Things are sure to look different for the DU Pioneers this season. Such is life in the year 2020. C’est la vie.
There’s a lot to explain about how the 2020-21 NCAA hockey season is going to look, so let this serve as a primer for what fans should expect.
After the COVID-19 breakout hit the United States back in March, the NCAA, like every sports league across the world, shut it down. At the time of the season’s cancellation, the Pioneers were ranked 6th in the nation and appeared poised for another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Pios, of course, would never get the chance. Still, Denver stayed ready for the 2020-21 season while in quarantine in their respective hometowns. DU will open the 2020-21 season ranked 4th.
DU’s men’s hockey club returned to campus in September and have since been working out in small groups, abiding with the NCAA’s health-and-safety rules, as well as local restrictions. The season was slated to start on Oct. 3, however, the NCAA thought it best to delay the start of the season in order to ensure all the necessary precautions were being taken.
Since then, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) — the conference the DU Pioneers play in — has announced the season will commence on December 1st. Here’s how it will look:
(Some) games will be played in a bubble
The NCHC announced a unanimous approval of playing a 26-game all-conference schedule. The season will be broken up in a “two-part format.” The first part of this is that for the first month of the season, all games will be played in a bubble, or as the conference is calling it, a “Pod.”
This Pod will be at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
The second part of the season will take place from January through March, where teams will then be able to travel to play their divisional foe (see below).
It is not known at this time whether or not fans will be allowed in attendance in either the Pod, nor at home arenas. The NCHC is leaving it up to local authorities and public health agencies to determine capacity restrictions when the time comes.
The NCHC will be split into two divisions
In an effort to limit travel for the conferences teams, they will be split up into two intra-conference divisions based on geography:
East: Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan
West: Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota and Omaha
For the first month of the season, all eight teams will play 10 games in the Pod.
Once the second part of the season begins in January, each team will then play at their respective home arena eight times and will travel for eight games on the road.
The DU Pioneers schedule
In the Pod:
Dec. 2 — Minnesota Duluth
Dec. 4 — North Dakota
Dec. 5 — St. Cloud State
Dec. 8 — North Dakota
Dec. 10 — Miami (Ohio)
Dec. 12 — Minnesota Duluth
Dec. 15 — Western Michigan
Dec. 17 — Miami (Ohio)
Dec. 19 — Western Michigan
Dec. 20 — St. Cloud State
(Bold = Home @ Magness Arena)
Jan. 1 — Colorado College
Jan. 2 — Colorado College
Jan. 8 — Colorado College
Jan. 9 — Colorado College
Jan. 15 — North Dakota
Jan. 16 — North Dakota
Jan. 21 — Omaha
Jan. 23 — Omaha
Jan. 24 — Omaha
Feb. 5 — North Dakota
Feb. 6 — North Dakota
Feb. 11 — Omaha
Feb. 13 — Omaha
Feb. 14 — Omaha
Feb. 27 — Colorado College
March 6 — Colorado College
* NCAA Tournament begins March 12
The DU Pioneers will host the 2021 NCAA West Regional at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo., home of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. The Regionals will be played March 27-28. Loveland will also play host to the 2022 and 2026 NCAA West Regional.