With most Division I men’s college hockey teams participating in nonconference play during the new season’s first batch of games, member schools of the NCHC fared better than much of the rest of the country.
Discounting Colorado College’s 8-4 exhibition win Saturday over the US Under-18 Team, the NCHC completed its first weekend of official games with an 8-3-3 record, good for a .678 percent winning percentage. None of those 14 games pitted league opponents against one another.
Only the Big Ten (.750) and the ECAC (.681) performed better against the rest of Division I last weekend. The NCHC had the third-best nonconference winning percentage over the opening weekend, ahead of Hockey East (.553), the WCHA (.333) and Atlantic Hockey (.143).
At least in terms of results, flying the NCHC flag most prominently last weekend were Denver and Miami. DU came into this season as a somewhat unknown quantity, but the Pioneers beat Merrimack of Hockey East 1-0 Friday in Denver before beating the Warriors again by a 4-0 scoreline the following night in the Colorado capital.
Miami’s 2-0-0 start to the season is arguably more impressive, however, with the RedHawks winning both games of an intrastate series against Ohio State of the Big Ten. Coach Enrico Blasi’s RedHawks rolled over the Buckeyes 6-2 in Columbus Friday before doubling up OSU 6-3 the following night in the friendlier confines of Steve Cady Arena in Oxford.
Three NCHC teams each picked up a win and a tie last weekend. Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota and St. Cloud State were all at home, and they got a win and a tie apiece against Michigan Tech, Vermont and Bemidji State, respectively.
The two teams predicted in preseason to finish at the foot of the NCHC standings found themselves there after the opening weekend of games. Nebraska-Omaha picked up a split at its CenturyLink Center home against Bentley, while Western Michigan was shut out in back-to-back games in a home-and-home with former CCHA league rival and new Hockey East member Notre Dame.
Nebraska-Omaha among those victimized by rash of opening-night upsets
Believe it or not, the team picked by many to finish last the NCHC found itself late Friday night having something in common with the preseason national No. 1.
And no, that bond isn’t a good thing if you’re a fan of either school.
Teams representing the Atlantic Hockey conference went a collective 2-12-0 in nonconference play last week. Both wins came Friday night.
The two winners? Bentley and Sacred Heart, picked to finish 5th and 12, respectively, in the AHA this season.
Their victims? Nebraska-Omaha and Massachusetts-Lowell.
Sacred Heart’s 2-1 win at Lowell’s Tsongas Center is rightly the bigger news, but that result wasn’t Atlantic Hockey’s only major success of the night. Those working out of AHA’s offices in Haverhill, Mass. no doubt became even more delighted later in the evening with Bentley leading UNO 5-2 through 40 minutes before holding on to win by a 6-4 count.
What Mavericks fans will hope is normal service resumed the following night as UNO put in a better performance and salvaged a series split with a 4-2 win over the Falcons.
Like with UML’s loss Friday night to the Pioneers of Sacred Heart, though, it will be interesting to see whether or not, should UNO finish higher in the NCHC this season than predicted, the Mavericks’ opening-night stumble comes back to haunt them.
Will shootout practice make perfect?
The NCHC will use shootouts to decide a winner in regular season league games that are deadlocked after 65 minutes, and while we haven’t had an official one yet, a few dry runs were conducted Saturday night.
Three NCHC teams tied with their nonconference opponents Saturday, and all six schools agreed to conduct postgame shootouts. In all three cases, the games officially ended in draws, and the results of the shootouts will not be reflected in any of the involved teams’ overall records.
Minnesota-Duluth came up on the losing side of a postgame shootout Saturday at home to Michigan Tech. The Bulldogs and Huskies were made to settle for an official 1-1 tie after 65 minutes of play, but Tech bested its hosts 2-0 in the teams’ postgame shootout.
Following its 2-2 tie at home against Vermont, North Dakota “beat,” for want of a better term, the Catamounts in an unofficial shootout by a 2-1 count. Rocco Grimaldi and Michael Parks found the net for UND in the exercise, the team’s second in a week after also having taken part in a postgame shootout with exhibition opponent Manitoba.
St. Cloud State was involved in a 2-2 tie of its own Saturday, being held to a stalemate by former intrastate WCHA rival Bemidji State. The Huskies and Beavers agreed to conduct a shootout after the game, which BSU won 3-2. Joey Benik and Kalle Kossila scored for SCSU in the shootout, but Bemidji won in a sudden-death third round when Radoslav Illo beat Huskies goaltender Charlie Lindgren.