If the Gophers men's hockey team wants to win the national championship, it will first have to knock out the defending champion — in its home state of Massachusetts.

The NCAA announced its 16-team men's hockey tournament field on Sunday, and the Gophers will be the No. 2 seed in the Worcester, Mass., Regional and will play Massachusetts, which won last year's national title. The Gophers and third-seeded Minutemen will play at 5 p.m. Friday at the DCU Center in a game televised by ESPNU.

"It never gets old. This is a great time of year," said Gophers coach Bob Motzko, who's taking his team to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. "They call it March Madness for a reason. … Relish the moment, enjoy this and let's get ready to play."

Western Michigan is the No. 1 seed in Worcester and will play No. 4 Northeastern at 11 a.m. Friday. The regional championship is Sunday, and the winner advances to the Frozen Four on April 7 and 9 in Boston.

The Gophers will be joined in the NCAA tournament by the three Minnesota teams that advanced to last year's Frozen Four in Pittsburgh — semifinalists Minnesota State Mankato and Minnesota Duluth and national runner-up St. Cloud State.

Minnesota State (35-5) is the top seed in the Albany, N.Y., Regional and will play No. 4 Harvard in the first round at 11 a.m. Thursday. No. 2 seed North Dakota faces No. 3 Notre Dame at 5 p.m.

Minnesota Duluth (21-15-4) is the No. 2 seed in the Loveland, Colo., Regional and will play No. 3 Michigan Tech at 2 p.m. Thursday. Denver, the No. 1 seed in Loveland, will play No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell at 8 p.m.

St. Cloud State (18-14-4) is the No. 3 seed in the Allentown, Pa., Regional and will play No. 2 Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. Friday. No. 1 Michigan will play No. 4 American International at 2 p.m.

Massachusetts won last year's NCAA title by defeating three Minnesota teams in order: Bemidji State 4-0 in the Bridgeport Regional final, Minnesota Duluth 3-2 in overtime in the Frozen Four semifinals and St. Cloud State 5-0 for the championship.

Motzko said he has research to do on UMass, and when asked if he would pick the brains of his coaching friends who have faced the Minutemen, he responded, "Sure … already been doing it."

Gophers co-captain Sammy Walker, whose team lost to Minnesota State in a regional final last year, stressed the need for a focused approach in a single-elimination tournament. "You've got to be consistent and just play the right way,'' he said. "Because if you don't, you're going home."

Friday's game will be Minnesota's first away from home since Feb. 19. Motzko welcomes it.

"We're a good road team, and we need to get on the road right now," said Motzko, whose team is 11-5 away from Minneapolis. "We've been at home too long."

UMass (21-12-2) tied for second in Hockey East in the regular season, then edged Connecticut 2-1 in overtime in the conference tournament final. Senior forward Bobby Trivigno leads the Minutemen in scoring with 46 points on 19 goals and 27 assists. Forward Garrett Wait, a former Gopher from Edina, has 12 goals and 12 assists. He scored the overtime winner against UMD in last year's national semifinals.

Gophers defenseman Ben Brinkman, also an Edina native, routinely texts Wait about each other's games, but his friend wasn't tipping his hand this time.

"I was asking him when they lose, how teams play against them and what's hard on them," Brinkman said. "He wouldn't give me anything."