Boston College and Boston University could be on a collision course in the NCAA Division 1 men’s ice hockey tournament next week, if the Beanpot archrivals get past their first-round games.
BC (17-5-1) earned the top seed in the Albany Regional when the pairings were unveiled Sunday night. The Eagles, Hockey East regular-season champions, will open play Saturday against No. 4 Notre Dame (14-13-2) at the Times Union Center in Albany. Faceoff is at 1 p.m. Meanwhile, BU (10-4-1) is the No. 3 seed and will play No. 2 seed St. Cloud State (17-10-0) in the second game of the Albany doubleheader at 6:30 p.m.
The winners of Saturday’s games will face off Sunday (5:30 p.m.) for the right to go to the Frozen Four. But neither BC coach Jerry York nor BU counterpart Albie O’Connell were looking past Saturday’s matchups toward a potential showdown of Commonwealth Avenue rivals.
“In going to a lot of national tournaments over the years, I learned early that you don’t even look at your bracket. You look at your opponent,” York said Sunday night. “Our focus is completely on Notre Dame, and that’s a handful.”
Said O’Connell: “I think we’ve got our hands full with St. Cloud first, and I think BC’s got their hands full with Notre Dame, so I think we’re going to try to take it one game at a time.
“We’ve got to find out a little bit more about St. Cloud. If we have that opportunity to play them at that point, that would be amazing, There would be nothing better than to have that opportunity to play them again, but we’ll take one at a time for sure.”
BC and Notre Dame, a former Hockey East member, last played a home-and-home series in December 2019. The Eagles won both games, 4-0 and 6-1. For BU and St. Cloud, their only previous matchup was in the opening round of the 2000 NCAA tournament in Albany, a 5-3 win for the Terriers.
UMass drew the No. 2 seed in the Bridgeport Regional and will open play Friday (6:30 p.m.) against No. 3 Lake Superior (19-6-3). The Minutemen (16-5-3) and Lakers have never met.
“I like our selection spot. I like our bracket. I like the location, within two hours, easy for us to get there,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We got two WCHA teams I don’t really know anything about, so I’m excited, it’s kind of fun to play some teams that you don’t come into contact a lot.”
Carvel said it wouldn’t be any trouble getting the Minutemen focused after they won the first Hockey East tournament championship in program history Saturday night, beating UMass Lowell, 1-0, at the Mullins Center.
“Believe me, I’ll ground them this week. Make no mistake about that. We beat BC a couple of weeks ago, and then we lose in a shootout to Maine and I learned a lesson,” Carvel said. “It’s very similar. You win the championship, you get a little too high, and if you don’t get back down to Earth soon, you’re going to pay for it.
“When they’re grounded and focused, they’re a good team, but we don’t have that margin for error like other teams in the tournament.”
If the Minutemen advance, they will face either top seed Wisconsin or No. 4 Bemidji State in Saturday’s regional final (4 p.m.). UMass reached the national championship game in 2019, the last time the tournament was played, falling to Minnesota Duluth in the final.
While many speculated that travel would be a major consideration during the pandemic, Atlantic Hockey champion American International (15-3-0) is the No. 4 seed in the Fargo Regional and will play Friday (9:30 p.m.) against top seed North Dakota (21-5-1). In their only previous tournament appearance in 2019, the Yellow Jackets stunned top seed St. Cloud State in Fargo before falling to Denver in the regional final.
Earlier Sunday, ECAC champion St. Lawrence withdrew from the tournament after head coach Brent Brekke tested positive for COVID-19. The conference’s automatic berth instead was awarded to runner-up Quinnipiac.
The ECAC announced the development a day after St. Lawrence clinched its first tournament bid since 2007 by beating Quinnipiac, 3-2, in overtime in the championship game.
Brekke described the past 24 hours as a “roller-coaster of emotions,” and says the team is “shaking our heads in disbelief.”
St. Lawrence was the conference’s third-seeded team and upset the ECAC’s regular-season champion.
Quinnipiac, which likely would have earned an at-large berth to the tournament, is the No. 3 seed in the Loveland (Colo.) Regional. The Bobcats play Saturday at 4 p.m. against No. 2 Minnesota State, with top seed Minnesota and No. 4 Omaha on the other side of the region.
Hockey East had hoped a fourth team would be selected, with Providence and UMass Lowell strong candidates.
Providence was the last team out of the field, Division 1 men’s ice hockey committee chair Mike Kemp told US College Hockey Online. Because of that the Friars (11-9-5), who lost to UMass in the Hockey East semifinals, would be the first choice to replace any other team that has COVID issues before 7 p.m. Monday.
Carvel was surprised that only three teams made it in, and thought UMass Lowell may have earned a spot with their run in their victories over BC and BU in the conference tournament.
“I’m actually a bit surprised. I didn’t watch a lot of games in other leagues, so it’s not fair for me to say,” said Carvel. “All I know is Lowell’s a really good team. You don’t beat BU and BC on the road, and play basically a tie game [at UMass], and you tell me that team’s not good enough for the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously you’ve got to go off the full year’s record, but I think if you’re just doing this, and there’s no rankings or computers involved, that’s a pretty good statement to make. Their record down the stretch (6-2-1) was strong as well.
“I wouldn’t want to run into Lowell in the NCAA tournament.”
The Frozen Four is scheduled to be played April 8 and 10 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament schedule and TV times
• Bridgeport Regional: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Conn., Friday and Saturday
No. 1 Wisconsin (20-9-1) vs. No. 4 Bemidji State (15-9-3), 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 2 UMass (16-5-4) vs. No. 3 Lake Superior (19-6-3), 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
Saturday’s regional final: 4 p.m., ESPNU
• Fargo Regional: Scheels Arena, Fargo, N.D., Friday and Saturday
No. 1 North Dakota (21-5-1) vs. No. 4 American International (15-3-0), 9:30 p.m., ESPN3
No. 2 Michigan (15-10-1) vs. No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (14-10-2), 4 p.m., ESPN3
Saturday’s regional final: 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
• Albany Regional: Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y., Saturday and Sunday
No. 1 Boston College (17-5-1) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (14-13-2), 1 p.m., ESPNews
No. 2 St. Cloud State (17-10-0) vs. No. 3 Boston University (10-4-1), 6:30 p.m., ESPNews
Sunday’s regional final, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2
• Loveland Regional: Budweiser Events Center, Loveland, Colo., Saturday and Sunday
No. 1 Minnesota (23-6-0) vs. No. 4 Omaha (14-10-1), 9 p.m., ESPNU
No. 2 Minnesota State (20-4-1) vs. No. 3 Quinnipiac (17-7-4), 4 p.m., ESPN3
Sunday’s regional final, 8 p.m., ESPN2
The Associated Press contributed to this report.