The final weekend of college hockey’s regular season was certainly exciting on the ice, with multiple games being decided in overtime. But from a Bracketology standpoint, it was a fairly quiet year.
Last year featured an insane final weekend that saw an unprecedented number of teams use automatic bids to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament. The resulting chaos gave Minnesota the ignominious honor of being the highest-ranked team to miss the NCAA Tournament in the 16-team tournament era while they were pipped by eventual champion Minnesota Duluth for the final spot by .0001 thanks to a specific set of events.
This year, five of the six automatic bids were claimed by teams already within the boundary to receive while the sixth went to the champion of Atlantic Hockey, who had no teams on pace to receive an at-large bid. And with Boston College, the last team that could steal a bid by winning their conference tournament, falling fairly early on Saturday evening, there really wasn’t anyone sweating things out on the bubble this year.
When all the dust settled, here are the teams that will be playing in next weekend’s NCAA Tournament, along with their final ranking in the Pairwise:
- St. Cloud State
- Minnesota Duluth[NCHC Champion]
- Minnesota State
- Clarkson[ECAC champion]
- Northeastern[Hockey East champion]
- Ohio State
- Arizona State
- Notre Dame[Big Ten champion]
- Bowling Green
- American International (31st overall)
Thankfully for those of us that lived through an intense three-and-a-half hockey game that ended at 11:30pm, this final order makes things fairly simple because there are no intra-conference first round match-ups we have to worry about with a straight 1-16, 2-15, etc. bracket.
North Dakota, Penn State, Brown, and New Hampshire also all missed the tournament, so technically, there are no home teams that have to be placed in certain regionals to muck things up. Providence is in the NCAA Tournament, and even though they could technically walk to the East Regional if the weather was nice, they’re not the hosts, so they wouldn’t have to be placed there, but past precedent has shown the selection committee will bend over backwards to get them there.
With those caveats in mind, that gives me a final bracket that looks like this.
West Regional, Fargo, North Dakota
- St. Cloud State vs. 4. American International
- Denver vs. 3. Ohio State
Midwest Regional, Allentown, Pennsylvania
- Minnesota Duluth vs. 4. Bowling Green
- Quinnipiac vs. 3. Arizona State
East Regional, Providence, Rhode Island
- Minnesota State vs. 4 Providence
- Northeastern vs. 3. Cornell
Northeast Regional, Manchester, New Hampshire
- Massachusetts vs. 4 Harvard
- Clarkson vs. 3. Notre Dame
The one assumption made here is that Minnesota Duluth as the #2 overall seed will get placed in the Midwest Regional. Technically, it is the closest regional they could be placed in, even though it’s a super long ways away. Everything slots in really easily after that, and I can’t really think of any perceived advantage to putting them anywhere else.
It also makes sense to put the third overall seed in Providence, where they can match up with the 14th seed, Providence, that is more or less anchored to that spot. You can’t even switch the third and fourth seed, arguing it makes sense to give the #3 a slightly tougher opponent at a neutral site because the last one seed, UMass, can’t play Providence in the first round.
Minnesota State earning a #1 seed just to travel 1000 miles to play a road game is a real, real bad look. But I don’t think anybody making those decisions really cares, as long as the regional venues meet their contractual obligations on the free food. It is what it is at this point, and there’s not really another way to work it so it makes any sense.