Greetings from the Xcel Energy Center press box after a busy day of hockey at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals.
The first semifinal, especially, had an impact on the NCAA tournament field, which will be announced at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 3-2 in overtime on Nick Poehling’s goal at 1 minute, 47 seconds. The victory secured the No. 1 overall NCAA tournament seed for the Huskies and damaged UND’s NCAA hopes. The Fighting Hawks will play Minnesota Duluth in the third-place game on Saturday afternoon, with their NCAA hopes on life support.
“We’ve got to come back tomorrow and go to battle,’’ North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. “We need to win one game tomorrow and get some help from around the nation.’’
The results of Saturday’s ECAC final between Princeton and Clarkson and the Hockey East final between Boston University and Providence hold the key to North Dakota’s fate. If either Princeton or Boston U. wins, then UND won’t make the NCAA field, regardless of if wins the third-place game.
Here’s why: North Dakota is No. 14 in the PairWise Ratings, which mimic the formula the NCAA uses to fill its 16-team tournament field. The Nos. 15 and 16 spots will be taken by the champions of Atlantic Hockey (Robert Morris or Air Force) and the WCHA (Northern Michigan or Michigan Tech). That leaves the Fighting Hawks on the cut line at No. 14, and either Princeton or Boston U. could take that spot.
If both Princeton and Boston U. win their tournaments, the No. 13 team would be bumped. As of Friday night, that was the Gophers, though Minnesota would move up to No. 12 under certain scenarios that include Minnesota Duluth losing the third-place game.
If North Dakota doesn’t make the NCAA field, the West Regional in Sioux Falls next Friday and Saturday would lose its host. That would open the path for St. Cloud State to be placed there, since there would not be a first-round intraconference matchup.
With its 3-1 loss to Denver in the second NCHC semifinal, Minnesota Duluth fell to No. 11 in the PairWise and has not secured an NCAA berth. A victory over North Dakota would do that. But if the Bulldogs lose and both Princeton and Boston University win, UMD would fall to No. 13 in the PairWise, one spot behind the Gophers, and would not make the tournament.