The conference championship weekend is the busiest, and arguably the most exciting weekend of the college hockey season. It's the only weekend of the regular season where fans really care about games outside their own conference as they follow with results, trying to figure out which teams will make the final field of 16 for the NCAA Tournament.
We'll keep you updated throughout the weekend on what each result means, which teams are in, and which teams are out.
These Teams Are In The NCAA Tournament: North Dakota, Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State, Providence, Boston College, Michigan, Denver, UMass Lowell, Boston University, Harvard, Notre Dame, Ferris State, Northeastern, Yale, Minnesota Duluth, RIT
The Season is Over For These Teams: Minnesota, Robert Morris, Minnesota State, Air Force, Cornell, Ohio State, St. Lawrence, Michigan Tech Army, Penn State, Bowling Green, Dartmouth, Omaha, Clarkson, RPI, Miami, Union, Bemidji State, Holy Cross, Vermont, Northern Michigan, Mercyhurst, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Army, Wisconsin, Colgate, Western Michigan, UConn, Lake Superior State, Michigan State, Bentley, Sacred Heart, Brown, Princeton, UMass, Alaska-Anchorage, Canisius, Maine, Alaska-Fairbanks, Colorado College, Alabama-Huntsville, Niagara, Arizona State, American International
9:25 Update: The field is officially set. Michigan knocked off Minnesota, clinching at-large bids for Yale(who can finally unclench their orifice of choice after a nervous couple hours), and Minnesota Duluth who is still competing in the Frozen Faceoff final.
8:35 Update: Northeastern wins the Hockey East title 3-2 on a Zach Aston-Reese third period goal to guarantee a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
That leaves just two games left in the nightmare scenario that leaves Yale out of the NCAA Tournament, and both results are not looking good. Minnesota came back from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead on Michigan in the second period and Minnesota Duluth leads St. Cloud State 1-0. If those results hold, Yale misses the tournament despite starting the weekend 98.8% likely to make the Tournament.
7:30 Update: Ferris State is officially in the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 win over Minnesota State in the Final Five. The Bulldogs will be the 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament if RIT holds their lead to beat Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey final, and the 16th seed if Robert Morris comes back to win.
Saturday Morning Update: Like it or not, the final bubble all comes down to the Big Ten championship and Minnesota.
11 teams are already locked into the tournament. Atlantic Hockey and the WCHA will each take one automatic bid each. That leaves three spots left in the tournament. Minnesota Duluth, Northeastern, and Yale are the three teams that could still get at-large bids. If Minnesota loses, there will be three spots remaining for at-large teams, meaning all three get in. If Minnesota wins the Big Ten, there will only be two at-large spots and one of those three teams will be left out of the field.
Minnesota Duluth and Northeastern control their own destiny. A win by either team(or both) tomorrow would guarantee their spot in the field, leaving Yale in the position of cheering for Michigan.
Yale is the only team that doesn't control their own destiny, but is in a pretty strong position. The only way they miss the tournament is if Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, and Northeastern all win tomorrow. But after coming into the weekend with a 98.8% likelihood of making the tournament, it's an uneasy feeling to be only three results from missing the cut.
If Minnesota wins and one of UMD/Northeastern wins while the other loses, the winner plus Yale would likely get the last two bids. If Minnesota wins and both UMD and Northeastern lose, it appears UMD would have the slight advantage in RPI, assuming all the other favorites win. It could get very close depending on what else happens though.
12:00 Update: RIT defeated Air Force 2-1 in overtime, setting up tomorrow's Atlantic Hockey championship between Robert Morris and RIT. If Robert Morris wins, they will be the 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament. If RIT wins, they will be the 16th seed for the second straight season.
Northeastern continued their amazing second half run with a 5-4 victory over Boston College. They'll meet a UMass Lowell team that went to three overtimes yesterday. A win and obviously they are in the tournament. A loss and they'll need a little bit of help to get in, though they've already had a few results go their way today, which should help their cause.
