NCHC squares off against Big Ten for supremacy

When the B1G 10 hockey conference formed in 2013-2014, college hockey fans expected a powerhouse that would dominate college hockey. It may happen in the future but other conferences are more than holding their own, especially the NCHC – the home of the Denver Pioneers.

Since that time, Minnesota is the only B1G team to reach the Finals in 2015 but fell to upstart Union 7-4. The NCHC’s Denver and North Dakota have won the last two Frozen Four titles while Union (ECAC), Providence (Hockey East) and Yale (Ivy League) earned the crown before that. Minnesota has swept the regular season until this season when Notre Dame won the regular season and conference tournament in their first year since joining the B1G. 

No team has suffered more since joining the B1G than Minnesota, despite their regular season success on the ice. In an MPR article, Minnesota hockey fans lament the loss of past rivalries in the WCHA and the Gophers have seen a “drop in fan interest” at Mariucci Arena and “a general malaise surrounding the program.” On the other hand, there is an emerging conference hockey power, Penn State, who are already making national waves after going to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season after moving to Division I 2012-2013. Furthermore, the addition of Notre Dame from Hockey East has further strengthened the conference and added top-end depth.

On the NCHC side, Denver, North Dakota, St Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth have prospered while Miami-Ohio and Colorado College have struggled. Miami recently announced a coaching shuffle under Head Coach Enrico Blasi and Colorado College has shown drastic improvement in their fourth year under head coach Mike Haviland.

During the first two rounds of the NCAA playoffs, DU has a chance to send a strong message to several Big Ten programs that the NCHC is still the best conference in the land, at least at the top tier of the conference.

The Big 10 have three teams in the Pairwise top-10 and four overall in the 16-team tournament. Notre Dame (#2), Ohio State (#4) and Michigan (#8) reside in the top 10. The NCHC has two teams in the top 10 – St Cloud (#1), Denver (T#5) – while Minnesota-Duluth (#12) slipped into the tournament on the final day of regular season play.

When it comes to high-end players, the NCHC has two in the top 10 for the Hobey Baker award – Henrik Borgstrom (DU) and Jimmy Schuldt (SCSU) represent the NCHC and Cale Morris (Notre Dame) represents the Big 10. As for goaltenders, the Richter Award has three from the NCHC to include Tanner Jaillet (DU), Dávid Hrenák (St. Cloud), and Hunter Shepard (Minnesota Duluth). The B1G has two nominees – Cale Morris (Notre Dame) and Sean Romeo from Ohio State.

Interestingly, the Allentown bracket with Denver is the only bracket where the NCHC and Big Ten will clash with Denver against Penn State and then, if DU advances, likely Ohio State. The Sioux Falls bracket has two NCHC participants and a strong possibility of one of these two advancing to the Frozen Four. Unfortunately, an all-NCHC final is impossible because there are no NCHC teams on the right-side of the bracket.

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26 thoughts on “NCHC squares off against Big Ten for supremacy”

  1. Good article, Nick.

    You all may remember that I referenced the fast rise of the Big 10 a year ago this week in this article here:

    The reality is that DU’s dominance window may be closing quickly. DU will lose most of its offense to early signings next week, our goalie to graduation, and perhaps our coach to the NHL if DU wins the NCAA title again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Swami–didn’t Monty sign a contract extension? If so, is he really a flight risk? Also, DU hockey just nailed down that additional funding for a hockey coach, so hopefully that will help.

    Agreed our offense will take a big hit. We’ll still have some good forwards (especially Lukosevicious and the younger forwards will get more of a chance to shine.) But you don’t just reload after losing Terry, Borgstrom and Gambrell all at once. Goaltending will be a big question mark, replacing one of the top 3 DU goalies of all time. The bright side, is that our defense should be solid. Maybe we can still finish in the top four of the NCHC next year.

    But all of the above is just more reason to enjoy this year. We’re built for a good run in the tournament. I’ll be extremely happy to put with some struggles next year if we can win another title this year.

    Kind of sad to see what is happening in Gopher land. Perhaps they miss the old league more than they thought they would. On the topic of Miami in the NCHC–I’m surprised to see them struggling. I had forgotten what a hearbreaking loss they had in the title game in 2009–losing after being up 3-1 with just a minute left in the game. Just goes to show, that you gotta win it when you have the chance. You never know when you’ll be back. We are SOOOO fortunate as DU fans…following a team that has won 3 out of the last 4 Frozen Fours that they have been in. And 8 championships out of the 16 times that they’ve made it that far. Quite impressive.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Another lesson to be learned from the Minnesota experience is that it is not just about the money. Look what they did to raise more money and ended up alienating many of the fans. Even ones who purchased tickets no longer attend the games. Be sure to read the comment about the lack of student involvement.

