The preseason No. 1-ranked Gophers finished 12th in the final USCHO college hockey poll of the season released on Monday afternoon.
Providence is No. 1 after winning the national championship on Saturday night with a 4-3 win over Boston University. The Friars entered the NCAA tournament ranked 15th and were the last team to earn a spot in the 16-team field.
The Gophers are arguably responsible for clearing the way for Providence’s tournament run. Their 4-2 victory over Michigan in the Big Ten tournament title game kept the Wolverines from claiming an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament and left the last spot open for the Friars to pursue their first national championship.
Boston University, North Dakota, Nebraska Omaha and Denver round out the USCHO top five.
Minnesota Duluth closes out the season as the state’s highest ranked program at No. 6 after losing to Boston University in the Northeast Region final. Minnesota State, the NCAA tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, finished No. 7 after being upset in the first round by No. 16-seed RIT. St. Cloud State is No. 10 following its loss to North Dakota in the West Region title game.
Michigan is ranked 20th despite missing the NCAA tournament for a third straight year following 22 consecutive appearances. Michigan State received votes.
The Gophers held the No. 1 ranking for the first five weeks of the season before a steady decline that pushed them out of the USCHO poll for the first time since April 2011. Their late-season rally eventually earned a spot back in the top 10 and Big Ten regular-season and conference tournament championships.
However, the run ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament after a 4-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth. Complete USCHO poll.
• Former Gophers All-America standout and current Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards was named the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team for the IIHF World Championships next month in the Czech Republic.
Richards is the Gophers’ all-time top-scoring defenseman with 158 points and helped lead his team to four consecutive Frozen Four appearances from 1986-1989. The Crystal, Minn., native is wrapping up his third winning season as head coach of the Blue Jackets, though, they’ve only made the playoffs once under his leadership. He was the head coach of the Wild for two seasons (2009-2011).
Mike Reilly, the Gophers most recent All-America standout that declared he’ll turn pro and forego his senior season of college hockey, will play for Team USA and Richards at the World Championships. The Blue Jackets own Reilly’s draft rights until June 1 and have spent the last several weeks trying to convince the defenseman to sign. If Reilly doesn’t sign with Columbus by June 1, he’ll become a free agent.