All eight NCHC teams return from holiday break this weekend, with six squads facing non-conference opponents and two teams, Miami and North Dakota, opening the second half of the season by hosting exhibition games.
Seven games this weekend can be seen on NCHC.tv. Don't have NCHC.tv? Sign up for the Mid-Season Pass for access to all remaining available games, then download the NCHC.tv mobile app to watch games anywhere you go.
Individual team previews are below.
• Coming off the break, all eight NCHC teams are in action with six facing non-conference foes and two (Miami and North Dakota) playing exhibition games. Three of the non-conference series this weekend are against ECAC Hockey foes, with NCHC teams going a combined 5-5-2 against ECAC teams so far this season. Overall, NCHC teams are a combined 39-17-11 in non-conference play this season, with the .664 win percentage second among the six conferences behind only the Big Ten at .697.
• Seven NCHC skaters are taking part in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo, N.Y., including six on Team USA: Minnesota Duluth sophomore forwards Joey Anderson, who is serving as captain, and Riley Tufte, UMD freshman defensemen Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg, and St. Cloud State sophomore forward Ryan Poehling. SCSU freshman goalie Dávid Hrenák is representing his native Slovakia. Team USA is coached for a second straight year by SCSU head coach Bob Motzko.
• According to the KRACH on USCHO.com, NCHC teams have played seven of the eight toughest schedules in the country. Minnesota has faced the toughest, but Denver, St. Cloud State and Omaha are second through fourth, respectively, while NCHC teams are also in spots five through eight. Colorado College has played the “weakest” schedule among NCHC teams, which is still 16th nationally, according to the KRACH Ratings.
• With conference play complete until January, previous history says a look at the current standings can be indicative of the final results. In the NCHC’s first four seasons, the Penrose Cup champion was already in first place as of Jan. 1 two times (SCSU in 2013-14 and North Dakota in 2015-16). Last season on Jan. 1, Penrose Cup champion Denver was in second place, only one point out of first, while in 2014-15, eventual champion UND sat in fourth place on Jan. 1, but only two points back of first place.
• Five NCHC teams are ranked in the USCHO.com Poll, tying the Big Ten for the most from one conference, while all eight NCHC teams are receiving votes and would be ranked in the top 25. NCHC teams own the top two spots in the USCHO.com Poll for the eighth straight week, with St. Cloud State at No. 1. With SCSU in the top spot, the NCHC has now held the No. 1 ranking in the USCHO Poll 35 of the last 37 weeks, with half of the NCHC teams earning the No. 1 spot during that span (SCSU, DU, UND and UMD). Since the USCHO Poll on Nov. 17, 2014, the NCHC has had a team ranked in the top two 93 times. Hockey East is second during that span with only 28 top-two appearances. SCSU is also now No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. In the Pairwise Ratings, all eight NCHC teams sit in the top 20.
• Western Michigan sophomore forward Wade Allison is one of only two players in the NCAA with multiple hat tricks this season.
Thursday, Dec. 28 | Slater Family Ice Arena | Bowling Green, Ohio | 7:37 p.m. ET
Records: WMU (10-8-1, 6-4-0-0 NCHC); BGSU (8-5-6, 7-2-5-2 WCHA)
WMU Notes | Live Stream | Live Audio | Live Stats
• Western Michigan split with rival Miami back on Dec. 8-9, dropping its fourth straight game in the opener, 5-2, before snapping the four-game skid Dec. 9 with a 4-3 comeback win in overtime. It was only WMU’s second overtime game this season as the Broncos are now 1-0-1 in OT.
• Sophomore forward Wade Allison recorded his second hat trick of the season and of his career in the 4-3 win over Miami on Dec. 9. His hat trick was a natural one, scoring the game’s final three goals to erase a 3-1 deficit, tallying the game-winner in overtime. The natural hat trick was the first natural hat trick by a WMU player since Brent Walton had one against Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 2005. Allison now has 14 goals on the season, which lead the NCHC and tie him for third nationally. His 25 points this year also lead the NCHC and tie for third in the country. Allison has already topped his freshman goal total of 12 from last year.
• Junior forward Colt Conrad dished out three assists in the series against Miami, including on Allison’s OT game-winner. He now has 24 points (9g, 15a) on the season, which tie for sixth in the country. Allison and Conrad are the top-scoring duo in the NCAA with 49 points.
• Western Michigan finishes its home-and-home series with former CCHA foe Bowling Green on Thursday. The Broncos won the first game in Kalamazoo back on Oct. 10, 3-1. Sophomore defenseman Cam Lee tallied two goals in that win.
