ST. PAUL, MN-- After a year of virtual meetings and interviews… it sure was nice to see some of the best college hockey programs in the country represented under one roof once again.
NCHC media day commenced for the 2021 season today down in St. Paul, Minnesota. After a virtual start last year, it was back in person at the "X". Head coach Scott Sandelin and senior forward Noah Cates met with the media for the first time ahead of this season. Cates is entering his second year as a captain. It was a season to remember for NCHC teams which has been known as the best college hockey conference in the country, with two teams in the Frozen Four and one in the national championship game, it is the best college hockey you could play.
"I've coached a long time, I think I've said that every year that I've been in the league. That's why we've had success, I mean obviously we had St. Cloud right there, almost for a fifth one in a row," said Sandelin. "Ya know we had a chance and we were there too, but ya know to see that. The league is only getting better. Now we've got some new coaches to bring some new ideas and changes I do feel like the old guy now, but it's great. It's the best league and hopefully this year again we can prove that."
UMD looks to prove that again after another trip to the Frozen Four… better yet, they return five super-seniors that were granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-year. Something that is much to the team's advantage.
"Biggest thing is that they were excited coming back. It's hard to believe they still want to play for me" said Sandelin. "I haven't drove them nuts yet. Maybe after this year they'll realize they made a mistake. It's great to have them back and they're going to have a huge impact in a lot of programs."
"They have great experience in big games with Sandy and through practice," said Cates. "They've been there, done that at UMD so we're very fortunate to have them and show the younger guys the culture here and what it takes is very important."
Conference commissioner Josh Fenton also stressed that vaccination rates on NCHC team rosters are better than 90%… for UMD, both men's and women's teams are fully vaccinated. This year's Frozen Faceoff which will be back at the Xcel Energy Center after holding it in a "pod" last season in North Dakota. There will be no third-place game.