Site: West Regional, Loveland, Colo.

First-round matchup: No. 1 seed Gophers vs. No. 4 Nebraska Omaha, 9 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)

Gophers at glance: Minnesota (23-6) earned an automatic bid by winning the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers are making their first NCAA appearance since 2017, their first under coach Bob Motzko.

Key player: G Jack LaFontaine leads the nation with 21 wins and ranks third in goals-against average (1.74). He's a finalist for both the Hobey Baker Award (top player) and Mike Richter Award (top goalie).

Key stat: The Gophers are 20-1 when scoring first.

Minnesota connection: Twenty on roster, most of any team. Motzko is from Austin.

Minnesota State Mankato

Site: West Regional, Loveland, Colo.

First-round matchup: No. 2 MSU Mankato vs. No. 3 Quinnipiac, 4 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3 streaming)

Mavericks at a glance: MSU Mankato (20-4-1) won the WCHA regular-season title for the fourth consecutive year. The Mavericks are making their sixth NCAA D-I tournament appearance under coach Mike Hastings and seventh overall, seeking their first win.

Key player: G Dryden McKay is a finalist for both the Hobey Baker and Mike Richter awards for the second consecutive year. His 1.40 GAA and nine shutouts lead the nation.

Key stat: The Mavericks have won an NCAA-best 112 games over the past four seasons.

Minnesota connection: Eleven on roster. Hastings is from Crookston.

Bemidji State

Site: East Regional, Bridgeport, Conn.

First-round matchup: No. 4 Bemidji State vs. No. 1 Wisconsin, noon Friday (ESPN2)

Beavers at a glance: Bemidji State (15-9-3) is making its fifth appearance in the Division I tournament and first since 2010. The 2009 Beavers advanced to the Frozen Four, upsetting Notre Dame and Cornell in the regionals before falling to Miami (Ohio).

Key player: D Elias Rosen (4-10-14) is the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year.

Key stat: The Beavers rank first nationally on the penalty kill, going 70-for-75 (93.3%).

Minnesota connection: Eleven on roster. Coach Tom Serratore is from Coleraine.

Minnesota Duluth

Site: Midwest Regional, Fargo

First-round matchup: No. 3 Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 2 Michigan, 3 p.m. Friday (ESPNU)

Bulldogs at a glance: Minnesota Duluth (14-10-2) is the two-time defending NCAA champion, and its chance for a three-peat last year ended when the pandemic wiped out the tournament.

Key player: Wild draft pick Nick Swaney (13-14-27) leads the Bulldogs in scoring.

Minnesota connection: Seventeen on roster. Coach Scott Sandelin is from Hibbing.

St. Cloud State

Site: Northeast Regional, Albany, N.Y.

First-round matchup: No. 2 St. Cloud State vs. No. 3 Boston University, noon Saturday (ESPNews)

Huskies at a glance: St. Cloud State (17-10) advanced to the Frozen Four in 2013. The Huskies were upset as No. 1 regional seeds in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Key player: Freshman F Veeti Miettinen (10-13-23) leads the Huskies in points and is tied for second in goals.

Key stat: The Huskies were 7-5 against NCAA tournament teams this season.

Minnesota connection: Fourteen on roster. Coach Brett Larson is from Duluth.

Randy Johnson