A night after the Minnesota Gophers couldn’t take advantage of the largest crown in Mariucci Arena history, they found out what the penalty would be. The NCAA Tournament pairings were announced Sunday night and the Gophers will be the #2 seed in the Worcester Region and will open play against #3 seed UMass Minutemen at 5 PM Friday night. Western Michigan is the #1 seed in the region and will play #4 seed Northeastern in the other semifinal earlier Friday morning.
Minnesota scored just 32 seconds into the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan Saturday night, but the Wolverines answered back less than a minute later and would take a 2-1 lead after a shot deflected off Gopher defenseman’s Mike Koster’s stick and past Justen Close late in the first. The Gophers were listless in the second and Michigan added a pair of goals to take a 4-1 lead after two periods. Minnesota would score two late power play goals after the referees finally realized that Michigan could also commit penalties during the game, but it would not be enough as they would fall 4-3 to the Wolverines.
With the win Michigan locked up the #1 overall NCAA Tournament seed, while the Gophers slipped behind Western Michigan and NCHC Champion Minnesota-Duluth in the pairwise rankings down to 6th place. Thus the Gophers went from being most likely headed to Loveland Colorado in the region hosted by #1 seed Denver, and instead will head east to Massachusetts where they will potentially need to go through two local teams to return to the state for the Frozen Four a week and a half later in Boston.
Minnesota’s opening opponent will be UMass, the 2021 NCAA Champions. They won the Hockey East Tournament Saturday night in overtime over UConn and will not be an easy out. The two teams have never met in post-season play, but the Gophers hold a 4-0-0 all-time record in regular season action.
UMass has made it to consecutive Frozen Fours the past two seasons. The only common opponents between the Gophers and Minutemen this season was Michigan who swept UMass in a series in Ann Arbor in January.
The other semifinal will see #1 seed Western Michigan take on fellow “home” team Northeastern. That game will face-off at 11AM Friday morning with the winners of the two semifinals playing in the regional finals at either 3PM or 5:30 PM on Sunday.
The other three region matchups include:
#1 Michigan vs #4 American International
#2 Quinnipiac vs #3 St. Cloud State
#1 Minnesota State vs #4 Harvard
#2 North Dakota vs #3 Notre Dame
#1 Denver vs #4 UMass-Lowell
#2 Minnesota-Duluth vs #3 Michigan Tech
This year the regionals will be played over four days instead of three with a day off between the regional semifinals and regional finals. The Allentown and Worcester regions will be payed Friday and Sunday with the Albany and Loveland regions played Thursday and Saturday.
We will have a full preview of the Gophers game against UMass later this week.