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Bracketology: Three Minnesota teams will be No. 1 NCAA seeds

Give yourself a hand, Minnesota college hockey. You’re going to have the top three seeds in the NCAA tournament.

After the dust settled following Saturday night’s conference championship games – capped by Minnesota Duluth’s 3-2 double-overtime win over St. Cloud State in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff final – three teams from Minnesota occupied the top three spots in the PairWise Ratings, the formula the NCAA uses to fill and seed its 16-team tournament field.

St. Cloud State (30-5-3) is No. 1 in the PairWise, followed by defending national champion Minnesota Duluth (25-11-2) and WCHA regular-season and tournament champion Minnesota State (32-7-2). They’ll be the top three NCAA seeds when the field is announced Sunday (6 p.m., ESPNU), and the fourth will be Massachusetts (28-9).

On Saturday, the other tournament champions crowned were Northeastern in Hockey East, Clarkson in the ECAC, Notre Dame in the Big Ten and American International in Atlantic Hockey. All received automatic NCAA bids.

Here are the PairWise Ratings through Saturday:

1. St. Cloud State

2. Minnesota Duluth *

3. Minnesota State

4. Massachusetts

5. Clarkson *

6. Northeastern *

7. Quinnipiac

8. Denver

9. Ohio State

10. Arizona State

11. Cornell

12. Notre Dame *

13. Harvard

14. Providence

15. Bowling Green

16.Penn State31. American International *

Note: The six conference tournament champions, who receive an automatic NCAA bid, are noted with an asterisk (*).

A couple of notes on the NCAA tournament:

** In a standard bracket, one regional would have seeds 1, 8, 9 and 16; another would have seeds 2, 7, 10 and 15; a third would have seeds 3, 6, 11 and 14; and the fourth would have seeds 4, 5, 12 and 13.

** The tournament selection committee will move teams within a seeding band (1 through 4; 5 through 8; 9 through 12; and 13 through 16) to avoid intraconference first-round matchups and try to boost attendance.

Here is my projected bracket:

West Regional (Fargo)

1. St. Cloud State vs. 16. American International

8. Denver vs. 10. Arizona State

Comment: An 8-9 Denver-Ohio State matchup would be by the book, but I'm guessing the Buckeyes are shipped to Allentown to help attendance, with the Sun Devils landing in Fargo.

Midwest (Allentown, Pa.)

2. Minnesota Duluth vs. 15. Bowling Green

7. Quinnipiac vs. 9. Ohio State

Comment: The Buckeyes land here, and Cornell would be a possibility, too, in the band of No. 3 seeds because of proximity. The committee very well might put the Big Red in Allentown and Ohio State in Providence, but I’ll slot the Buckeyes here.

East (Providence)

3. Minnesota State vs. 13. Providence

6. Northeastern vs. 11. Cornell

Comment: Though Providence is not the East host – Brown is – the committee moves the Friars here to aid attendance. That’s not an ideal matchup for Minnesota State.

Northeast (Manchester, N.H.)

4. Massachusetts vs. 14. Harvard

5. Clarkson vs. 12. Notre Dame

Comment: Harvard moves here because Providence goes to Rhode Island.

Mavericks are trophy hunters, too

While St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth battle a pair of Colorado teams for NCHC supremacy in the Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center this weekend, you can find another Minnesota team playing for a conference tournament championship if you travel 90 miles to the southwest of St. Paul.

Top-seeded Minnesota State takes on No. 3 seed Bowling Green in the WCHA championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center. The Mavericks (31-7-2) are ranked No. 2 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and sit at No. 3 the PairWise Ratings, the formula the NCAA uses to pick and seed its 16-team tournament field. Minnesota State is projected be one of four No. 1 regional seeds in the national tournament, and a victory over Bowling Green (25-9-5) would cement that.

Beating the Falcons will be a challenge for Minnesota State, which split four games this season with Bowling Green, including a pair of 4-1 road losses in December. The Mavericks are on a six-game winning streak and are 17-2-1 since Jan. 1. The Falcons have been hot, too, winning their past five games and going 8-2-2 since Feb. 1.

The Mavericks rely heavily on freshman goalie Dryden McKay, a Richter Award semifinalist who has a 23-6-2 record with a 1.65 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Also key is the top line of center Marc Michaelis (19-22—41), left winger Parker Tuomie (14-24—38) and right winger Charlie Gerard (11-18—29).

“I still think we can be better in the offensive zone, I think we can be better around the net,’’ said Minnesota State’s Mike Hastings, the WCHA coach of the year. “At this time of year, ice is hard to get.’’

Bowling Green, No. 13 in the PairWise, has the motivation of knowing a loss could end its season. The Falcons swept Northern Michigan in Marquette last weekend, with sophomore Max Johnson, a former Lakeville North standout, collecting two goals and two assists in the opener. Johnson leads the team with 19 goals and 41 points and has 12 points in the five-game winning streak.

NHL Scoreboard

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