    The DU administration is so Hell bent on raising money, they forget about drawing in the fans in the first place. When I bought my tickets on line for the Sunday night CC game, I could not actually purchase tickets until I got through 2 banners asking me to make a donation, one covered the whole screen. I am so tired of them always asking for a handout (including begging between periods on the scoreboard), I almost did not bother to order the tickets. We get the point folks. A reminder is not needed every 5 minutes.

    How about appreciating the average fan and being glad for the support given? How about building up interest by the student body? I got a chuckle out of fan appreciation night… give us a chance to buy more tickets at only $10. Never mind that the season ticket holders that they emailed have already purchased tickets for 3 or 4 times that much. You cannot get more creative than that? Lazy is the best term to describe it.

    It is terrible that DU has arguably the best NCAA division one hockey program, and they cannot fill the seats with DU fans. Still very spotty coverage on local TV. Games not broadcast. Who is in charge over there? Get out from under your rock and do something positive.

    And it looks like the same poor program for NCAA tickets as last year. No survey out in advance to judge possible attendance. Is there a hotel available? What about party sights? How many tickets will be available? How many will be left after they are given to big donors? Should anyone even bother? Just more signs of the arrogance that exists at DU and within the athletic department. Maybe some of those over titled and over paid administrators should make a donation.

    Just what I said a year ago could happen to DU is happening now at the University of Minnesota. Money is being raised but the seats are empty. That will be the downfall of the DU program, not the Big 10 conference.

    By the way, do they have a mask policy in Allentown? Will the
    Chick-Fil-A cow be allowed to attend?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Monty’s flight risk isn’t really financially driven – he loves DU and his life here and his package here is likely north of $500k/year, and he was smart to also save some money from his pro career. But if he wins the NCAA title again, he will be very attractive to a range of NHL teams, even more so than last year. He is clearly a coach on the rise with an NHL pedigree of his own as a player, and his value to jump will be at its height. Those NHL head jobs are the top 30 jobs in the world in terms of challenge and prestige in his field, not to mention average NHL head coach salaries are now north of $2 million per year. If the right team came knocking, I am sure he’d go…


  5. If Monty wants to coach in the NHL, I hope it happens. What he has done at Denver is nothing short of incredible. And who wouldn’t take a 4X raise! Of course, for selfish reasons I’d wish he stay and it would be great to have him for a couple of more years. I actually think he is looking forward to the challenge of shaping next year’s team without some of this year’s high end talent. He loves to teach.

    My hope would be that if he goes to the NHL, he lands in Chicago when Joel Quenneville‘s run is over. With John Miller’s connection to the Blackhawks and DU hockey, it would be good to keep him in the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. DU lost my fan dollars this year with the mask ban. I didn’t attend a game after that. We’ll see what happens to fix that during the off season. I continue to root for the team from afar, but I won’t give that group my money until they become more transparent and level with the fans. Someone above said it, “arrogance” is the term. Keep looking down your nose at your sports fans, DU, see how that works out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember reading Puck Swami’s article and thinking the NCHC may be a second-tier conference before too long.

    Re: Notre Dame. If I remember correctly, the NCHC made a serious pitch to the Irish to join the NCHC, correct? ND chose to go to Hockey East for a short period and then the Big Ten. I wonder how much brighter the NCHC’s future would be with Notre Dame and then perhaps AZ State in the fold?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the NCHC will be fine but they need to avoid complacency. They need to add AZ State and I think Josh Fenton is a very good commissioner. The NCHC tournament is much better attended than the B1G and they do a good job marketing the conference. Plus, the focus on football and hoops in the Power Conferences puts hockey on the back burner. In the NCHC, hockey is king. And, of course, programs are cyclical. Minnesota, BC, N Dak, and Denver have taken turns at the top. As long as a program has great coaching, there are plenty of great players out there to make a program nationally competitive – be it NCHC, Hockey East, or ECAC.


  8. It’s important that DU is aware of every fan who has withheld financial support for tickets/donations as a result of the school’s behavior, as our fan community IS being heard. There have already been senior-level changes in University personnel that have come about largely as result of the raised voices from alumni and fans. We know that some members of the Board of Trustees were unhappy with how that mask ban scandal went down, and one of the three senior “ringleaders” of the mask ban, Vice-Chancellor Rennel Wynn, has ‘left the University’, and there may be more changes to come…


  9. LOL…the mask ban is dumb on the surface but it is the same for the “pro-Booners”…

    Where were these people 20 years ago when Boone got banished??