11:00 Update: Jim Dahl of CollegeHockeyRanked confirms that Minnesota's win over Ohio State officially guarantees a bid for Notre Dame, and ends any hope Cornell had of sneaking into the tournament this weekend. Twelve bids to the tournament are officially sown up. Nine teams are still competing for final four spots.
9:55 Update: Minnesota prevailed over Ohio State with a big third period rally to reach the Big Ten championship final. Ohio State's season is over. Minnesota must win tomorrow's Big Ten title game over Michigan to make the NCAA Tournament and give the Big Ten two bids.
9:15 Update: Harvard defeated St. Lawrence 2-1 in overtime on a Kyle Criscuolo deflection into the net. The win officially eliminates St. Lawrence from NCAA Tournament consideration, and guarantees Harvard a spot in the field of 16 next week.
9:10 Update: Ferris State upset Michigan Tech 1-0 to advance to the WCHA Final Five championship. The loss eliminates Michigan Tech from tournament consideration. If the Huskies had won, they had a 19% chance of getting an at-large bid even if they had lost in tomorrow's championship. Instead, Minnesota State and Ferris State will play for the WCHA autobid.
7:07 Update: A great playoff run by Army ended with a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. There weren't big implications in this game. Whichever team wins the Atlantic Hockey Tournament will get an at-large bid to the tournament.
6:40 Update: Minnesota Duluth knocked off North Dakota 4-2 in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. North Dakota was already locked into a one seed in the tournament, but a win here would have helped them finish above St. Cloud State and potentially get placed in St. Paul next week.
The Bulldogs needed at least one win this weekend to feel good about a potential at-large bid. They got that, and still control their own destiny with the potential for an automatic bid tomorrow. The big loser from this game might be Cornell. The Big Red lost last weekend and were hoping for a Providence-like miracle to make the field. UMD's win really hurt their chances. We're not moving them over to 'done for the year' category yet until it's official, but it looks to be all but over for them.
6:30 Update: Michigan blew out Penn State 7-2 thanks to four goals from Kyle Connor and five assists from JT Compher. The Nittany Lions are done for the season. Michigan's win is great news for teams on the bubble, as there is still hope that Michigan can win the Big Ten title tomorrow and the Big Ten will only get one team in the tournament.
5:40 Update: Minnesota State scored twice early in the game then hung on after a late Bowling Green extra attacker goal to knock off the Falcons 2-1. Both teams needed to win the Final Five to make the tournament, so Bowling Green is all done. Minnesota State awaits the winner of the second semifinal between Michigan Tech, who needs to win tonight to have any hope at making the tournament, and Ferris State, who must win the Final Five.
5:30pm Update: Quinnipiac wins the first game of the day 3-1 over Dartmouth. Dartmouth is now eliminated and there is one fewer potential bid stealer out there. Quinnipiac is locked into a one seed, but still in the hunt for the #1 overall seed. Yale came into the weekend with a 98.8% of making the tournament, and they're still in great shape, but Dartmouth losing was the first of very, very many things that had to go wrong for them to miss the field.
2:15 Update: The first set of semifinal games begin in just under an hour. The biggest games to watch:
ECAC- Dartmouth vs. Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac is locked into a 1 seed, but potentially competing for the first overall seed. More importantly, Dartmouth is one of the teams outside the top 16 that could steal a bid with two wins this weekend. Bubble teams would like to see them out of the running.
Big Ten- Michigan vs. Penn State. Michigan is the only B1G team that can get an at-large bid. If the Nittany Lions win, it is a guarantee that the Big Ten will get two NCAA tournament bids, including somebody from outside the top-16.
NCHC-- Minnesota Duluth vs. North Dakota. North Dakota is competing to finish ahead of St. Cloud State in the Pairwise this weekend, making them more likely to end up close to home at the XCel Center regional. A win by Minnesota Duluth all but puts them into the NCAA Tournament field regardless of how they do in Saturday's championship.
The other three--UMass Lowell vs. Providence, Minnesota State vs. Bowling Green, and Army vs. Robert Morris--don't have a major effect on the field, outside of nominal RPI bumps. The two Hockey East teams are already in the field, the other four all need to win their conference tournament to get in.