The NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Target Center this weekend will showcase three teams in position to earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Denver and Minnesota Duluth are Nos. 1 and 2 in the PairWise rankings, which mimic how the NCAA seeds its field and fills its at-large tournament berths, and Western Michigan is No. 4.
So if you’re interested in catching a glimpse of the favorites to win a national championship, this is the tournament.
Denver (28-6-4): The Pioneers enter the tournament ranked No. 1 and riding a 13-game winning streak. They haven’t lost since Jan. 20. Denver’s defense is the best in college hockey, led by goaltender Tanner Jaillet, who is giving up 1.84 goals per game, while the Pioneers’ top-10 offense averages 3.39 goals. Defenseman Will Butcher is the NCHC’s Player of the Year.
Minnesota Duluth (23-6-7): The Bulldogs finished with the second-best regular-season record and fewest losses in program history, producing a .721 winning percentage. They also were never swept this season. Senior forward Alex Iafallo leads the team with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists), and freshman goalie Hunter Miska has a 2.22 goals-against average.
Western Michigan (22-10-5): The Broncos required overtime in the final game of a best-of-three quarterfinal series against No. 6 Omaha to claim a spot in the Frozen Faceoff. The win also put the Broncos in position to compete for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. If they win the Frozen Faceoff, the NCHC should get three No. 1 seeds. Now that’s elite (come on, P.J. Fleck fans).
North Dakota (20-14-3): The 2016 national champion needs to win at least one game this weekend to guarantee the opportunity to defend its title. According to CollegeHockeyRanked.com and 786,432 possible outcomes, the Fighting Hawks, No. 11 in the PairWise rankings, still have an 89 percent chance at playing in the NCAA tournament if they are winless this weekend. They’ve won four consecutive games but have struggled against the NCHC’s top teams this season.