NCHC Snapshot: North Dakota
North Dakota topped the conference standings and claimed its eighth national championship, its first in 16 years.
UND finished with an impressive 19-4-1 in the NCHC, including a pair of wins in two meetings vs. Miami, and ended the season 34-6-4 overall.
A good portion of that NCAA title team will return for 2016-17, as the now-named Fighting Hawks will again one of the teams to beat in the NCHC.
NCAA TITLES: 8 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, and 2016).
COACH: Brad Berry (34-6-4, .818, 2nd season).
2015-16 RECORD: 34-6-4 (19-4-1 in NCHC, 1st place in the league).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Defeated Quinnipiac, 5-1 in the NCAA championship.
RINK (capacity): Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, North Dakota (11,643).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 2-0 (Nov. 13-14. ND 6-2 and 4-3 in OT in Grand Forks).
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota, 9-4-1 (.692).
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: At North Dakota Jan. 13-14. In Oxford Mar. 3-4.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: So. F Brock Boeser (35th overall pick by VAN), Jr. G Cam Johnson, F Rhett Gardner.
KEY NEW FACE: F Tyson Jost (1st round pick, 10th overall in 2016 by COL).
NOTES: UND has been consistent the past three seasons, finishing second, first, and first in the NCHC.
North Dakota was led by NCHC rookie of the year – forward Brock Boeser – who paved the way in goals, racking up 27 in 42 games. The Fighting Hawks lose a clutch scorer in Drake Caggiula, who has graduated, as he mustered seven game-winning goals a season ago.
Forward Austin Pogansk returns in Kelly green and white, having ranked in the top five on the team in points, lighting the lamp 10 times.
The Fighting Hawks bring back two-time captain, senior Gage Ausmus, who didn’t find the back of net, however, Gage did provide 11 assist for UND. Junior defenseman Tucker Poolman was second among all blueliners with 24 points, scoring five goals paired with 19 assists.
North Dakota looks the same in net, sending Cam Johnson between the pipes. In 34 games played, Johnson dominated with a 24-4-2 record with a 1.66 GAA with five shutouts.
Tyson Jost adds depth to an already stacked UND lineup. The Alberta native was captain of Canada’s under 18-team. The 18 year old has top-6 level potential at the next level.
UND lose scorers Drake Caggiula (25-26-51) and F Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), as well as defenseman Troy Stecher and Paul LaDue. Still, the Fighting Hawks have 10 NHL draft picks on the 2016-17 roster.
North Dakota will enjoy be returning 18 players from last season’s championship roster, including all four goalies. UND will be a tough opponent on any team’s schedule, as the Fighting Hawks are looking to return to the Frozen Four, which shifts to the United Center in Chicago.
NCHC Snapshot: Nebraska-Omaha
Nebraska-Omaha struggled down the stretch and ended up finishing 8-15-1 (.354 winning percentage) in the NCHC, taking sixth in the conference in 2015-16.
The Mavericks tied Miami in Oxford Nov. 20, but the RedHawks would claim the extra point in the NCHC standings on a Louie Belpedio rebound goal in the series finale the next night.
UNO finished the year 18-17-1 (.514), taking sixth overall and was eliminated from the NCHC Tournament in the first round, as the Mavericks were swept by Denver.
NCAA TITLES: None.
COACH: Dean Blais (8th season, 129-116-25, .524 winning percentage).
2015-16 RECORD: 18-17-1 (8-15-1, sixth in NCHC, .514 winning percentage).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Swept by Denver in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena, Omaha, Nebraska (7,898).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 1-2-1 (In Oxford Nov. 20-21, 3-3 tie, 3-2 win/ In Omaha Jan. 22-23, 3-1, 7-3 losses to the RedHawks).
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 18-11-4.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Oxford Nov. 11-12; in Omaha Jan. 20-21.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Austin Ortega, F Justin Parizek, D Luc Snuggerud (141st overall pick by CHI in 2014).
KEY NEW FACES: F Colin Grannary (Delta, British Columbia/Merritt-BCHL), D Ryan Jones (Crown Point, Ind./Lincoln USHL), G Kris Oldham (TBL 153rd pick in 2015).
NOTES: Nebraska-Omaha has finished third, third and sixth in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Mavericks scored 103 goals last season, the top scorer, Jake Guentzel, who has graduated, notched 19 goals in 35 games, while dishing out 27 assist.
