4 Reactions to the NCHC’s Bubble Experiment
With all of the cancellations and postponements happening in other collegiate leagues, the NCHC’s decision to play 38 games in a bubble at Omaha’s Baxter Arena is looking wiser and wiser by the day. All of the scheduled games to this date have occurred with no issue, a feat that deserves high praise for the players and staff of each team that are operating at a critical moment during the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s look at some of the biggest storylines from the NCHC bubble.
No major surprise teams thus far, just competitive hockey
The top teams in the conference are clearly Minnesota-Duluth, which leads the conference with 17 points, followed by St. Cloud State at 12 points.
But after the top two teams, the standings get really interesting. North Dakota is in third place with nine points, and Nebraska-Omaha with eight points is in fourth. Denver and Western Michigan are tied for fifth with seven points each, followed by Colorado College in seventh place with five points and Miami in eighth place with four points. With so much hockey left, these standings are sure to change on a daily basis.
Shane Pinto for NCHC MVP?
North Dakota sophomore forward Shane Pinto has looked like one of the best, if not the best player in the NCHC’s bubble.
Pinto is a force to be reckoned with in all three zones for North Dakota. Blocking shots, creating a rush or blasting a shot past an opposing goalie is just a sample of what Pinto can provide.
Midway through the season, Pinto is tied with Denver’s Carter Savoie and Minnesota-Duluth’s Nick Swaney as the leading scorer in the league. Pinto also has the best faceoff win rate in the league at 65.8%. The Franklin Square, New York product has North Dakota primed for yet another deep run.
Hunter Shepard’s replacement(s) in net
The graduation of Hunter Shepard, who started 115 consecutive games for Minnesota-Duluth, left a question in the net for the Bulldogs. Nevertheless, one of college hockey’s most dominant programs will be fine between the pipes with sophomore Ryan Fanti and freshman Zach Stejskal.
Fanti has a record of 4-1-1 in six games played, along with an impressive save percentage of .917 and a goals-against average of 2.30. Stejskal has played just as well as Fanti despite only playing one game. He delivered a win on 23 shots saved and only allowed two goals.
With all of the uncertainties that gave gone on in 2020, having two goalies capable of standing on their heads is a nice luxury to have.
Intensity is not lacking
Hockey is undoubtedly a sport where momentum and intensity draws from having fans in the stands. But if you thought the intensity on the ice would change during this bubble season in the NCHC, you would be wrong.
In both games between North Dakota and Denver, players on each team were exchanging words, as the two sides left the ice after high-spirited performances in close matchups.
For many players in college hockey, this is their first time playing in highly competitive games since COVID-19 derailed last season. You can clearly see the intensity in every game despite the presence of the bubble, ultimately making this unusual season as exciting as it can get.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism