Denver Pioneers hockey named No. 1 overall seed, headed to Midwest regional to face Michigan Tech – The Denver Post
The Denver Pioneers are headed to Cincinnati to begin their 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA hockey tournament.
As it turned out, losing 1-0 to North Dakota and having their 13-game winning streak snapped in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Frozen Faceoff Friday didn’t cost DU anything in the national picture.
After beating Western Michigan 3-1 on Saturday to finish third in the four-team league tournament in Minneapolis, despite holding out their top players, the nationally No. 1-ranked Pioneers (29-7-4) Sunday morning were announced as the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and will open against No. 16 seed Michigan Tech in the Midwest regional semifinals in Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Huskies (23-14-7) are 27th in the PairWise Rankings but received an automatic bid for winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament.
“I’m glad they kept the No. 1 seed out West, and I thought the committee did an excellent job of keeping the bracket integrity,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said Sunday after the seeds and full bracket were revealed on an ESPNU selection show. “They executed it. They protected the higher seeds.”
If DU beats the Huskies to reach 30 victories for the first time since 2004-05, they will face Saturday’s Penn State-Union winner in the Midwest final Sunday, with a berth in the April 6-8 Frozen Four in Chicago at stake.
If DU should lose to Michigan Tech, it would go down as one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
“We don’t worry about outcomes at Denver,” Montgomery said. “We worry about the process, and if our process is good our outcomes are usually good.”
Atlantic Hockey Association champion Air Force (26-9-5) also made the 16-team field, and the Falcons will face Western Michigan of the NCHC in the East Regional in Providence, R.I., on Friday. The Falcons got an automatic bid as AHA tournament champions but have climbed to 12th in the PairWise Rankings and would have received an at-large bid if they hadn’t won the league tournament. They will make their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007 but first since 2012.
“We knew we would get back to this point. It was part of our business plan,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said in a release. “But this happened one year early. We only have three seniors, but what an amazing group we have. They found a way to get it done. We have only scored five goals the last three games and won all three. We did it with a defense, special teams and a great group of players and coaches in our program.”
Denver will be trying to make a repeat trip to hockey’s final four. Last season, the Pioneers beat Boston University 7-2 and Ferris State 6-3 in the West Regional at St. Paul, then fell 4-2 to eventual national champion North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinals at Tampa, Fla.
The previous year, DU was eliminated in the quarterfinals against host Providence. And in Montgomery’s first year, 2013-14, the Pioneers lost to Boston College in the first round in Worcester, Mass. If the trajectory of the Montgomery’s program continues, DU will play for the national title April 8.
“Going East was the one thing we wanted to avoid,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t want to go to Manchester (N.H.) or Providence, being from the farthest point west. Travel is easier on the body, and preparation time is extended. But nothing is easy when you come to the NCAA Tournament. Michigan Tech is a really good hockey team. Mel Pearson has done great things with that program in six years there, and Union just won a national championship (in 2014), and Penn State is a program that has accomplished so much in just five years, having already won the Big 10 championship.”
Minnesota Duluth, Harvard and Minnesota are the other No. 1 regional seeds. If the overall seeds hold, DU would face Minnesota (4) in the Frozen Four semifinal, then Minnesota Duluth (2) in the championship game.
The regional fields and schedules
Midwest: U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati
Saturday, 11 a.m.: No. 1 Denver (29-7-4) vs. No. 4 Michigan Tech (23-14-7)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: No. 2 Union (NY) (25-9-3) vs. No. 3 Penn State (24-11-2)
Sunday, 4 p.m.: Saturday winners
Northeast: SNHU Arena, Manchester, New Hampshire
Saturday, 10 a.m., No. 2 Massachusetts Lowell (26-10-3) vs. No. 3 Cornell (21-8-5)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m: No. 1 Minnesota (23-11-3) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (21-11-5)
Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Saturday winners
East: Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, Rhode Island
Friday, 2 p.m.: No. 1 Harvard (26-5-2) vs. No. 4 Providence (22-11-5)
Friday, 5:30 p.m.: No. 2 Western Michigan (22-12-5) vs. No. 3 Air Force (26-9-5)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.: Friday winners
West: Scheels Arena, Fargo, North Dakota
Friday, 1 p.m.: No. 2 Boston University (23-11-3) vs. No. 3 North Dakota (21-15-3)
Friday, 4:30 p.m.: No. 1 Minnesota Duluth (25-6-7) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (21-11-6)
Saturday, 4 p.m.: Friday winners
Frozen Four: United Center, Chicago
April 6: 4 and 7:30 p.m. (order TBD): Midwest champion vs. Northeast champion and East champion vs. West champion
April 8: 6 p.m., national championship game