Fri., Dec. 29 at Air Force | Cadet Ice Arena | Colorado Springs, Colo. | 7:05 p.m. MT
Sat., Dec. 30 vs. Merrimack | Broadmoor World Arena | Colorado Springs, Colo. | 6:07 p.m. MT
Records: CC (8-7-3, 3-5-2-1/0 NCHC); AFA (7-8-3, 3-7-2 AHC); Merrimack (4-9-4, 2-6-2 HEA)
CC Notes | Live Stream (Fri.) | NCHC.tv (Sat. only) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
Television: CET Sports (Xfinity ch. 105/900) - Friday only
• In its first ever meetings with Arizona State Dec. 16-17, Colorado College earned a 4-0 shutout on Dec. 16, before settling for a 4-4 overtime tie the next day. With the win on Dec. 16, the Tigers matched their season win total from last season of eight. The tie Sunday was CC’s third tie in its last four games after having none in its first 14 games.
• Sophomore goaltender Alex Leclerc earned his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career with a 36-save performance in the win on Dec. 16. Leclerc has stopped at least 30 shots in five straight games.
• Freshman forward Christiano Versich notched five points against ASU, including a career-high three points on a goal and two assists in the win Dec. 16, which was his first career multi-point game. He tallied another two-assist game the next day, as he equaled his season total of five points in one weekend and now has 10 on the year (3g, 7a).
• Junior forward Trevor Gooch tallied his first career multi-goal game in the tie with ASU Dec. 17, potting two goals in a span of 2:15.
• Colorado College faces Air Force on Friday, as the crosstown rivals battle for the Pikes Peak Trophy. The Falcons have claimed the trophy in each of the four seasons since it was created. However, CC controls the all-time series, 60-12-2.
Fri., Dec. 29 vs. Merrimack | Magness Arena | Denver, Colo. | 7:05 p.m. MT
Sat., Dec. 30 vs. Air Force | Magness Arena | Denver, Colo. | 7:05 p.m. MT
Records: Denver (10-4-4, 5-3-2-1/0 NCHC); Merrimack (4-9-4, 2-6-2 HEA); AFA (7-8-3, 3-7-2 AHC)
DU Notes | NCHC.tv (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
Television: Altitude 2 (both nights)
• Denver split its series on Dec. 15-16 with Dartmouth, earning a 1-0 win on Dec. 15, before falling, 5-4, on Dec. 16. The loss on Dec. 16 marked the Pioneers’ first loss in non-conference play this season as Denver fell to 5-1-2 outside of the NCHC this season.
• Senior goaltender Tanner Jaillet earned his second shutout of the season and sixth of his career with a 23-save performance against Dartmouth on Dec. 15.
• Freshman forward Kohen Olischefski scored the first two goals of his collegiate career in the loss to Dartmouth Dec. 16. He also assisted on the game-winning goal in the 1-0 win Dec. 15, giving him a three-point weekend after only notching one point, an assist, in his first 11 games at Denver. Fellow freshman forward Jack Doremus also potted his first career goal on Dec. 16 against the Big Green.
• The Pioneers have gone 16-for-16 on the penalty kill over their last six games. Denver’s penalty kill ranks 15th in the nation at 84.2 percent (48-of-57) this season.
• Seven of Denver’s last eight games have been decided by one or fewer goals. The Pioneers have posted a 4-2-4 record in games decided by a goal or less this season.
Friday, Dec. 29 vs. Yale | Thompson Arena | Hanover, N.H. | 4:00 p.m. ET
Saturday, Dec. 30 at Dartmouth | Thompson Arena | Hanover, N.H. | 7:00 p.m. ET
Records: UMD (8-9-2, 3-7-0-0 NCHC); Yale (5-7-0, 4-6-0 ECAC); Dartmouth (3-8-1, 2-4-1 ECAC)
UMD Notes | Live Stream (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• After allowing a season-high seven goals in a 7-5 loss at Omaha Dec. 8, Minnesota Duluth snapped a season-long three-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Mavericks the next night for a series split. UMD put up 11 goals in the series after totaling 12 goals in their previous eight games combined, never scoring more than three in a game.
• Freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich notched four points in the split at Omaha, including a career-high three points (1g, 2a) in the Dec. 9 victory. He leads all rookie defensemen nationally with 16 points (4g, 12a) on the season, but will be one of five Bulldogs missing this weekend’s Ledyard Classic, as he and four teammates are representing Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.
• UMD has the NCHC’s highest-scoring freshman class, as the rookies have combined for 45 points (11g, 34a), which tie for seventh nationally among rookie classes. Defensemen have notched 33 of those points, including eight goals, both tops among NCAA rookie defensemen.
• UMD is 6-1-0 all-time against Yale and 3-1-0 against tournament host Dartmouth, last meeting on Dec. 30, 1995.
Friday, Dec. 29 | Baxter Arena | Omaha, Neb. | 7:07 p.m. CT
Saturday, Dec. 30 | Baxter Arena | Omaha, Neb. | 7:07 p.m. CT
Records: Omaha (7-8-1, 2-6-0-0 NCHC); Union (10-8-1, 6-2-0 ECAC)
Omaha Notes | NCHC.tv (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• Omaha picked up its second win in NCHC play this season with a 7-5 victory over Minnesota Duluth back on Dec. 8, before falling a night later, 6-2. The seven goals on Dec. 8 marked a season high for the Mavericks and their most since Dec. 3, 2016 in a 7-4 win at Wisconsin.
