The First Three Seasons Of The NCHC: Who Are The Top Teams?

St. Cloud State won the inaugural season of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (2013-14), with North Dakota hoisting the Penrose Cup in 2014-15 and again this year. But beyond that, which teams are making their mark as frontrunners in the NCHC and which programs are quickly headed in the wrong direction?

For comparison’s sake, I have the teams ranked in order of their average league finish (among the three seasons combined). There was one tie (Denver and Omaha each have an average finish of 4.00); I settled that by looking at the combined conference record for both schools.

It’s certainly true that the top four teams in the NCHC this season are headed to the 2016 Frozen Faceoff at Target Center this weekend. One could also argue that North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Denver, and Minnesota-Duluth have been the top four teams over the first three seasons of the new league (complete season records and order of finish are listed in the table below; season and combined records are for conference games only).

Team 2015-16 record (finish) 2014-15 record (finish) 2013-14 record (finish) Total record Average finish
North Dakota 19-4-1-1 (1st) 16-6-2-0 (1st) 15-9-0-0 (2nd) 50-19-3-1 1.33
St. Cloud State 17-6-1-1 (2nd) 11-12-1-0 (6th) 15-6-3-0 (1st) 43-24-5-1 3.00
Univ. of Denver 17-5-2-0 (2nd) 13-10-1-1(4th) 10-11-3-2 (6th) 40-26-6-3 4.00
Nebraska- Omaha 8-15-1-0 (6th) 12-8-4-3 (3rd) 13-9-2-1 (3rd) 33-32-7-4 4.00
Minn.- Duluth 11-10-3-1 (4th) 12-9-3-0 (5th) 11-11-2-2 (4th) 34-30-8-3 4.33
Miami Univ. 9-13-2-2 (5th) 14-9-1-1 (2nd) 6-17-1-1 (8th) 29-39-4-4 5.00
Western Michigan 5-18-1-1 (7th) 6-13-5-4 (7th) 11-11-2-2 (5th) 22-42-8-7 6.33
Colorado College 4-19-1-0 (8th) 2-19-3-1 (8th) 6-13-5-1 (7th) 12-51-9-2 7.67

What stands out to you? Who wins in the showdown between Omaha (better average finish) and Duluth (better overall conference record)? Who are North Dakota’s biggest rivals, year in and year out? Which conference series do you most look forward to? And who do you expect to make the biggest jump next season?

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!