All season long, we have heard how tough the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is. Every week has been a meat grinder. There are no easy games or weekends off. Any team in the conference can beat anybody on any given night and they have. Just ask Nebraska-Omaha. Teams cannot take a night off if they want to be victorious. Series sweeps are hard to come by.
While it may sound like a bunch of sports clichés, the numbers prove that the NCHC’s is a solid college hockey conference from top to bottom.
Statistically, the NCHC is a super conference
Based on their on-ice results, the NCHC was statistically a super conference this season. On Selection Sunday, the NCHC had six of its eight teams selected for the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. Those six teams will begin play in the NCAA tourney on Friday.
Currently, the NCHC has five teams in the top-10 of the Pairwise Rankings. Also, the NCHC’s strength of schedule was very good this season. Check out the NCHC’s strength of schedule: UND 8, Colorado College 7, Western Michigan 6, Miami 5, Nebraska-Omaha 8, Denver 3, St. Cloud State 2, Minnesota-Duluth 1. The NCHC had the top eight positions.
For comparison sake, here’s the NCAA tourney participants strength of schedule: RIT 49, Boston University 18, Michigan Tech 15, MSU-Mankato 11, Yale 41, Providence 21, Harvard 20, Quinnipiac 32, Boston College 12, Minnesota 16.
Let’s compare the non-conference records, the NCHC had the best non-conference record (53-25-4, 671). Coming in second was Hockey East (62-43-9, 583). The WCHA was the third best league (30-29-9, .507). Rounding out the field, ECAC was fourth (46-50-9, .481), the Big Ten fifth (37-43-7, .471), and finally Atlantic Hockey was sixth (12-51-4, .209).
Looking at the non-conference records of the other conferences. Is the NCHC a super conference or is the rest of college hockey experiencing a down year? If the NCHC’s isn’t a super conference, it’s at least a super grind.
In the NCHC, you have to bring your best every night
After his team won the Frozen Faceoff, an elated Miami senior forward Austin Czarnik had this to say.
“It’s such a tough league, you’ve got to bring your best every single night,” Czarnik said. “When you’re able to bring your best every night, you develop as a team.”
The Miami head coach Enrico Blasi agreed with his star players assessment.
“This is a tough league; to win that trophy is pretty special,” Blasi said. “It’s a grind every weekend. Credit to all the teams and all the coaches; every weekend is a battle. There wasn’t very many sweeps and splits all over the place, and it’s just a testament to the league and everyone involved in it.”
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.