McLeod hockey blog: Gophers, UMD earn No. 1 regional seeds

Minnesota defenseman Jack Sadek is congratulated by defenseman Jake Bischoff and forward Vinni Lettieri after tying the Big Ten semifinal game against Penn State.
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Gophers Travel To Manchester, NH for NCAA

Minnesota’s ticket to a record-setting 37th NCAA post-season tournament begins at Manchester, NH.

The Golden Gophers were named the No. 1 seed in the Northeast. They will face No. 4 seed Notre Dame Saturday in the Northeast Regional this Saturday at 2:30PM CDT. The Fighting Irish, alma mater of Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia, will enter the Big Ten as a hockey contender next season.

“It’s a very good regional, and a great matchup for us to start with against Notre Dame,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “We know them, and they know us. We’re excited to get back into the tournament and compete for a national championship.”

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The Gophers are 27-15-3 all-time against Notre Dame including a 1-0 mark in NCAA tournament games (a 5-2 regional win for the Maroon & Gold during the 2003-04 campaign). Saturday’s matchup marks the fifth-straight season the two future Big Ten rivals have met while Lucia is a Notre Dame alum. The Maroon & Gold are 8-1-0 all-time against UMass-Lowell (1-0 in the national tournament) and 2-0-0 all-time against Cornell (1-0 in the national tournament).

The selection sets an all-time NCAA mark for NCAA post-season berths.

UMass-Lowell, the No. 2 Eastern seed, will meet No. 3 Cornell earlier that day. Complete matchups are below.

Denver was the No. 1 overall seed and will headline the Midwest Regional. The other two No. 1 seeds were Minnesota Duluth (West) and Harvard (East).

An intriguing plot line developed around Wisconsin, which overcame a dismal 2015-16 season with a change in coaching staff and a strong second half this season. The Badgers, though, had many important numbers against them this spring. Their only real hope of scoring an NCAA bid died in the second overtime of the Big Ten Tournament in Detroit Saturday night when they fell to Penn State. That sent Bucky back to Mad Town for the summer.

One of the most attractive regionals – and one well worth the drive if you’re in Minnesota – is the West in Fargo, ND. That foursome includes UMD, North Dakota, Boston University and Ohio State.

 

Personal opinion had very little to do with the selections.

The NCAA uses a statistical system that allows for very little of the personal opinions that many fans have assumed over the years constituted a deep conspiracy against their teams. Actually, while it’s pretty complicated, the system – much like the PairWise – assigns values to wins, opponent wins, even the records of teams to whom opponents lost, and other stats. That’s the only way some of the conference tournament championships (WCHA and Big Ten, for instance) could extend well into the night on Saturday and a full set of tournament brackets still be revealed late Sunday morning.

There will always be some head scratching and complaining but this system levels the field and is as argument-proof as a tournament bracketing system is likely to be.

 

How will attendance stack up?

Yet again, it seems that attractive bids have overcome common sense in the placing of the four NCAA hockey regionals. I’m sure the excuse that “this will introduce college hockey to a new audience” will be floated but, in reality, crowds in Cincinnati and Manchester could be dismal. Providence might be better with the presence of the Friars.

I doubt you’ll see a lot of Air Force and Western Michigan loyalists in that crowd, though. Only the Fargo regional could feature any kind of strong attendance.

Sadly for Minnesota fans, the Gophers’ ticket allotment will be on sale for exactly seven hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on Monday. All-session tickets are $80 through MyGopherSports.com, according to the UM press release.

 

Here are the NCAA Regional matchups (all times CDT):

NORTHEAST REGIONAL – Manchester, NH

#4 GOPHERS (23-11-3) vs. Notre Dame 21-11-5), Saturday/2:30 PM

Cornell (21-8-5) vs. UMass Lowell (26-10-3), Saturday/11:00 AM

 

MIDWEST REGIONAL – Cincinnati, OH

#1 Denver (29-7-4) vs. Michigan Tech (23-14-7), Saturday/Noon

Penn State (24-11-2) vs. Union (25-9-3), Saturday/3:30PM

 

EAST REGIONAL – Providence, RI

#3 Harvard (26-5-2) vs. Providence (22-11-5), Friday/3:00 PM

Air Force (26-9-5) vs. Western Michigan (22-12-5), Friday/6:30 PM

 

WEST REGIONAL – Fargo, ND

North Dakota (21-15-3) vs. Boston University (23-11-3), Friday/2:00 PM

#2 Minnesota Duluth (25-6-7) vs. Ohio State (21-11-6), Friday/5:30 PM

 

DOUG McLEOD is a five-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports and a longtime voice of Division I and NHL hockey. This is his 21st season calling Golden Gopher hockey games.