Sure, March Madness has gotten everyone hyped up. But did you know NCAA ice hockey is about to enter tournament time? Last season, the Frozen Four for both the men and women was canceled because of #CoronaSZN. College hockey fans have been waiting a full year for both ice hockey tournaments to come back. This weekend will decide the automatic bids on the men’s side and for the women’s side, they’re already in their respective Frozen Four. To help the casual ice hockey fan get their fix, I’ve prepared an NCAA ice hockey tournament primer for this weekend.
Women’s NCAA Ice Hockey Tournament Primer
The big weekend in NCAA ice hockey begins with the Women’s Frozen Four that is taking place in Erie, PA. Action starts on Thursday afternoon as top-seeded Northeastern from Hockey East takes on Minnesota-Duluth of the NCHC. The Huskies earned their way to the Frozen Four via a dominant 5-1 win over Robert Morris while the Bulldogs eked out a 1-0 win over Colgate. Their game is at 2pm EST. On the other side of the bracket, two longtime Big Ten rivals face off as second-seeded Wisconsin faces Ohio State. The Buckeyes punched their ticket to the Frozen Four with a 3-1 win over Boston College. The Badgers, meanwhile, advanced with a dominant 3-0 win over Providence. They’ll face off at 7pm EST. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the National Championship game on Saturday night at 7:30pm EST.
Men’s NCAA Ice Hockey Tournament Primer
The big weekend in NCAA ice hockey on the men’s side starts tomorrow night with the WCHA semifinals. On Friday at 3pm EST, top-seeded Minnesota State will take on sixth-seeded Northern Michigan in the first semifinal. The Mavericks advanced by sweeping Ferris State in their best-of-three playoff while the Wildcats upset third-seeded Bowling Green in three games. Then, at 8:30pm EST, second-seeded Lake Superior State will face fourth-seeded Bemidji State. The Lakers swept Alabama-Huntsville while the Beavers swept Michigan Tech to advance to the semifinal. The semifinal winners will play on Saturday night at 8pm EST.
On Saturday night, UMass-Lowell will take on Massachusetts for Hockey East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The River Hawks advanced to the championship with a 6-5 overtime upset win over top-seeded Boston College (the #1 team in the country) on Wednesday night. The Minutemen, meanwhile, toppled Providence on the same night, 5-2. The Minutemen were the three seed coming into the tournament while the River Hawks finished seventh and upset Vermont and Boston University on their way to the final. The conference championship game will take place on Saturday night at Massachusetts’ home rink, the Mullins Center.
Another conference that will decide its automatic bid in this big weekend of NCAA ice hockey is Atlantic Hockey. The MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA is set to host American International, Niagara, Canisius, and Army. American International earned a bye into the semifinal by virtue of Bentley withdrawing due to COVID concerns. Army is the second seed and earned their place in the semifinal by sweeping seventh-seeded Sacred Heart in their quarterfinal matchup. Fourth-seeded Canisius beat RIT in two games and Niagara, the ninth-seed, upset third-seeded Robert Morris. American International will take on Niagara at 2pm EST on Friday while Army takes on Canisius at 7pm. The winner of each contest will advance to the championship that will take place on Saturday night.
This has been the weirdest of seasons in the ECAC. The majority of teams backed out of the season due to COVID concerns and elected not to play. Nevertheless, the season went on with four (FOUR!) teams. While the tournament usually takes place in Lake Placid, Quinnipiac University’s Frank Perotti Jr. Arena will host this season’s tournament. Quinnipiac captured the top seed while second-seeded Clarkson declined an invitation to the conference tournament. It was found out that both the men’s and women’s hockey programs violated COVID guidelines. Tonight at 5pm EST, the third-seeded St. Lawrence will face fourth-seeded Colgate in the conference semifinal. The championship game will take place on Saturday at 4pm EST.
North Dakota earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament thanks to a 5-3 win in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game over Minnesota-Duluth.
Minnesota earned the conference’s NCAA automatic bid by virtue of a 6-4 win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship on Tuesday night.