As we make our way through a very slow off-season, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s roughly 68 days until college hockey kicks off the 2014-15 season.
In my humble opinion, there are five must-see non-conference series on the NCHC composite schedule. Last season, the NCHC had a mediocre non-conference record. Moving forward, these non-conference games will be very important to the final Pairwise Rankings. Having a strong non-conference record means the NCHC will get more teams in the NCAA tourney.
In-state rivals, Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth, play in the first round of the Ice Breaker Tournament. This is the re-match of the championship game of the 2014 North Star College Cup. Minnesota won the championship game 5-4 in a shootout.
There’s a chance that the Bulldogs and Gophers will play again in the second game of the North Star College Cup on January 25, 2015.
Minnesota Duluth will play either the RPI Engineers or tournament host, Notre Dame, in game two of the Ice Breaker Tournament.
Series two: Saint Cloud State University vs. Union College
Date: October 24-25, 2014.
Location: Messa Rink, Schenectady, New York
The defending national champions, the Union Dutchmen entertain the Saint Cloud State Huskies in an important non-conference match-up. This series will have national implications in the Pairwise Rankings. Last season, the two teams met in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, resulting in a 4-1 Union win and a 3-3 tie.
Series three: University of North Dakota vs. the University of Wisconsin.
Date: November 7-8, 2014.
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin.
The University of North Dakota will travel to Madison, Wisconsin, to take on the Badgers in an important two-game non-conference series. This is the re-match of the 2014 Midwest Regional Championship. North Dakota beat Wisconsin 5-2 in the semifinals of the regional championship, sending UND to the championship game against Ferris State.
The Boston College Eagles travel west to take on the University of Denver in a non-conference match-up. This will the re-match of NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal. Boston College beat Denver 5-2 to advance to the regional final against UMass-Lowell. This is an important non-conference match-up that will have national implications in the Pairwise Rankings.
Series Five: Saint Cloud State University vs. the University of Minnesota.
Date: October 31, November 1, 2014.
Game One Location: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Game Two Location: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The campuses of the University of Minnesota and Saint Cloud State University are located roughly 60 miles apart. This is the re-match of the 2014 NCAA West Regional final, where the Golden Gophers shutout the Huskies 4-0. The Gophers would advance to the Championship game of the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four, and would lose to the Union College Dutchmen 7-4. Interesting stat, Gopher coach Don Lucia has a 43-30-8 record against SCSU.