All-division preview: North Dakota can clinch top spot in NCHC against WMU
Ninth-ranked North Dakota aims to clinch the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champion when it hosts Western Michigan on the final weekend of the regular season.
UND enters the weekend tied with St. Cloud State atop the league standings, but holds the tie-breaker with the Huskies by virtue of having more conference wins.
A pair of wins this weekend would assure UND at least a share of the Penrose Cup and the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament.
WMU is tied with Minnesota Duluth for fourth place and the final home playoff spot for the NCHC quarterfinal round.
UND boasts the most productive group of defensemen in the nation, averaging 2.88 points per game entering the week. UND’s defensive corps includes regulars Dillon Simpson (seven goals, 14 assists for 21 points), Jordan Schmaltz (four goals, 16 assists), Nick Mattson (three goals, 13 assists), Paul LaDue (five goals, 10 assists, Troy Stecher (one goal, eight assits), Keaton Thompson (three goals, three assists) and Gage Ausmus (two goals, one assist).
Around Division I: Most teams have the weekend off before getting into their conference tournament. ... Fifth-ranked Wisconsin is heading to Penn State for the first time in its history this weekend. ... Top-ranked Minnesota has a seven-point advantage on Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, and will look to maintain or extend taht lead this weekend against Ohio State, a team it is 14-1-0 against all time. ... No. 7 Ferris State is tied with Minnesots State-Mankato at the top of the WCHA and will play seventh-place Lake Superior State this weekend. ... Fourth-ranked St. Cloud State will need some help to earn the NCHC title while it plays Colorado College this weekend.
Around Division III: All conference titles will be handed out this weekend before Sunday's NCAA tournament field selection. ... Seventh-ranked Trinity (Conn.) will need to win two games this weekend to take the NESCAC title, starting with Bowdoin in Saturday's semifinal. ... The ECAC East title will be decided between No. 4 Norwich and sixth-ranked Babson on Saturday. ... The NCHA's automatic berth will go to one of the two teams tied for 10th in the USCHO poll: Oswego State or Geneseo State. ... The NCHA final has top-ranked St. Norbert and surprising No. 15 Saint Scholastica, who took down then-No. 2 Adrian last weekend. ... Second-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) faces No. 12 Gustavus Adolphus for the MIAC title on Saturday.