Badgers to face UMass Lowell in first round

March 24, 2013

Wisconsin will play in the first round of the NCAA hockey tournament this Friday against UMass Lowell (26-10-2) in Manchester, N.H., just about 30 miles to the north of the UMass Lowell campus. The River Hawks backed up their Hockey East regular-season title by winning the league tournament for the first time and is top-seeded in the Northeast. Denver faces New Hampshire in the other Northeast game.

Top-ranked Quinnipiac is the No. 1 overall seed despite a loss in its conference tournament semifinals. The Bobcats are joined by UMass Lowell, Minnesota and Notre Dame as the No. 1 regional seeds in the 16-team field announced Sunday.

Quinnipiac (27-7-5), which lost to Brown 4-0 in the East Coast Athletic Conference semifinals, is the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional and will play Canisius on Saturday in Providence, R.I. The other two teams playing in Providence are ECAC champion Union and defending national-champion Boston College.

Minnesota (26-8-5) is No. 1 in the West Regional and will play Yale on Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich. The winner will play either North Dakota or Niagara.

Notre Dame (25-12-3) claimed the top seed in the Midwest by beating Michigan 3-1 in the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship Sunday. The Irish head to Toledo, Ohio, to face St. Cloud State on Saturday. Miami (Ohio) and Minnesota State round out the field in the Midwest.

Five conference champions and 11 at-large teams make up the field. Among the teams not making the cut were Michigan, which had its run of 22-straight NCAA appearances end, and Hockey East runner-up Boston University.

BU beat rival Boston College 6-3 in the semifinals on Friday, extending the Terriers' hopes of sending off retiring coach Jack Parker with another league title and a shot at winning a fourth national championship.

UMass Lowell dashed the sentimental storyline, though, with a 1-0 win over BU in the championship Saturday. It was by no means an upset for the River Hawks, who are the first team other than BC or BU to win the Hockey East championship since Maine in 2004.

"I think there's a time where you have to say `Why not Lowell?' And I think that's this year," said River Hawks coach Norm Bazin, who played for this program when it lost to BU in the 1994 Hockey East title game. "It was very important because I think there's a lot of skeptics out there and there's certainly a lot of detractors that felt we were going to come up short again."

Boston College (22-11-4) has been playing the postseason without coach Jerry York, who is recovering from a detached retina. The Eagles hope to have York back behind the bench as they try to defend their national championship.

"We're still alive and we're still playing," senior forward Pat Mullane said after the Eagles allowed five straight goals against BU in a game BC led 2-0. "It's nice to be able to go back and have practice Monday and take some lessons from that game and use them to get better."

The Frozen Four will be held in Pittsburgh April 11-13.