The NCHC announced this morning that it is completely revamping its annual postseason tournament and moving the entire thing to Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Instead of a two-week tournament starting with best-of-three-game-series at campus sites followed by the semifinals and championship at the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul, Minnesota, all teams will be invited to a five-day single-elimination event. Quarterfinals, seeded as they would have been normally (1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, etc.) will occur on Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, while the semifinals and championship will take place on Monday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 16, respectively. No third-place game will occur.
As things stand now, Denver is likely to face Omaha in the first round of NCHC playoffs. Instead of traveling to Omaha, DU would now face the Mavs on neutral ice. However, if DU advanced past Omaha in Grand Forks, they are likely to face a challenging path, especially if they face North Dakota on Ralph Engelstad Arena ice. But the same could be said for St. Paul which was always packed with Fighting Hawks fans.
Overall, in a year like this, a change such as this one was necessary and was the right decision, even before taking into account how it might benefit DU.
This means that Denver will remain the only program to attend every Frozen Faceoff since the conference's inception. This is really the most important part.
— LetsGoDU (@LetsGoDU) February 8, 2021
The single-elimination format, like the NCAA hockey tournament, should provide plenty of action as it is ‘do or die’ for the entire NCHC, the deepest conference in the country. Once again, the flexibility shown by the NCHC under Commissioner Josh Fenton’s leadership continues to exhibit why this is one of the best conferences in all of college athletics.
According to the NCHC press release, the top seed in the NCHC Tournament will face the No. 8 seed and the second seed will face the No. 7 seed in the first two quarterfinals on March 12. Seeds 3 and 6, as well as the fourth and fifth seeds, will square off in the other two quarterfinals on March 13. The four quarterfinal winners will then be re-seeded for the semifinals on March 15, with the Frozen Faceoff champion crowned on March 16.
All four quarterfinal match-ups will be available on NCHC.tv, while CBS Sports Network will broadcast the Frozen Faceoff semifinals and championship game. All game times are still to be determined.
Fan attendance will be permitted on a limited basis, in accordance with university, local and state health guidelines. North Dakota has already hosted games with limited fan attendance. Ticket information, including pricing and availability, for the 2021 NCHC Tournament will be announced at a later date.