North Dakota is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA men’s hockey tournament, topping a field of 16 teams announced on Sunday night.
The Fighting Hawks won the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship on home ice last week, all but assuring the top draw. They will stay in state, and top the Fargo, North Dakota, regional. Their first matchup will be against American International College, champions of the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
“Our team, we’re consistent with 26 players, everyone has a role and they do it to the best of their ability,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said during the selection show broadcast on ESPNU. “That’s the culture of North Dakota hockey.”
The Yellow Jackets, from Springfield, Massachusetts, made the tournament in 2019, and were headed for the same in 2020 before the NCAA canceled the event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. AIC defeated Canisius Saturday night in Springfield, to win the Atlantic Hockey tournament crown.
Boston College, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the other top seeds, and the Eagles, seeded No. 2 overall, will headline the Albany, New York, regional after losing a Hockey East tournament semifinal to UMass Lowell last week. But BC has championship pedigree and ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Eagles will take on Notre Dame, a beneficiary of a late-breaking withdrawal, in the first round in Albany. After knocking off Quinnipiac to win the ECAC tournament title on Saturday, St. Lawrence had to back out after coach Brent Brekke tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.
On the ESPNU show, Mike Kemp, chairman of the selection committee, called the decision “an unfortunate situation,” and said Notre Dame and Omaha, the last two teams into the tournament, were the biggest beneficiaries of the St. Lawrence exit. Quinnipiac, which slid in and took the ECAC automatic berth, was likely headed to the tournament anyway as an at-large team.
Overall, Kemp, was pleased with the ultimate results, and said among the final factors when determining teams was “what your record was against teams in the field.”
“It was extremely stressful,” Kemp said, given the nature of the season with COVID-19 issues hovering throughout. “I’m not going to make any bones about it. This was a long, arduous task, putting in the time and the research.”
Minnesota, the No. 3 overall seed, will take on Omaha out of the Loveland, Colorado, bracket, and Wisconsin, the final No. 1, will headline the Bridgeport, Connecticut, regional, and meet Bemidji State to open.
With many of the sport’s traditional powers making this field, there are quite a few marquee matchups, none bigger than BC and Notre Dame.
“We’ve got speed and skill, and size and strength,” Eagles coach Jerry York said on the show. “We’ve got a good club and we’re going to have to be, with Notre Dame. We don’t look ahead, we look right at the next opponent … and that’s the Fighting Irish right in front of us.”
The rest of the field includes Michigan, Minnesota Duluth, UMass, Lake Superior State, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Boston University. The Wolverines will be making their 38th appearance, tied for most of all time.
The Frozen Four will begin April 8 in Pittsburgh.