Pairings Set for 2013 NCAA Tournament
CHN Staff Report
Which 16 teams will make the NCAA tournament is a foregone conclusion after all the games are done, for those who follow the Pairwise. But the process of seeding the teams is a little different.
The seeding process is partly driven by a strict process, while other parts are under the discretion of the committee. This year, the NCAA men's ice hockey committee decided to maximize the attendance possibilities over sticking strictly to its natural Pairwise ordering.
As a result, the pairings look like this (numbers represent final overall seed, according to Pairwise).
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1. Quinnipiac vs. 16. Canisius
6. Boston College vs. 12. Union
Quinnipiac (27-7-5) remained the top overall seed in the tournament, despite stumbling in the ECAC semifinals. As a result of Canisius' upset win at the Atlantic Hockey championship, it gets the last overall seed in the tournament, and thus will face the Bobcats in Providence. Quinnipiac was once a member of Atlantic Hockey, and made the tournament when the league was still called the MAAC in 2002.
Canisius (19-18-5) has won eight in a row to win the league championship and qualify for the NCAAs for the first time in its history. It should be noted that Canisius lost to Minnesota this year by just a 1-0 score. And in the last nine years, every game featuring an Atlantic Hockey team in the first round has been close, including wins by Air Force and RIT.
Boston College (22-11-4) needs no introduction. It has won three of the last five national championships. It is hoping to have coach Jerry York back behind the bench, after his eye surgery last week. The team has been 4-3 this season without him.
Union (21-12-5) is coming off its second straight ECAC tournament championship, and was in the Frozen Four last year. It's the Dutchmen's third straight NCAA tournament trip.
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2. Minnesota vs. 15. Yale
8. North Dakota vs. 10. Niagara
Minnesota (26-8-5) lost the WCHA semifinal, but was high in the Pairwise all year. The Gophers made the Frozen Four last year. “This has certainly been a college hockey season to remember with plenty of excitement all year, and I doubt the NCAA tournament will be any different,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said.
Yale (18-12-3) got in as the last at-large team in the field, seeded 15th overall in the Pairwise. After losing two games in Atlantic City over the weekend, it had to sweat out a number of games, and ultimately got in when Michigan lost the CCHA championship game. The Bulldogs have been in the NCAAs four of the last five years now, and had wins in the 2010 and 2011 tournaments.
North Dakota (21-12-7) was placed here when the committee decided to place Boston College in Providence for attendance reasons. This is the 11th straight trip to the NCAAs, and 16th in the last 17 years. Niagara (23-9-5) is making its fourth NCAA appearance, and is the first Atlantic Hockey team to qualify to the NCAAs at-large. It did so thanks to a dominant conference regular season, and a stronger conference RPI than usual.
"It was a tough Friday night," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said of his team's loss in the Atlantic semis. "But Canisius is the hottest team in the country. It's behind us, and it was a long day (Saturday) waiting and hoping for the right results. I hit refresh on (College Hockey News) a thousand times to see what was happening.
"We're really proud, and proud of the league. We're going because Robert Morris was 5-1-1 against (big teams). ... Our body of work is what it is. ... I'm so proud of our guys, it's great for the university. This is why we started this program 17 years ago."
This matchup features three Hobey finalists.
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3. Mass.-Lowell vs. 14. Wisconsin
7. New Hampshire vs. 9. Denver
Two red-hot teams square off in the first round. Wisconsin (22-12-7) needed to win the WCHA tournament to get in, and it did. Lowell (26-10-2) didn't need to win, but it did so anyway, for the first time. Lowell was also the regular-season Hockey East champ, and is in back-to-back NCAAs for the first time in its D-I history.
Wisconsin returns to the NCAAs for the first time since losing to Boston College in the 2010 championship game.
“I think that every team in this tournament can beat any other team,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “We’ve seen that all year in our league and playing in our non-conference games. Any team in this 16-team tournament can win…The issue for us is maintaining what we have and keep rolling.”
New Hampshire (19-11-7) gets to be here because it's hosting this regional. It finished fifth in the league, and lost its quarterfinal playoff series, but had some big non-league wins this year, which made it a two seed, including one over Denver, its first-round opponent here. UNH also swept St. Cloud State in a two-game series.
Denver (20-13-5) lost its first-round playoff series to Colorado College, after finishing fifth in a tight WCHA race. This is its sixth straight year in the NCAAs, but the Pioneers have made the Frozen Four since winning back-to-back national titles in 2004 and 2005.
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4. Notre Dame vs. 13. St. Cloud State
5. Miami vs. 11. Minnesota State
Notre Dame (25-12-3) got hot down the stretch, and won the CCHA tournament championship. It will face St. Cloud State (23-15-1), which won the WCHA regular season.
Miami (24-11-5) won the CCHA regular season with a young team, but one that was prone to lapses. It was shut out seven times this season, the got clobbered by Michigan in the CCHA semis. But it's a formidable team with a lot of talent. Minnesota State (24-13-3) is returning to the NCAAs for the first time since 2003, in coach Mike Hastings' first season behind the bench.