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The NCHC’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a new 26-game schedule on Thursday, Oct. 15 for the upcoming hockey season, which will consist of two parts.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which Williston State College is not a part of, will have teams play 26 conference games for the season. On top of that, teams will start the season by playing games in a pod, and teams are now divided into two different divisions.

In a press release, the NCHC says the safety and health of the student-athletes, coaches, staff and officials was the focus when approving the new format for the season. With that in mind, the conference has intentionally tried to limit team travel.

Thus, the two divisions were created based on geographic regions amongst the teams. In the East Division, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud Satte and Western Michigan are grouped together, and in the West Division, Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota and Omaha are grouped together.

Teams will play each of their divisional opponents six times (18 games total), and teams will play each of the cross-division opponents twice (eight games total), according to the press release.

All cross-division games will take place in the pod to alleviate travel, and the cross-division games will take place first to start the season. The second portion of the season will run from January through March, when teams will face their divisional opponents.

Pursuit of the Penrose Cup will commence on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the pod, which will take place in Omaha at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Baxter Arena.

All eight NCHC teams will be there, and they will each play a total of 10 games. This includes the eight cross-divisional games, and each team will play two games against one divisional foe. Competition in the pod will run through the first three weeks of December.

Once the new year comes, the second part of the schedule will start.

Teams will play 16 games against their divisional opponents, with eight games at home and eight games on the road.

Weekend series will be played from January to March, with the final series of the regular season being played on March 5 and 6.

Teams will also have multiple and consistent bye weekends throughout the travel portion of the season to allow for flexibility in the schedule.

Complete schedules, including matchups, game dates and bye weekends, as well as the NCHC’s Return to Play protocol and COVID-19 testing plans, will be released in the coming weeks.

No changes are currently planned for the 2021 NCHC Tournament, and any decision on possible non-conference games will be made at a later date.

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