Austin Ortega is the team’s top returning scorer with 36 points, including a team-best 21 goals, and Ortega was first on the team in power-play goals (seven).
The Mavericks blue line stays well intact as the team returns all but one defenseman. Nebraska-Omaha’ top D-man, Luc Snuggerud, lead his defensive corps in points with 18, lighting the lamp four times.
Goalie Even Weninger returns between the pipes for the Mavericks, having gone 13-8-0 in a team-high 21 games a season ago. Weninger will have freshman netminder Kris Oldham looking to split time in the crease for the Mavs.
Nebraska-Omaha have added seven freshman to join the already young program. The Mavericks will only have three seniors for the 2016-17 campaign, while piling up 17 underclassman.
The Mavs jumped out to a great 6-0 start last year before dropping their final eight games, including being swept by Denver in the NCHC tournament. Nebraska-Omaha would like to play better in the third period of games, as they were outscored 39-26 in the final frame.
NCHC Snapshot: Minnesota-Duluth
Miami fans are pretty familiar with Minnesota-Duluth’s bio.
The RedHawks played their last four games of 2015-16 at UMD, facing the Bulldogs in 2015-16’s regular season finale series on the road and returning to Duluth the following weekend for an NCHC Tournament best-of-3 quarterfinal set.
Miami didn’t win any of those four games, and its season ended in upstate Minnesota as a result.
Goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo went pro after last season after posting a 1.92 goals-against average, which leaves a major void in net for the Bulldogs, but they should still have a strong returning corps this fall.
Minn.-Duluth’s success was predicated on defense last season, as the Bulldogs allowed just 82 goals – 2.05 per game – the best in the NCHC, but this team has three freshmen goalies on its roster.
NCAA TITLES: 1 (2011).
COACH: Scott Sandelin (278-265-73, 17th season).
2015-16 RECORD: 19-16-5 (11-10-3 in NCHC, 4th place in the league).
2015-16 POSTSEASON RESULT: Lost to Boston College, 3-2 in the NCAA regional final.
RINK (capacity): Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minn. (6,756).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 5-0-1 including sweep in NCHC quarterfinal series.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Minn.-Duluth, 9-3-1.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Duluth Feb. 23-24.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Alex Iafallo, F Karson Kuhlman, F Dominic Toninato, D Neal Pionk, D Willie Raskob, D Carson Soucy.
KEY NEW FACES: F Joey Anderson, F Riley Tufte, D Jarod Hilderman, D Nick Wolff, G Hunter Miska.
NOTES: UMD completely dominated Miami last season, especially when it counted most, but the Bulldogs lost their top two forwards in terms of points (Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley), top-scoring defenseman (Andrew Welinski) and starting goalie (Kaskisuo).
Iafallo finished with eight goals and 15 assists last season, and Toninato went 15-6-21, tying for the team lead in goals. Kuhlman also reached the 20-point mark, potting 12 markers.
Tufte was selected in the first round by Dallas. Named Mr. Hockey in Minnesota, he is 6-feet-5 and scored 10 goals in 27 games in the USHL last season.
Minnesota-Duluth has a solid, experienced defense corps returning, with six veterans and three freshmen. Back from last season are Pionk (4-13-17), Raskob (2-11-13) and Carson Soucy (3-9-12), all of which played at least 36 games in 2015-16.
The Bulldogs’ goaltending situation is their wild card. In addition to Kaskisuo leaving early, their backup – Matt McNeely – was a senior, so like Miami, UMD will be starting fresh(men) in net.
Hunter Miska went 32-14 with a 2.46 goals-against average with Dubuque last season. Another Hunter – Hunter Shepard – finished 34-14-1.90 with a .926 save percentage in the NAHL last season.
The Bulldogs lost several key players from that regional finalist team, but they have been amazing consistent in the first three years of the NCHC, finishing fourth, fifth and fourth.
Despite winning 20 or more games just once in the past four years, Scott Sandelin’s UMD teams have qualified for the NCAAs back-to-back years and came within a goal of a Final Four berth last year.
NCHC Snapshot: Denver
Denver finished second in the conference in 2015-16 and advanced to the Frozen Four before falling to NCHC foe North Dakota.
Last season, the Pioneers split with Miami in Oxford Dec. 4-5 but finished 17-5-2 in NCHC play and 25-10-6 overall – a .683 winning percentage.
NCAA TITLES: 7 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005).
COACH: Jim Montgomery (69-40-14 in three seasons).
