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Callan Sheridan | | October 2, 2019

6 must-watch college hockey games to start the 2019-2020 season

Watch how Minnesota Duluth hockey went back-to-back

College hockey will be here sooner than you think, and to get prepped we’ve picked out some of the top matchups going down in the first few weeks of the 2019-2020 season. From old-school rivalries to championship rematches, these are the games you won’t want to miss. 

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Wisconsin at. Penn State — Nov. 1/2

There’s a laundry list of reasons you won’t want to miss this early November series. These two teams are ridiculously well- matched, with each going 3-3-1 against the other last season. Going further back the teams still hold up against each other in competition. Since 2013, Penn State has the slight series edge with a 17-12-3 all-time record over the Badgers. These matchups tend to be fun, offensive hockey as well, with each squad averaging 3 goals against the other. Beyond the statistical matchup, this game is going to be interesting to watch for the new roster talent that will likely playing. Wisconsin will be debuting a significantly recruited freshman class, including 2019 top-10 NHL Draft picks Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield. In fact, 12 of Wisconsin’s 26-man roster players are NHL draftees. Penn State isn’t far behind. The quickly growing Nittany Lion program hosts six NHL draft picks, most recently welcoming freshman Kevin Wall, a 2019 Carolina Hurricanes draft pick. The November series will also be the first taste of Big Ten conference play for the season

Last meeting: March 10, 2019 

The last game played between Wisconsin and Penn State is a perfect example of how these teams duel. It was a high stakes, high reward game last March in the Big Ten playoffs with the winner advancing to a semifinal berth in the tournament. Wisconsin held a 3-2 lead late in the second until Penn State forward Alex Limoges evened the score with just over a minute in the frame. Playing in overtime after a scoreless third period — and 46 blocked shots from Badger netminder Daniel Lebedeff — Penn State’s Liam Folkes notched his second of the night to give the Nittany Lions the OT winner. 

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Denver at Minnesota Duluth — Nov. 8/9

Talk about an NCHC power matchup. These teams have been meeting since 1977, and Denver has the all-time advantage with an 86-63-10 record. These teams play tight games. In 24 games over the last six years, Denver and Minnesota Duluth have played 15 games decided by one or fewer goals. Minnesota Duluth had the season series jump last year, winning three of the five contests between the teams, however in the 2017-2018 season Denver swept all five competitions, including the NCAA Frozen Four championship game where Denver beat out UMD 3-2 for the national title. Both elite teams competed in the 2019 Frozen Four, and while Denver and UMD didn’t meet in the championship the Bulldogs walked away defending the national title, defeating UMass after Denver was knocked out by the Minutemen in the semifinal contest. Each squad had an incoming freshman taken in the 2019 draft — UMD’s Quinn Olson was selected by Boston and Denver forward Bobby Brink was taken by Philadelphia. 

Last meeting: March 22, 2019 

Minnesota Duluth had the last word in Denver-UMD meetup history, taking home a 3-0 shutout win in the NCHC tournament Frozen Faceoff semifinal. The contest was in a deadlock until the third period, when Minnesota Duluth’s Cole Koepke drove a shot through Denver goalie Filip Larsson’s five hole for the eventual game winner. Two more empty net goals sealed the Bulldog win. 

Princeton at St. Cloud State — Nov. 1/2

Perhaps not a traditional go-to matchup, this early season game between SCSU and Princeton could prove to be some interesting hockey. St. Cloud State will be coming off a series against Northeastern the weekend before, while this November series will be the season opener for Princeton. Although the consistently-ranked Huskies might the knee-jerk pick to win this contest, history might predict a tighter game. SCSU faced some tough late-season losses in 2018-2019, namely a first-round bow out in the NCAA tournament —even as the No.1 overall seed — for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, Princeton is adding five forwards this season to add some offensive power, including a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick. This game will be closer than expected, and an interesting NCHC-ECAC hockey clash.

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Last meeting: Dec. 30, 2017

There’s been a gap since SCSU and Princeton last met, but even so, the last meeting was a battled game, and some of the same roster talent remains. The Tigers and Huskies played to two ties in the 2017-2018 season series, drawing at 3-3 and 2-2 in the back-to-back games. Both games were offensive showings for the teams — in the Dec. 30 contest SCSU had 44 shots on goal and Princeton tallied 42. At the time, Princeton was unranked and St. Cloud State was ranked No. 1 by USCHO.

Quinnipiac at Arizona State — Nov. 1/2

Another out-of-conference tete-a-tete, this game will be interesting because it will be one of the earliest season tests for both squads. It’s also a rematch of last year’s NCAA tournament quarterfinals, where Quinnipiac closed the book on a fairytale season for the Sun Devils — just the team’s third season competing in NCAA DI. Of course, Quinnipiac had its championship hopes dashed days later, when the Bobcats’ 26-10-2 season was ended by defending champions Minnesota Duluth in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss. ASU continues to grow and make its name as a top DI program, adding nine new recruits to round out the squad. Quinnipiac has rounded out its roster as well, bringing in a class of five new defenseen to fill the shoes left by defensive standouts Brogan Rafferty and Andrew Shortridge. 

Last meeting: March 30, 2019

Quinnipiac last faced Arizona State in a win-or-go-home contest to open the 2019 NCAA tournament. The Bobcats’ Joe O’Connor notched a tally four minutes into the contest, and William Fällström added another in the second period, allowing Quinnipiac to hold on for a 2-1 win. Quinnipiac hold the all-time series lead over ASU since the teams first met in 2015, holding a 4-1-1 record. 

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Massachusetts vs. Northeastern — Nov. 1/ 2

These two Hockey East teams represented their conference well in last season’s NCAA tournament, and this home-and-away series between UMass and Northeastern will be the conference matchup to watch. UMass ended last season on the wrong end of the championship game after an incredible run through the NCAA tournament and Frozen Four. Losing its star offensive-defenseman will be a hit for the Minutemen, but returning forwards Niko Hildenbrand and Mitchell Chaffee can spark the offense. Northeastern fell hard to Cornell in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a tough loss that was preceded by the team winning the Hockey East tournament. UMass is coming off of a hot season, but roster changes leave a lot of room for shakeups. These teams should be well-matched for some East Coast hockey.

Last meeting: Jan. 19, 2019

In a showing of how these teams step up to the plate against each other, a then-No. 8 Northeastern team slipped past then-No. 1 UMass with an OT win the last time they met. UMass rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third, but Northeastern’s Tyler Madden ended overtime on an odd-man rush tally for the win. 

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Bowling Green at Minnesota State — Nov. 1/2

From one coast to the other, Bowling Green and Minnesota State are two of the best teams in the WCHA. Both had 2019 NCAA tournament appearances and this matchup to start November will be a rematch of the 2019 WCHA championship — which Minnesota State claimed, in overtime. Minnesota State might have the jump on Bowling Green — taking the all-time meetups with an 11-9-3 record — but the Falcons recently named former assistant coach Ty Eigner as the newest head coach. Eigner’s defensive-minded strategy as an assistant helped steadily improve Bowling Green’s goals against average, and a new man in charge could shake things up for the Falcons. 

Last meeting: March 23, 2019 

The last meeting between these two teams was the WCHA championship, where Minnesota State came from behind to force OT. Under two minutes into overtime, Mavericks forward Nick Rivera grabbed a deflected puck and put it into Bowling Green’s net for the conference title. 

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