Saturday afternoon, when North Dakota defeated Minnesota Duluth 4-1 in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff third-place game, the Gophers men's hockey team appeared to be nearly a lock to make the NCAA tournament.
Unless the results of six conference tournament finals didn't go their way, the Gophers would make the NCAA field.
All six of those results went against the Gophers on Saturday night, so Minnesota will not be in the NCAA tournament.
Victories by Boston University (Hockey East), Princeton (ECAC), Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Michigan Tech (WCHA), Denver (NCHC) and Notre Dame (Big Ten) for automatic spots dropped the Gophers to No. 13 in the PairWise Ratings — the formula that mimics what the NCAA uses to select its 10 at-large teams for its 16-team tournament — and moved Minnesota Duluth to No. 12. So the Bulldogs will be in the NCAA field.
Minnesota was up to No. 12 after UND's win in the afternoon but couldn't hold the spot.
The last result to come in — Notre Dame's 3-2 overtime win over Ohio State for the Big Ten title — ended the Gophers' NCAA hopes. Earlier, Princeton beat Clarkson 2-1 in overtime; Clarkson had tied it with seven seconds left in the third period.
Minnesota (19-17-2) was No. 8 in the PairWise after it defeated and tied Ohio State on Feb. 16-17, capping a 6-1-1 stretch. But two lost weekends at Penn State — the Gophers were swept in the final regular-season series and the Big Ten quarterfinals by a combined 21-11 — damaged their NCAA chances.
The future of coach Don Lucia will be a hot topic. The Gophers have missed the NCAA tournament in two of the past three years and haven't won an NCAA game since the 2014 national semifinals. Lucia has one year left on his contract, and athletic director Mark Coyle last week wouldn't say whether Lucia would be back.
"We have a hockey program that should be competing for championships each year," he told the Star Tribune. "Obviously we're ranked 13th in the country [in the PairWise], and we'll find out March 18th where we'll play in the NCAA tournament. We'll continue to evaluate that program like we do all the programs. Coach Lucia is in his 19th year, and I have a lot of respect for what he has done for our program and how he operates.''