Downtown Mpls hosts NCHC championships

 

 

This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

Josh Felton (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

“Ice madness” comes to downtown Minneapolis this week as the City-owned arena hosts the fourth annual National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) championships. Last weekend’s quarterfinals winners will battle each other in Friday’s semifinals games and the title game on Saturday.

“Ice madness” comes to downtown Minneapolis this week as the City-owned arena hosts the fourth annual National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) championships. Last weekend’s quarterfinals winners will battle each other in Friday’s semifinals games and the title game on Saturday.

The NCHC champion earns the automatic NCAA tournament bid.

With the converted ice sheet behind him, NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton told the Only One that regular season champs Denver and Minnesota Duluth “have separated themselves” from the rest of the league this season. “It could be one of them that will hold the [tourney championship] trophy,” he noted.

Some had predicted that the Big Ten, which started the same year (2011) as the NCHC, would have a bigger spotlight, especially with its built-in television presence — the Big Ten Network (BTN). But the NCHC nonetheless has a solid network agreement with the CBS Sports Network.

Just how powerful and influential is the NCHC? One-half of last year’s NCAA field were league teams, including defending champs North Dakota, which became the first league club to win a national title. Furthermore, over the past three seasons the NCHC has posted the best non-conference record among the six Division I conference teams.

“We’ve had 13 teams in the NCAA tournament in three years,” boasted the NCHC commish, “five teams in the Frozen Four in three years, and one national champion in North Dakota. The competiveness of the conference was anticipated when the conference was started. I think it’s played out in that manner.”

“I think we are positioned well to get four to five teams in the NCAA Tournament,” predicted Fenton. He told us earlier this season that even though a couple of schools approached them about the possibility of joining the NCHC, the urge to expand isn’t there at this time. “The focus still needs to be on us and our eight member institutions that make up our conference,” he said.

The commissioner invited us to this week’s Frozen Four. We plan to report our experience in next week’s edition.

“Fan experience is a focus of ours,” he concluded. “It is very important to us…to keep it in a collegial environment.”

One Black player in Women’s Frozen Four

Sarah Nurse (Onika Nicole Craven/MSR News)

Two WCHA teams, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with Boston College and Clarkston, are in this weekend’s NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in St. Charles, Missouri.

Wisconsin senior forward Sarah Nurse is the only Black player in the final quartet. The 5’-8” Nurse helped the Badgers win their third consecutive WCHA Final Face-Off with a game-winning assist in the semifinals and a goal and three assists in two games in Minneapolis March 4-5. She also scored last weekend in the Badgers’ 7-0 win to advance.

Nurse, the WCHA Offensive Player of the Month for February and twice this season named the league’s offensive player of the week and second team All-WCHA player, recently talked to the Only One. “We are a team that focuses on our own team and does not dwell on what the other team will do,” she pointed out.

Wisconsin Coach Mark Johnson said of Nurse, “I wish there would be more coming up the ranks and be able to play like she did for four years.”

Except for Clarkson of the ECAC in 2014, the national champion since 2001 has come out of the WCHA. The Gophers are two-time defending champion, and Wisconsin has been top-ranked all season.

“We have a pretty solid eight teams right now,” said Minnesota Coach Brad Frost of the WCHA.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.