The postseason tournament format, location and dates are changing this year, as the conference will hold its championship from March 12-16 in Grand Forks, N.D., at Ralph Engelstad Arena and will be a single-elimination format.
Quarterfinals will occur on Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, while the semifinals and championship will take place on Monday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 16, respectively. No third-place game will occur.
“Due to continued challenges with COVID-19, we are forced to alter the structure and location of the 2021 NCHC tournament,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said in a statement. “Circumstances surrounding travel, testing, and fan attendance made the traditional format difficult to complete. We are disappointed that we will not be able to culminate the season at Xcel Energy Center, but look forward to bringing one of college hockey’s best tournament experiences back to Saint Paul in 2022.
“We are very grateful to the University of North Dakota and Ralph Engelstad Arena for their willingness to host this unique tournament structure. We look forward to bringing exciting NCHC action to Grand Forks this March.”
The top seed in the tournament will face the No. 8 seed and the second seed will face the No. 7 seed in the first two quarterfinals on March 12. Seeds 3 and 6, as well as the fourth and fifth seeds, will square off in the other two quarterfinals on March 13. The four quarterfinal winners will then be re-seeded for the semifinals on March 15, with the Frozen Faceoff champion crowned on March 16.
The new format replaces the traditional playoff format the NCHC has used its first seven seasons, which consisted of best-of-three quarterfinal series on campus sites and the Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. This year’s quarterfinals were scheduled for March 12-14 and the Frozen Faceoff March 19-20. The conference plans to return to Xcel Energy Center and its traditional playoff format in 2022.
All four quarterfinal match-ups will be available on NCHC.tv, while CBS Sports Network will broadcast the Frozen Faceoff semifinals and championship game. All game times are still to be determined.
Fan attendance will be permitted on a limited basis, in accordance with university, local and state health guidelines. Ticket information, including pricing and availability, for the 2021 NCHC Tournament will be announced at a later date.
Seeding for the NCHC Tournament will be based on the final NCHC regular-season standings. The NCHC regular season is currently scheduled to conclude on Friday, March 5. All eight NCHC teams have already met the threshold of 13 games to qualify for the NCHC tournament.
Minnesota Duluth is the defending NCHC Frozen Faceoff champion from 2019, after the 2020 NCHC tournament was cancelled. The winner of the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.