College hockey’s parity created a cloud of uncertainty on Saturday, with the NCAA tournament selection show set for Sunday morning.
But the picture got clearer on Saturday night.
Despite the Gophers’ loss in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, they’ll be the No. 1 seed in next weekend’s NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center.
The rest of the field will be announced live on ESPNU at 11 a.m.
The Gophers lost to Ohio State 3-1 in Friday’s semifinals, then watched as the Buckeyes lost to Wisconsin in overtime on Saturday. That gave Wisconsin the automatic Big Ten berth in the NCAA and eliminated Ohio State.
“Half our team has been through a situation like this where we’ve lost on Friday night the last two years.” said forward Travis Boyd. “Going back to my freshman year two years ago, we were able to rebound and end up winning the regionals.”
There were six conference titles decided on Saturday, meaning six automatic qualifiers. In addition to Wisconsin, they were Minnesota State, Mankato (WCHA), Denver (NCHC), Robert Morris (Atlantic Hockey), UMass-Lowell (Hockey East) and Union (ECAC).
North Dakota was on the bubble as an at-large team but is likely to qualify for its 12th consecutive NCAA tournament as the final at-large team.
Minnesota, Boston College, Union and Wisconsin are expected to be the No. 1 seeds for the NCAAs. They are the top four teams in the PairWise rankings, which mimic the formula used by the NCAA selection committee.
There will be three Minnesota teams in the tournament. St. Cloud State won the NCHC regular season and is a lock for the NCAAs despite getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The Huskies will join the Gophers and Minnesota State.
Most projections have Robert Morris being the tournament’s No. 16 seed and playing the Gophers next weekend.
Both U.S. College Hockey Online and College Hockey News projected the other West Regional game to be Notre Dame vs. St. Cloud State. Mario Lucia, son of Gophers coach Don Lucia, plays for Notre Dame.
Last year’s national champion, Yale, will miss the tournament. It finished the season 17-11-5 after losing to Quinnipiac in the ECAC quarterfinals.