UNO will open the 2020-21 season at home.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference announced Friday that the 26-game conference schedule will start with a pod at Baxter Arena featuring the eight league teams. The three-week event will feature 10 games per team — and 40 total — beginning on Dec. 1.
“Our staff, led by (UNO Associate Athletic Director) Mike Kemp, did an outstanding job putting together the bid for the pod, and we’re looking forward to putting that plan in motion,” UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts said in a release. “We have a great partner in the University of Nebraska Medical Center who will help us take all of the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff. We know it will be a busy three weeks, but our staff is very excited to make this a marquee event for the NCHC and college hockey.”
UNO provided the conference with information about hotel accommodations, coronavirus testing and arena availability.
“This was quite a group effort by the staff at Baxter Arena and the athletic department to prepare this bid,” Kemp said in a release. “We haven’t hosted many events in the last six months, and we’re all looking forward to getting back to what we do best.
“I’d also like to thank Mark Rath at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau and the many local businesses who will be a part of hosting our member teams, staff and officials.”
NCHC teams were divided into two divisions based on geography — East and West — to help limit travel. Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota and UNO are in the West, while Miami, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan will be in the East. Teams will play each of their divisional opponents six times and each cross-division opponent twice, with all cross-division games taking place in the pod.
“Our players are excited to finally have a date on the calendar that they can circle,” UNO coach Mike Gabinet said in a release. “Like all NCHC teams, we’ve been working very hard to get ready for the start of the season without knowing when that start was. With a well-thought-out plan now in place, we’re just excited to welcome the other seven teams to Omaha and get our season underway.”
Following the conclusion of play in the pod, all eight teams will resume play the first weekend in January with series through the conclusion of the scheduled regular season March 5 and 6. Teams will play 16 games, all against divisional foes, with eight games at home and eight games on the road. Teams will have multiple and consistent bye weekends during the travel portion of the season to allow for flexibility in the schedule.
“Throughout the past eight months we have learned to adjust and think creatively about how we live our personal and professional lives,” NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton said in a release. “I’m proud of our membership for their entrepreneurial spirit to build a concept grounded in health and safety that we believe gives a group of deserving student-athletes the best opportunity to conduct a successful season.”
The complete conference schedule along with the NCHC’s Return to Play protocol and overall COVID-19 testing plans will be released in the coming weeks.