NCHC Season Preview
Hockey is back and so is the best conference in NCAA. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference features the best college hockey has to offer. There is no denying that the NCHC has produced some of the most incredible teams of all time. This season has in store much of the same.
It’s impossible to argue how good the reigning back-to-back National Champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are. They come in ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll and for good reason. A season ago, they defeated UMass to claim their second National Championship. The Bulldogs have set the bar. They return their goaltender that won both of those titles, five of their top six defensemen, and a deep group of forwards that control play throughout the rink. The first three-peat since the only three-peat back 1951-1952 is certainly in play.
While the Bulldogs grabbed the national spotlight, the NCHC has many challengers. The Denver Pioneers are considered one of the nations best and come in a No. 2 in the USCHO.com poll. Denver was a young group last season, struggled to score and was still a bounce or two away from getting back to the national championship. Their biggest addition of the offseason was 2019 Philadelphia Flyers second-round pick Bobby Brink. He finished 2018-19 as the USHL Forward of the Year and is a candidate for an immediate and major impact.
The team with most to prove this season in all of college hockey is without a doubt St. Cloud State. St. Cloud has the talent to compete for a title every year. In the regular season, St. Cloud usually finishes in the top three of the PairWise poll. So what's the problem? In both 2018 and 2019, St. Cloud got bounced out of the first round after they were upset by Air Force and American International College respectively. St. Cloud State went 30-6-3 last year and heads into the upcoming season ranked No. 6 in the USCHO.com poll.
Two other NCHC hockey clubs are also ranked in the top 20. With the majority of its point scorers returning, Western Michigan who went 21-15-1 last year enters the USCHO.com Poll at No. 14.
A team that typically has higher expectations for it’s program has been North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks failed to make the NCAA tournament this past season, shocking to many. It was the first time since the 2001-02 season that UND did not host the first round of conference playoffs. They round out the NCHC in the polls after coming in at No. 18 in the USCHO.com poll.
It’s safe to say that the NCHC has a plethora of a really special teams and programs. Hockey is so unpredictable but placing a bet on the NCHC to win the national championship might be your best option. St. Cloud St. has something to prove this season. They need to show the rest of the NCAA that they are more than just a regular season team.
Kyle Cannillo is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him please email firstname.lastname@example.org.