LOVELAND, COLO. – First came St. Lawrence on Sunday, forced out of the NCAA men's hockey tournament even before the field was announced because of coach Brent Brekke's positive COVID-19 test.
Then came Notre Dame on Thursday, having to give up the spot it inherited from St. Lawrence because of coronavirus issues.
And on Friday, Michigan had to leave the tournament only six hours before it was to play Minnesota Duluth in the Midwest Regional in Fargo. Instead, the game was declared a no-contest and the Bulldogs advanced to the regional final to meet the North Dakota-American International winner on Saturday.
Michigan's news release said the NCAA removed the Wolverines from the tournament because of positive tests. The Wolverines said the players and staff had been in the daily testing protocol since the end of the Big Ten tournament and were preparing for Friday's game when notified by the NCAA.
"I'm devastated for these players," Michigan coach Mel Pearson said in the news release. " … It's unfortunate. I don't completely understand the final decision, but I have to respect it."
In Loveland for the West Regional, Gophers coach Bob Motzko empathized with Pearson and Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson.
"It's sad," Motzko said. "You feel for those kids. But it's a reminder that it's out there. None of us are safe. We play tomorrow, and we have one more day to test. Right now, everybody's keeping their fingers crossed.'
Teams arrived in Loveland on Wednesday and immediately underwent COVID-19 tests. They had more tests Thursday before being allowed on the ice Friday.
Minnesota State Mankato coach Mike Hastings stressed the need for his team to enjoy the experience even with COVID-19 casting a shadow.
"I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I said there's not a little bit of anxiety in that room until all the tests come back and we're clean," he said. " … The uncertainty is difficult to get through, so you better enjoy it."
The three finalists for the Mike Richter Award, given to the nation's top goalie, were announced, and the trio has a heavy Minnesota flavor. Gophers senior Jack LaFontaine and Minnesota State junior Dryden McKay join Boston College sophomore Spencer Knight. The winner will be named during Frozen Four weekend in Pittsburgh (April 8-10). Here are the stats of each:
LaFontaine: 21-6 (most wins), 1.74 goals-against average (third) .936 save percentage (second), five shutouts (tie second).
McKay: 19-3, 1.40 GAA (first), .930 save percentage (tie seventh), nine shutouts (first).
Knight: 16-3-1, 2.13 GAA (13th), .933 save percentage (tie fifth), three shutouts (tie sixth).
A long day in Hartford
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, whose team plays Minnesota State in Saturday's first West Regional game, shared the anecdote of his team's first airplane trip of the season to get to Colorado. The Bobcats have been traveling by bus in their mostly-ECAC schedule.
"It didn't get off to a good start. We had a charter and a seven-hour delay [in Hartford, Conn.]," Pecknold said. "It's a crazy story with the pandemic. The terminal where we were at was so small. I didn't want to go in there with our guys. So, we spent 5 ½ hours in a parking lot. Had to order food there."