NCHC experiences topsy-turvy opening weekend

Anyone expected NCHC teams to come flying off the blocks this last weekend and tear into its nonconference opposition will have come away at least a little disappointed.

Unless he or she only paid attention on Saturday and Sunday. Better times were had then.

Seven of the league’s eight affiliate teams opened their 2014-15 regular season slates on Friday, and five of them fell. Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha won their first counters of the season against Alabama-Huntsville and Minnesota State, respectively, but a quintet of NCHC schools weren’t as fortunate.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State lost at home on Friday to Bemidji State and Colgate, respectively. Miami lost 3-2 on the road against intrastate rival Bowling Green, Western Michigan lost 4-2 at Canisius, and Minnesota-Duluth was edged out by Minnesota 4-3 at the IceBreaker Tournament in South Bend, Ind.

The NCHC’s teams that played last weekend – Denver was the only one that didn’t – fared much better Saturday and Sunday. It started on Saturday night, where the league went 4-1 against several of its counterparts, and only UNO fell in its rematch with Division I college hockey’s other set of Mavericks.

Sunday went even better, with Miami besting BGSU 3-2 in the second leg of a home-and-home series while UMD blanked Notre Dame 3-0 in the third-place game of the IceBreaker.

No NCHC team stood out

I predicted on Friday that we would have a fair few splits to talk about once the weekend finished, but I also expected the teams who were projected to be the cream of the conference this season would look like it right away.

The first bit happened. The second one, not so much.

With respect to BGSU and Bemidji, I thought that UND and Miami had enough in their respective arsenals to pick up sweeps in their home-and-homes against a pair of WCHA teams that aren’t expected to make huge waves this season. In the end, though, I was proved somewhat wrong.

In UND’s series with nearby rival Bemidji, the home team never won. UND looked thoroughly out of sorts against the Beavers during a 5-1 loss at home on Friday, but BSU couldn’t repeat the trick the following night as it lost 2-1 in Minnesota.

Where Miami is concerned, I was looking for the RedHawks to carry some of their momentum from the second half of last season over into the start of this one. An in-state rivalry series against a fellow former CCHA member, I thought, would only get Miami up further.

Instead, the Falcons came away winners at home on opening night, albeit by only a 3-2 margin. Miami turned the tables on Sunday, though, in defeating BGSU by that same scoreline in the friendlier confines of Oxford, Ohio.

In-league action starts next week

Next weekend sees the start of intra-league action among NCHC teams, with North Dakota visiting Colorado College while Nebraska-Omaha makes the trek up to Western Michigan.

Both two-game sets are intriguing in their own ways. UND will try to make its perceived class show against a CC club that has started reasonably well under first-year head coach Mike Haviland, and UNO and Western will battle in a clash between two teams that will likely be fighting for a home-ice spot come the first round of the playoffs.

Elsewhere, Miami and UMD will take part in home-and-homes against in-state competition in the forms of Ohio State and Minnesota State, respectively, while Denver welcomes to the Colorado capital an RPI team that just finished second in the IceBreaker tournament.