Data and Graphs and Charts, Oh My: NCHC in the USCHO Poll through the Years

If you weren’t around on Twitter yesterday, you likely missed a long thread that we tweeted from our account that offered a visual representation of how all eight NCHC teams have fared in the weekly USCHO poll since the conference’s inaugural season in 2013. It’s no secret that the NCHC has dominated college hockey in recent years in both nonconference and postseason play. The Colorado Springs-based conference has had at least one participant in every Frozen Four since that first season and between North Dakota, Denver, and Minnesota Duluth, it has won each of the last four national titles. To say that the NCHC has been good or even great might somehow be the understatement of the decade.

This week, though, St. Cloud State dropped out of the USCHO rankings for the first time since the end of the 2016-2017 season. The end of the Huskies’ objectively impressive top-20 streak begged the question –  and sparked a short conversation between Twitter user and Minnesota Duluth super fan Biddy (@Biddco) and myself on my personal account (@NickTrem_17) – about which program in the NCHC holds the longest active streak. We both surmised that it had to be Denver but weren’t sure if Minnesota Duluth might be up there too. It got both of us thinking about it and in the end, it prompted the inspiration to compile the data and analyze it like the good CPA that I am. It also helped that I had more than an hour to kill while dinner (delicious homemade chili, for those inquiring minds) was simmering on a frigid Monday night.

The Process

Before I dove into the numbers and the necessary extensive data entry, I asked a couple of sources both with DU and with the NCHC, asking whether they knew when the last time Denver was unranked. Neither knew which essentially meant that if I wanted to know, I was going to have to compile the data myself. So, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that this started as a purely selfish endeavor. I wanted to know about DU’s streak so I set out to find out. It wasn’t until I actually sat down and looked at the rankings that I realized it might be interesting to more eyes than just mine to see how the entire conference has fared since 2013.

As you will see in the graphs below, I went all the way back to the USCHO poll for the week of September 30, 2013 and entered the rank for each of the eight (well, seven. Let’s be honest with each other about CC) NCHC teams in every week’s poll since, all the way through this week. Then I dove into the analysis generating a whole host of graphs and a summary chart. And folks, let me tell you, this process was an absolute blast and I hope you enjoy looking at the results of the effort as much as I enjoyed putting all of it together.

The Analysis

If you would prefer to read through the analysis in Twitter thread form, you can find the thread starting here:

If you would prefer to look at the graphs and analysis in this article, see the images below:

Since the NCHC’s inception in 2013-2014, 7 teams have been ranked at some point and this image shows the progression of every team in the USCHO Rankings from 2013-2019 (this season, too). Click to enlarge.

The presentation of that first graph is largely the reason why this project snowballed into rest of the graphs. It’s a busy, dense image that is difficult to follow and dissect (unless you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with CC. That one is pretty easy). To address that, I split that graph up into a season by season look, as shown in the gallery below (click on any of the images to enlarge the gallery). Read the captions for year-by-year analysis, if you’re into that:

I couldn’t just stop there, though, so I put together a full look at each individual team from 2013-2019 as shown in the gallery below (click on any of the images to enlarge the gallery). Once again, read the captions for team-by-team analysis, if that’s your kind of thing:

Summary

In the featured image of this post, you likely saw at least a thumbnail of the rankings summary throughout the last six-plus seasons. That summary (edited since yesterday’s Twitter thread to remove the accidental duplication of the “weeks unranked” row) is below:

Bolded numbers are the most in each category. Denver has most weeks ranked and weeks spent in the top 10 out of 151 total polls. St. Cloud State owns the top spot for weeks as #1 and in the top 5. Click image to enlarge.

Oh, and to answer that first question that kicked off this whole thing? Yeah, Denver has the longest top-20 streak of any NCHC team by far. They haven’t fallen out of the USCHO poll since the week of March 17, 2014. That’s nearly six straight years, for those who aren’t great at counting. And it doesn’t look like it’s about to come to an end any time soon.

What are your thoughts on the data? Do you feel that the USCHO poll over the years accurately characterizes the NCHC and their positioning in college hockey over its short history? Will CC ever be ranked again? Comment below!

2 thoughts on “Data and Graphs and Charts, Oh My: NCHC in the USCHO Poll through the Years”

  1. Great work, Nick.

    DU has really benefitted from starting the NCHC, and your graphs bear it out. You can see just how great the competition is, and how it prepares DU for post-season success.

    DU, UMD, UND and St. Cloud have been excellent from year to year. Western is on the precipice of joining that level, while Miami is in a down cycle, Omaha is hard to predict and CC, while down in terms of national rankings, still always plays DU very hard each year. Getting the Gold Pan back won’t be easy this year…

    This year, the NCHC appears to be down a notch so far from previous years of greatness, so hopefully the top ranked Pios can take advantage…

  2. Nice job, Nick. This further demonstrates to us CC fans that although the schools are only 70 miles apart, the hockey programs are on an entirely different planet. DU has looked exceptionally good from what I’ve seen of them so far this year.

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