    I mean…to me this is a legit question. It would have made for an easier argument at that point. I literally don’t get the need to cause strife for the hockey program in this regard.

    For the record…my family connections to DU hockey go back to 1965; my first game was in 1975; next I became an off-ice official starting in 2009.

    I respect the opinion of all you guys, but there is definitely better effort to put towards the hockey program.

    Again, opinion, so it is what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The reason little Boone stink was made 20 years ago was that DU was basking in a brand new $85 million athletic center, all sports just had been elevated back to NCAA D-I and millions more had been invested in the DU campus. Dan Ritchie and his administration couldn’t have been more popular at that moment. The DU community were simply in awe of Ritchie (some still are), and few would would ever attempt to cross him at the height of his power. It was only after Ritchie stepped down in 2005 that people began agitating for a new mascot, as the bird never caught on.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Couldn’t agree more, Chris. When Nick and I restarted LetsGoDU, we created a mission statement – that was to build school spirit and support our student athletes and the athletic department. The reality is that in order to build a top notch athletic department costs a lot of money. The school expects the sports fans to pay for a big chunk of the cost to hire coaches, maintain facilities, and retain staff. In today’s environment, schools are going to reach out to their fans to cover additional costs and expenses – and that seems fair to me. In hockey, you can bet that Minnesota, BU, North Dakota and other programs do the same.

    We never edit or delete comments from our readers because we want this to be a forum for everybody who cares about DU and DU athletics. While we may disagree with some comments, we welcome everyone to share your thoughts with us.


    1. To be clear, I was addressing several comments about DU’s push for financial gifts.

      As for the mask ban, that was underhanded and not worthy of a world class university. The administration talks about ‘free speech’ but bans a 50 year mascot that is fully funded and supported by alumni and students. If that makes me a ‘Boonie’ then count me in. I am for a more open university where inclusion is ‘additive’ and not about taking things away. That’s how you bring people together.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I read on one of the Penn State message boards that there were only 400-500 tickets left for the regional in Allentown as of yesterday afternoon (20th). If that person is right, that means there should be quite a crowd there of about 8,000-ish.


  12. Thank you folks for having and maintaining this site, and gathering the stories you post. You are a huge source of information for me and many of my friends. So, THANK YOU for being there.

    A couple of more thoughts on the hockey program and the University. The easiest way to gain more funding is to sell more tickets.Let’s say they got creative with their marketing (or did any real marketing at all) and sold 500 more tickets per game. With 20 games at $30 per ticket, that would be an additional $300,000 for the season. More concessions, etc. Any 500 is probably a conservative number over the course of the entire season.

    As for Rennel Wynn, the comment was made she was fired because of how she handled the mask policy, not that mask policy was implemented. Ms. Chopp is still in power, and until she and many members of the Board are gone, the assault will continue. Ms. Wynn was just the scapegoat. The wizards behind the curtain are still pulling the same strings. They will just work to be more clever. So it ain’t over yet… hang on for the next volleys in the war of political correctness.

    Thanks again for giving us a voice. We do not say that enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. The reason we do it is to keep us all connected – and we probably get more out of doing this than you all do. We may not always agree but we all share a deep passion for DU and our shared history. We want it to be the great place that we know it can be. If that means ruffling a few feathers, that is what we will do. Go Pioneers


    2. marketing at du has been a joke for a long time, think @puckswami said they never replaced the marketing director that left like 10 years ago. guaranteed crowd wont be as good next year when big stars turn pro and avs keep getting better.


      1. I am actually pretty confident that Montgomery will put a very good product on the ice next season. Also, new AD Creech may bring some new ideas to marketing/sales. But, any marketing $$$ are going to come from within the athletic department. The administration is not coming to athletics with a bucket of money. So something else has to be cut or we need to donate more $$$. Still, this has been an incredible time to be a Pioneer fan so I remain pretty optimistic.


  13. DU played to 94% of capacity in hockey this year in terms of tickets sold- a very good showing #7 out of 59 teams, drawing better than Michigan, Boston College, Boston University, Michigan State, CC, and many others. Of course, many people don’t always use their tickets, which is a problem all over the country, but at least the school made most of the money it could make.

    Liked by 1 person

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