At the beginning of the season, I gave you my predicted order of finish in the NCHC:
2. North Dakota
3. St. Cloud State
4. Western Michigan
7. Colorado College
And here’s how the race stacks up heading into this weekend’s action:
NCHC 2013-14 Current Standings
|St. Cloud State||6-1-1||19|
It is worth noting that North Dakota and Colorado College have each played ten conference games, while the other six NCHC teams have only played eight. Of the top four teams contending for the league title, Nebraska-Omaha appears to have the most manageable schedule. The Mavericks have only one road series remaining against the other three top-half teams.
So far, the biggest surprises to me have been Nebraska-Omaha (positive) and Miami (negative).
In my season preview, I said this about picking Dean Blais’ UNO squad to end up in 8th:
Nebraska-Omaha: Ryan Walters will be in the running for the NCHC player of the year, but will UNO’s influx of young talent (most notably Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel) keep the Mavs out of the conference cellar? And will Ryan Massa play well enough in net to keep Dean Blais’ squad competitive?
The Mavericks jump-started their NCHC campaign with a pair of 3-2 overtime victories at Denver. UNO is scoring well over three goals per game in league play and are getting contributions from several freshmen. In eight league games, blueliner Ian Brady has collected seven points, and rookie forwards Jake Guentzel (1-6-7) and Austin Ortega (2-2-4) have chipped in as well. Ryan Walters (1-5-6) has been Ryan Walters, but what has put Dean Blais’ squad over the top has been the play of junior forward Josh Archibald, who has collected six goals and four assists in his eight NCHC tilts.
On the other end of the spectrum is a struggling team that I expect will continue to struggle. Coming into the season, Miami was a loaded team with only a couple of question marks. From my season preview:
Can Miami handle the pressure of preseason expectations? Will the RedHawks adjust to a slate of new opponents quickly enough to find itself on top?
And the bottom line is that Enrico Blasi has not been able to guide his team to consecutive league victories. Home splits with North Dakota and Denver, coupled with a 1-3 record at St. Cloud and Nebraska-Omaha, have Miami chasing five teams for the NCHC crown.
We will have a very interesting race for the league title. Take a look at the remaining opponents for the top four teams:
St. Cloud State Home: WMU (2), DU (2), UMD (2), UND (2);
Road: DU (2), UNO (2), Miami (2), CC (2)
Nebraska-Omaha Home: UMD (2), SCSU (2), DU (2), CC (2);
Road: Miami (2), UND (2), WMU (2), UMD (2)
North Dakota Home: CC (2), UNO (2), Miami (2), WMU (2);
Road: DU (2), UMD (2), SCSU (2)
Denver Home: SCSU (2), UND (2), CC (1), Miami (2);
Road: UMD (2), SCSU (2), UNO (2), CC (1), WMU (2)
If I had to predict how the race for home ice would play out, I would put them in this order:
1. St. Cloud State
4. North Dakota
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.