COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Following a tumultuous season that saw schedules altered and adjusted, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) unveiled its traditional-format, 96-game conference schedule for the 2021-22 season on Wednesday. As was the case in its first seven seasons (and for some teams last season), all eight teams will play a 24-game conference slate for the NCHC’s ninth season of competition.
While the official start date of the 2021-22 college hockey season is Saturday, Oct. 2, the pursuit of the Penrose Cup doesn’t get underway until the first weekend of November. The regular season then wraps up the first weekend of March, with all eight NCHC teams playing 12, two-game series over 14 weekends (Friday/Saturday) next season.
After holding a modified, single-elimination NCHC Tournament and Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks, N.D. in 2021, the 2022 NCHC Tournament will also return to its traditional format and location. Best-of-three quarterfinal series are slated to take place on campus sites Friday-Sunday, March 11-13, with the top four seeds hosting the bottom four seeds. The four quarterfinal series winners then advance to the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, which returns to Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, when a champion will be crowned.
Like in the conference’s first seven seasons, NCHC squads 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). Teams will play 12 home and 12 away conference games in the regular season.
All eight teams begin NCHC play November 5-6, highlighted by two-time defending Penrose Cup champion North Dakota opening at home against rival Denver. Other series on conference-opening weekend include Minnesota Duluth at Western Michigan, Miami at Omaha and St. Cloud State at Colorado College.
Protected rivals meet for the first time on Dec. 3-4 when Western Michigan heads to Oxford to face Miami. After a three-conference-series weekend Dec. 10-11, NCHC play halts for winter break. Conference play then resumes Jan. 7-8 with another three NCHC series, including in-state rivals Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State colliding in St. Cloud. The other protected rivals first meet on Jan. 14-15 (Omaha at North Dakota) and Jan. 21-22 (Colorado College vs. Denver). The home-and-home schedule/locations of the Gold Pan series between CC and DU are still to be determined.
Teams will have a bye from conference play either Feb. 4-5 or Feb. 11-12, before three straight full weekends of conference play to close the regular season. For the fourth straight year, NCHC teams will end the regular season against their protected rival with Miami at WMU, UND at Omaha, SCSU at UMD and the Tigers and Pioneers completing their Gold Pan series on March 4-5.
The Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup is awarded to the winner of the NCHC regular season, which was won by North Dakota for a second straight season in 2020-21. The Frozen Faceoff winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which also went to UND last season, the Fighting Hawks first time winning the Frozen Faceoff.
North Dakota became the first team to win both NCHC trophies in the same season in 2020-21, while four NCHC teams went on to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State both made the NCAA Frozen Four, the fifth time in seven NCAA Tournaments the NCHC had two teams in the national semifinals.
All dates listed for the 2021-22 NCHC schedule are subject to change and times are still to be announced. The non-conference portion of the 2021-22 schedule will be added once all NCHC teams announce their own non-conference schedules.