There will be a new champion in college hockey this season, though the Terriers of Boston University are hoping the trophy won't have to travel very far.
With a 1-0 win Saturday night over U-Mass Lowell at TD Banknorth Garden, BU (31-6-4) won the Hockey East championship and earned one of the No. 1 seeds handed out Sunday morning for the NCAA tournament. In addition to the Terriers in the Northeast Regional, Notre Dame (Midwest), Denver (West) and Michigan (East) received top seeds.
Last year's winner, Boston College, lost to BU in the Hockey East semifinals and, at 18-14-5, failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time in seven years. U-Mass Lowell also missed the cut following its narrow defeat Saturday.
Chasing their first national title in 14 years, the Terriers are on a 20-2-3 run since January and they're 13-0-2 over their last 15 games on the road or at a neutral site.
Six conference champions received automatic bids to the tournament: BU (Hockey East), Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Bemidji State (College Hockey America), Notre Dame (CCHA), Yale (ECAC) and Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA).
The other 10 schools in the tournament received at-large bids: Cornell, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Northeastern, Ohio State, Princeton and Vermont.
All in all, Hockey East and the CCHA will each send four teams. The ECAC and WCHA have three participants each, while Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America both have one representative.
Regional play begins Friday and Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. (East Regional), Grand Rapids, Mich. (Midwest), Manchester, N.H. (Northeast) and Minneapolis (West).
In Manchester, No. 1 BU faces No. 4 Ohio State, while No. 2 North Dakota faces No. 3 New Hampshire.
In Grand Rapids, No. 1 Notre Dame plays No. 4 Bemidji State, and No. 2 Northeastern takes on No. 3 Cornell.
In Bridgeport, No. 1 Michigan faces No. 4 Air Force, while No. 2 Yale faces No. 3 Vermont.
In Minneapolis, No. 1 Denver plays No. 4 Miami (Ohio), and No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth takes on No. 3 Princeton.
While the Wolverines are in the tournament for a 19th straight season, the longest active streak, Northeastern qualified for the first time since 1994 and Yale is making its first appearance since 1998. That was also the year Michigan won its last NCAA title -- the Wolverines have an NCAA record nine championships and this year tied Minnesota for most overall tournament appearances with its 32nd.
The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.
— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres