How’s the State of Hockey when it comes to NCAA men’s hockey a week before Selection Sunday? Pretty darn good.
After a successful weekend for St. Cloud State, Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth, all three are in line to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies are No. 1 in the PairWise Ratings, which mimic the formula that the NCAA uses to pick and seed its 16-team field, while the Mavericks are No. 3 and the Bulldogs No. 4. If all three remain in the top three of the PairWise through Saturday's conference tournament championship games, they cannot be placed in the same NCAA regional.
According to College Hockey News’ PairWise Probability Matrix, which runs simulations of all results of the remaining games, St. Cloud State will be the No. 1 overall seed, Minnesota State has a 99 percent chance of being one of the four No. 1 seeds and Minnesota Duluth has a 96 percent chance of being a No. 1 seed. Massachusetts, No. 2 in the PairWise, also has a 100 percent chance at being a No. 1 seed, the matrix predicts.
Here’s the situation for each of the three Minnesota teams:
* St. Cloud State (29-4-3): The Huskies swept Miami (Ohio) over the weekend to advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff as the No. 1 seed on Friday and Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. St. Cloud State’s matchup in St. Paul isn’t known yet because No. 6 seed Colorado College and No. 3 seed Western Michigan will play a decisive third game of their playoff series on Monday in Kalamazoo. If Western Michigan wins, the Huskies will play No. 4 seed Denver, and No. 2 seed Minnesota Duluth will face Western Michigan. If Colorado College wins, the Huskies will face the Tigers, and UMD will meet Denver.
In the NCAA tournament, St. Cloud State, as the No. 1 overall seed, will be placed closest to home. That means the Huskies will be in the West Regional in Fargo, and they’ll face the No. 16 overall seed, likely the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion. The only chance St. Cloud State had of not being placed in Fargo ended with North Dakota’s series loss to Denver. Had the Fighting Hawks made the NCAA tournament, they would have been placed in Fargo because they are the regional host, and the Huskies would have been moved to avoid a first-round intraconference matchup.
* Minnesota State (31-7-2): The Mavericks swept Lake Superior State 2-1 and 2-0 and will be host to Bowling Green on Saturday night in the WCHA championship game. With a win, Minnesota State would have a chance to move up to the No. 2 overall seed, if Massachusetts loses in the Hockey East tournament. The PairWise matrix gives the Mavericks a 25 percent chance to be No. 2 overall, a 49 percent chance to be No. 3 and a 26 percent chance to be No. 4.
* Minnesota Duluth (23-11-2): The defending national champion Bulldogs swept Nebraska Omaha to reach the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. The PairWise matrix gives them a 9 percent chance to be the No. 2 overall seed, a 24 percent chance to be No. 3 overall and a 64 percent chance to be No. 4. The only team that could bump UMD from a No. 1 seed is Denver, if the Bulldogs lose twice and the Pioneers win the NCHC tournament. Brown’s two-game sweep of PairWise No. 5 Quinnipiac in the ECAC tournament gave UMD’s hopes for a No. 1 seed a significant boost.