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COLLEGE HOCKEY: Tight NCHC race makes for challenges in scheduling

The tight NCHC race made for logistical challenges in scheduling postseason travel.

All four first-round series would seemingly require flight trips, but with no matchups set until Saturday night, the league was unable to book flights until Monday morning, when the airlines’ group ticket offices opened.

With limited seats available on flights to Grand Forks, Colorado College was forced to fly to Minneapolis on Wednesday and bus from there.

Miami is traveling nearly 12 hours by bus to St. Cloud. Denver flew directly to Omaha for its series but will bus home. Western Michigan flew from Detroit to Minneapolis and drove up to Duluth.

“We would have liked to start booking a few things before last weekend, but no matchups were defined until the last day,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said. “That’s been a challenge. We’re using a travel provider to help with the booking.”

The league finances travel in the playoffs.

All revenue from the first-round playoff games goes to the league, too. The NCHC subtracts out allowances for facility expense, concessions, per diem for student-athletes, operation expense, parking and marketing.

Alaska Plan in the WCHA

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association landed a dream situation with Alaska Anchorage playing Alaska (Fairbanks) first round.

The WCHA nearly mandated that the two Alaska schools play in the first round every year because of travel expenses involved with flying teams to or from Alaska on a week’s notice. But they scratched that plan late in the summer.

As it turns out, they get that anyway with sixth-seeded Anchorage visiting third-seeded Fairbanks.

Eight of the 10 WCHA teams make the tournament. Lake Superior State and Alabama Huntsville failed to qualify.

Briefly

  •  First-round series winners will meet at 4:08 p.m. and 7:38 p.m. Friday. Commissioner Josh Fenton will determine which teams will play the afternoon game and the night game on Sunday or Monday. Fenton said he will discuss it with league members and with executives at CBS Sports, which will broadcast the games.
  •  The NCHC’s postseason championship trophy will not have a name in its inaugural season. It is possible that the trophy will be named at a later date.
  •  Fenton on working with the Target Center to get it ready for the Frozen Faceoff: “Things have been great with the Target Center. The staff has been unbelievable, bending over backwards as we go through everything the first time. The effort of the Target Center staff, coupled with the effort of our staff, will make for a great event. I’m sure there will be plenty of things we’ll look back upon and we’ll do different in the future, though.”
  •  The Big Ten is the only league that will not be in the playoffs this weekend. It has no first round and all six teams will make the tournament in the Xcel Energy Center next weekend.
Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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