All it took was two years for UMass to vault from a five-victory season to a Hockey East regular-season title. The reward is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a bus ride to Manchester, N.H., for a Friday date with Harvard in the Northeast Regional.
Unlike last weekend, when they were upended by Boston College in the conference semifinals in the Garden, the Minutemen will be facing a one-and-done situation in their first appearance in the nationals since 2007. “When we play desperate, we have a purpose,” coach Greg Carvel said after the 16-team field was announced Sunday night. “And when we have a chip on our shoulder, that’s when we’re at our best. We’re now do-or-die.”
UMass, the only No. 1 seed not from the state of Minnesota, is one of six New England teams in the tournament, which will culminate in the Frozen Four in Buffalo next month. Hockey East champion Northeastern, a No. 2 seed, will face Cornell on Saturday in the East Regional in Providence, where PC will take on No. 1 seed Minnesota State.
AIC, which won the Atlantic title to earn its first trip to the nationals, travels to the West Regional in Fargo, N.D., to play top seed St. Cloud State. Quinnipiac, one of four ECAC teams in the field, faces first-time entrant Arizona State in Allentown, Pa.
Northeastern is riding a six-game winning streak after knocking off Boston University and BC for its second Hockey East crown in four years. The Huskies’ reward will be a grinding outing against the Big Red, who’ve won 14 of their 16 meetings, the most recent their first-round 2009 NCAA matchup. “They’re a veteran team,” said NU coach Jim Madigan, whose squad lost to Michigan last year and is looking for its first triumph since 1982. “They’re hard and heavy. They play a lot of one-goal games. They’ve always had great goaltending. We’re contrasting teams.”
Providence, which qualified for the tournament for the sixth straight year despite losing to BC in the Hockey East quarterfinals, will be up against a Maverick squad that has never won an NCAA game. Four years ago, after being knocked out of the conference tournament by New Hampshire, the Friars rebounded to run the table, beating BU in the NCAA final at TD Garden.
“There’ve been a number of teams that have been in that same scenario,” said coach Nate Leaman. “We showed our guys that Yale lost twice and won the national championship. Duluth lost in their [conference] semi and consolation and won the national championship. It’s common.”
Harvard, which won the 1989 title, has qualified for the fourth time in five years. “There’s some benefit in having some players who’ve played in this tournament under the spotlight and experienced all the moving parts and noise that comes with this time of year,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato whose squad lost to Clarkson in the ECAC semis. “But each year and each team is original.”
This year’s tourney is missing five usual perennials in BU, BC, Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota, who’ve won a combined 32 titles. The most intriguing newcomer is AIC, which won the Atlantic regular-season title, then beat Niagara in OT in the tourney final.
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Senior captains Sophia Shaver and Annie Pankowski each scored, and Wisconsin won its fifth NCAA women’s hockey championship with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Sunday in Hamden, Conn.
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BC junior goaltender Joseph Woll has signed an entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drafted him with the 62nd overall pick in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
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BC said it would update the status of injured forward Logan Hutsko on Monday. According to a report in the Herald, Hutsko was released from the hospital Sunday.John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.