• Sophomore forward Zach Jordan recorded his first career hat trick in the win Dec. 8. It was the first hat trick by a Maverick in the two-and-a-half year history of Omaha’s Baxter Arena and it was UNO’s first hat trick since Dec. 3, 2016 when Austin Ortega had three at Wisconsin. Jordan, who scored only one goal in 23 games as a freshman last year, has six goals in his last six games and eight goals on the season.
• In the Dec. 8 win over UMD, junior defenseman Jalen Schulz scored his first career goal in his 36th career game. He also had an assist for his first collegiate multi-point game.
• The Mavericks are 3-2-0 all-time against Union, including a record of 2-1-0 in Omaha. Omaha has not played the Dutchmen since Oct. 18, 2008, when UNO won, 2-1, in Omaha. These are the final non-conference games of the season for the Mavs. UNO is 5-2-1 in non-conference play so far this season.
Friday, Dec. 29 | Hobey Baker Rink | Princeton, N.J. | 7:00 p.m. ET
Saturday, Dec. 30 | Hobey Baker Rink | Princeton, N.J. | 7:00 p.m. ET
Records: SCSU (12-2-1, 7-2-1-0 NCHC); Princeton (6-7-1, 3-5-1 ECAC)
SCSU Notes | Live Stream (both nights) | Live Audio | Live Stats (Fri.) | Live Stats (Sat.)
• St. Cloud State enters its series with Princeton on a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). The Huskies lead the country on offense, scoring 4.27 goals per game, and rank fourth nationally allowing only 2.07 goals per game.
• Junior Jimmy Schuldt is tied for the NCAA lead among defensemen with 19 points (5g, 14a), while his +22 plus-minus leads all NCAA skaters and is +3 better than any other NCAA player. His 1.27 points per game are tops among NCAA blue liners by himself.
• Freshman goaltender Dávid Hrenák, who will be playing for Slovakia at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, is 5-1-0 on the year with his .947 save percentage ranking second nationally. His 1.82 goals-against average ranks fourth in the country and second among NCAA rookies. He also has two shutouts in only six starts.
• The Huskies will be without head coach Bob Motzko and sophomore forward Ryan Poehling this weekend at Princeton, as Motzko is serving as head coach of the 2018 U.S. National Junior Team and Poehling is playing for Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. Motzko coached Team USA to gold last year.
• For the second straight weekend, Miami split with a top-10 opponent, winning Dec. 8 at Western Michigan, 5-2, before falling in overtime the next night, 4-3. With the results, the RedHawks are now 6-3-0 on Fridays this season, winning three straight on Friday, compared to just 2-5-2 in Saturday games this season.
• Junior defenseman Grant Hutton scored a short-handed goal in the Dec. 9 loss at WMU, becoming the first NCHC blue liner with a short-handed tally this season. He has eight goals on the season, which tie for the NCAA lead among defensemen, while his six power play goals are two better than any other NCAA blue liner. His 0.44 goals per game are first nationally by himself among NCAA defensemen.
• Sophomore forward Gordie Green logged four points against WMU with two goals and an assist Dec. 8, while adding another goal on Dec. 9. His two goals on Dec. 8 tied a career high and marked his second multi-goal game this season. He leads Miami and is tied for 14th nationally with 22 points (9g, 13a) this season.
• RedHawk defensemen have combined for 15 goals this season, which tie for third in the NCAA among blue-line goal-scoring.
• Miami is averaging 16.56 penalty minutes per game this season, which is tops in the NCHC and ranks third nationally.
• North Dakota earned two points in its last series Dec. 8-9 at St. Cloud State, both coming Dec. 8 in a 2-2 overtime tie and shootout win, as the Fighting Hawks fell on Dec. 9, 3-1. UND has now played in both of the only two NCHC games to go to a shootout this season, winning them both, with junior defenseman Christian Wolanin scoring the shootout-winning goal both times.
• Sophomore forward Cole Smith scored a goal in both games at SCSU and now has a goal in three straight games after notching one goal in his first 15 games this season. His four tallies this year already top his total from last year when he had three goals in 29 games as a rookie.
• North Dakota ranks seventh nationally, allowing only 2.20 goals per game this season. The Fighting Hawks rank sixth in the country on the penalty kill, killing 87.1 percent of their opponents’ power plays (74/85) after going 7-for-8 at St. Cloud State on the penalty kill.
• North Dakota is allowing only 24.65 shots on goal per game by its opponent, which ranks first in the NCHC and third nationally. UND’s +6.25 shots on goal margin per game is sixth in the country. In addition, the Fighting Hawks are winning 56.2 percent of faceoffs as a team this season, which leads the entire country.