One year after upstarts took over college hockey, traditional powers Minnesota and Boston College have dominated the 2013-14 regular season and hope to continue as the top-two seeds in the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Tournament.
The opening two rounds take place next weekend at four regional sites before the 2014 Frozen Four at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on April 10-12.
Minnesota was named the top seed when the 16-team field was announced Sunday and the Golden Gophers will start the quest for their first title in 11 years against fourth-seeded Robert Morris in the West Regional in St. Paul, Minn. Robert Morris, which didn't have a hockey program the last time Minnesota won a championship, is in the tournament for the first time after being the official host for the 2013 Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center.
St. Cloud State, one of three programs that made its first Frozen Four last season, will play Notre Dame in the other first-round matchup in St. Paul. The Huskies have the most potent power play in the tournament (25.5 percent this season), while no team in the field boasts more seniors (11) than the Fighting Irish.
Boston College has been to the Frozen Four six times in the past 10 years and has three titles in that span. The Eagles also feature three of the top seven scorers in the country led by Hobey Baker Award favorite Johnny Gaudreau (32 goals and 69 points in 37 games), as well as freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko, who could be the first player selected at his position in the 2014 NHL Draft, which will also take place at Wells Fargo Center.
The Eagles will face Denver in the first round of the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. The Pioneers got into the tournament by winning the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament after finishing in sixth place during the regular season. Denver is the lowest scoring team still playing (2.68 goals per game), while Boston College scores the most (4.05 per contest).
Massachusetts-Lowell and Minnesota State-Mankato will square off in the other game in Worcester. UMass-Lowell features the best goaltending in the country in sophomore Connor Hellebuyck, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick who has a .943 save percentage and posted back-to-back shutouts this weekend to help the River Hawks capture the Hockey East conference tournament.
Union College is the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Dutchmen, who made the Frozen Four in 2012, open the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., against Vermont. Union won the East Coast Athletic Conference regular season and conference titles and is the second-highest scoring team in the tournament (3.68 goals per game).
The other game in Bridgeport features 2013 runner-up Quinnipiac and Providence. The Bobcats are among the top four teams in the tournament in goals for, goals against, power-play percentage and penalty-killing percentage.
Wisconsin is the No. 4 national seed and will begin play at the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati, Ohio, against former conference rival North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux have 15 NHL draft picks on the roster, one more than Minnesota for tops in the tournament and six more than the fourth-seeded Badgers.
Ferris State and Colgate will meet in the other first-round game in Cincinnati. Bulldogs goalie CJ Motte led the nation with 27 wins and, like Gaudreau, is one of seven finalists (of 10) for the Hobey Baker Award participating in the NCAA tournament.
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