2015-16 RECORD: 25-10-6 (17-5-2 in NCHC, 3rd place in the league).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Lost to North Dakota, 4-2 in the Frozen Four on Apr. 7.
RINK (capacity): Magness Arena, Denver, Colo. (6,026).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 1-1 in Oxford (Jan. 29 – 3-1 Miami; Jan. 30 – 5-3 DU).
ALL-TIME SERIES: Tied, 10-10-0.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Denver Nov. 18-19. In Oxford Feb. 17-18.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: D Will Butcher (C), G Tanner Jaillet, G Evan Cowley, F Dylan Gambrell.
KEY DEPARTURES: F Trevor Moore (early), F Grant Arnold (C, graduated), F Danton Heinen (early).
KEY NEW FACES: F Justin Cole, F Henrik Borgstrom (23rd overall pick by Florida in 2016).
NOTES: Denver has finished sixth, fourth and third in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Pioneers scored 134 goals last season, but the only skater on the 2015-16 team that registered 20 or more goals in 2015-16 graduated.
Gambrell is the team’s top returning scorer with 47 points, second-best on the team. That included 17 goals, and he was second on the team in assists (30).
The defense corps is led by Captain Will Butcher, who was tied for a team best plus-17. He also contributed on special teams, racking up 13 points on four goals and nine assists.
Goalie Tanner Jaillet started the bulk of games for Denver last season, and the junior went 17-5-5 with three shutouts.
Evan Cowley will likely be the Pioneers backup. Last year he went 8-5-1 with a 2.07 GAA, one shutout, and a .929 save percentage last season. Cowley was between the pipes Jan. 29 in the RedHawks’ 3-1 victory.
Seven freshman make the DU roster a year removed from their Frozen Four appearance, including Tyson McLellan, son of Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan.
Denver will be without last year’s points leader, now Boston Bruins prospect, F Danton Heinen. The Pioneers will still be dangerous as they bring in a slew of young talent including F Henrik Borgstrom.
Denver reached the Frozen Four for the first time since they last won the NCAA title in 2005. The Pioneers will be poised to get back to playing meaningful April hockey and considering DU will have the same coach and starting goaltender as last season, Denver has an excellent change to be in the NCHC’s top tier.
NCHC Snaphot: Colorado College
BoB will be taking a look at the other seven teams in the NCHC over the next few weeks leading up to Miami’s regular season.
We start with Colorado College, which finished last in the conference in 2015-16. The Tigers swept Miami on their home ice Dec. 4-5 but finished 4-19-1 in NCHC play and 6-29-1 overall – a .185 winning percentage.
NCAA TITLES: 2 (1950, 1957).
COACH: Mike Haviland (12-55-4, .197 winning percentage in two seasons).
2015-16 RECORD: 6-29-1 (4-19-1 NCHC, 8th place in the league).
POSTSEASON RESULT: Swept by North Dakota in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Colorado World Springs Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo. (7,343).
LAST SEASON VS. MIAMI: 2-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 7-5-0.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: In Oxford Dec. 9-10.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Luc Gerdes, F Trey Bradley, D Teemu Kivihalme, G Jacob Nehama, G Derek Shatzer.
KEY NEW FACES: G Alex Leclerc, F Alex Berardenelli.
NOTES: Colorado College has finished seventh, eighth and eighth in the eight-team NCHC in three seasons.
The Tigers scored just 71 goals last season, and the only skater on the 2015-16 team that registered 20 or more points in 2015-16 graduated.
Gerdes is the team’s top returning scorer with 18 points, including seven goals, and Bradley was second on the team in goals (9) and third in points (16).
The defense corps was extremely young last season, as six of the eight blueliners that logged nine or more games were freshmen. The other two were sophomores, including Kivihalme, who tallied three goals and a Tigers-high 12 assists for 15 points.
Goalie Tyler Marble left the program this summer, foregoing his senior season, and Leclerc is one of the favorites to take the reins in net.
Leclerc played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season, tying a league high with 31 games and posting a 2.48 goals-against average as his team advanced to that league’s division finals.
It can be difficult to evaluate players coming to the NCAA from Canadian Juniors, and eight members of the Colorado College freshman class played in sub-CHL leagues in 2015-16.
The Tigers still look awfully young and lacking in star power to compete for the upper echelon of the NCHC this season, but good things could be ahead for CC if its young talent develops as is expected in Colorado Springs.