The Minnesota Gophers dominance of the best league in college hockey this season was enough to earn them the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. While that might get them an easier opening round matchup, the committee did the Gophers no favors by putting them with every other Minnesota school in the field in Fargo. Minnesota is the #1 seed in the Fargo region and will play the Canisius Golden Griffins the auto bid winner from Atlantic Hockey in the regional semifinal on Thursday at 8PM on ESPN2. They will be joined in Fargo by two very familiar foes—St. Cloud State and Minnesota State. The winners will face off in the Regional Final Saturday at 5:30 PM on ESPNU with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.
The other three number one seeds in the field are Quinnipiac in Bridgeport, CT, Michigan in Allentown, PA, and Denver in Manchester, NH.
The Gophers received one of the at-large bids after falling in the Big Ten Championship game to Michigan 4-3 for the second consecutive season. With the Gophers the #1 seed and the Wolverines the #3, the two teams can not possibly meet again until the National Championship Game.
Canisius made a miracle run through the Atlantic Hockey Tournament after finishing in fourth place in the regular season. defeated Army in three games in the opening round before defeating #6 seed Niagara in the second round and defeated 7th seeded Holy Cross in the Championship Game on Saturday. They finished the regular season with a 20-18-3 record.
Assuming the Gophers advance, they will get one of two familiar foes in either St. Cloud State or Minnesota State. The Gophers faced both teams in an home and home series this season and split with both with the Gophers winning both games at home and dropping both games on the road.
If Minnesota State gets past the Huskies, it sets up an even bigger story line where the Mavericks have ended the Gophers season the past two years. They are just one win away and an assumed Gopher win from having the opportunity to do it three years in a row.
The NCAA decided to try and keep teams closer to home rather than go by straight seed. Minnesota should have had the #8 and #9 overall teams in the other side of the Fargo bracket, but due to Penn State being #8 and hosting in Allentown they had to be placed there. Rather than putting the #7 vs #10 matchup of Harvard vs Ohio State in Fargo with the Gophers, they send them out east to try and help attendance, and the Gophers get the #6 overall seed in SCSU along with #11 in Minnesota State.
The NCAA Committee chair on the selection show said they wanted to keep teams closer to home, which by doing they upset bracket integrity and made either Minnesota or St. Cloud State’s route to Tampa even harder. But Minnesota fans should be used to that by now. This is not new by the NCAA. Minnesota has by far the toughest route to Tampa of any of the #1 seeds except for maybe #4 overall Denver, but steel sharpens steel. Either the Gophers beat a tough rival to get to the Frozen Four, or they may not have deserved to get there in the first place.
We will have a full look at the Fargo Region later this week. The full NCAA Bracket is below: