games in the Pod, with two games against one division foe, along with the eight cross-division games. Each team will have two sets of back-to-back games and only one game during their final examination period in the Pod.
After a short break following the conclusion of the Pod on Dec. 20, the second portion of the season gets underway on Thursday, Dec. 31 as North Dakota travels to Omaha to start a two-game set. All eight teams will play their rival/travel partner on each of the first two weekends of the New Year (Dec. 31-Jan. 3 and Jan. 8-9). The second portion of the season runs through Saturday, March 6, with teams only traveling to division foes. In addition to a third two-game series against their rival/travel partner, which takes place at the end of the scheduled regular season, each team will play home and away series against their other two division foes, as well. Teams will play 16 games during the January-March travel portion of the season (eight home and eight away), with two conference-wide off weekends (Jan. 29-30 and Feb. 19-20) to allow for flexibility in the schedule. The bye weekends occur following both sets of three-game series.
As always, nearly every conference game in 2020-21, including games in the Pod, will be available with a subscription to NCHC.tv. More information on NCHC.tv subscription packages and subscription renewals will be announced on Tuesday.
Game times for the Pod will be determined by the Conference and announced soon. Game times for the second portion of the season will be determined and released by the host institution. The NCHC’s Return to Play protocol and overall COVID-19 testing plans will also be released in the coming weeks. At this time, no changes are planned for the 2021 NCHC Tournament. Any possible non-conference games would not occur until after the New Year, though no decisions have been made.