College Hockey Tournament Watch
As the 2018-2019 college hockey regular season winds down, all eyes will look towards the upcoming NCAA tournament. Selection Sunday is less than a month away, and with only sixteen spots up for grabs teams from every conference are looking for resume-boosting wins to climb the Pairwise Rankings, or to get hot at the right time and clinch an automatic berth through their respective conference tournament.
One of college hockey’s weakest conferences, the Atlantic Hockey Conference has no team ranked even close to the top 16. This conference will likely only have one representative in the NCAA tournament field through its automatic berth.
Currently, No.35 American International College (AIC) seems like the most likely candidate. AIC sits atop the conference standings with 35 points. Potential upset candidates for the conference tournament include Bentley, Air Force and RIT.
Regardless of which team comes out of the Atlantic Hockey Conference, they are almost guaranteed to have the No.16 overall seed in the NCAA tournament field.
Eastern College Athletic Conference
The ECAC possesses a solid pool of tournament talent, all of which could adjust their seeding, for better or worse until Selection Sunday.
No.8 Cornell currently holds the top spot in the conference, with No.6 Quinnipiac only one point behind. Both teams could easily play its way into a No.1 seed for a regional
The highest ranked team must play No.12 Clarkson. The Golden Knights are by no means a lock for the NCAA tournament yet but would bolster their case greatly with an upset win over either one of their top 10 conference foes. Clarkson will also likely need to avoid an early upset in the ECAC tournament to ensure they remain high enough in the Pairwise to lock up an at-large bid.
Harvard is currently the last at-large team projected into the field. The No.15 Crimson control their own destiny. Two of Harvard’s final four regular season games are against No.23 Yale and No.20 Union. Wins in both contests could lock up the Crimson’s spot, but defeat may lead to either ECAC bubble team taking their place.
Without a doubt, the Hockey East conference is usually home to some of the best teams the sport has to offer.
Massachusetts is currently atop the Hockey East standings and second nationally. The minutemen have almost certainly solidified a No.1 regional seed on Selection Sunday.
Below Massachusetts sits three bubble teams jockeying for position amongst one another. No.11 Northeastern, No.12 Providence and No.14 UMass-Lowell all have favorable schedules to coast into at-large bids. How these teams fare in the Hockey East tournament may ultimately be the deciding factor in seeding for the NCAA tournament.
A possible dark horse candidate to come out of this conference is the University of New Hampshire. The Wildcats are currently No.24 in the Pairwise and have three matchups against Northeastern yet to be played. However, New Hampshire would likely have to win all three matchups and make a decent run in the Hockey East tournament to have any realistic shot at an at-large bid.
National Collegiate Hockey Conference
The NCHC, much like the Hockey East, runs four teams deep in the NCAA tournament field.
St. Cloud State has battled with Massachusetts for the No.1 overall seed throughout most of the season. Not too far behind those two is NCHC rival and No.3 Minnesota-Duluth. The NCHC continues to showcase its depth, with Denver sitting at No.4 in the Pairwise. No.9 Western Michigan also looks likely to secure a tournament berth.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association
The only lock in the WCHA is No.5 Minnesota State. Look for the Mavericks to possibly snag a No.1 regional seed should Duluth or Denver struggle down the stretch.
Two teams currently sit on the bubble in this conference as well. No.16 Bowling Green is currently the first team out on many projections. No.19 Lake Superior State is also within striking distance, should any at-large teams be upset.
The Big Ten’s depth has ultimately done its teams a disservice. The only lock for the NCAA tournament, Ohio State, played its way out of a No.1 regional spot this weekend, being swept by bubble team Minnesota.
Two more bubble teams, No.17 Notre Dame and No.18 Penn State, wasted a chance to move back into the field with disappointing splits at the weekend. The two sides play at the end of the regular season in a de facto at-large elimination series.
Arizona State is No.8 in the Pairwise and seems poised to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s brief existence. It will be interesting to see how the Sun Devils’ seeding is affected, lacking a conference tournament.
Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.