NCAA Hockey Tournament: Midwest Region Preview
We’ve finally reached the NCAA tournament for hockey and looking at the 16 teams that received a bid, it’s clear that the Midwest region features two of the best matchups.
First, there is the No. 1 overall seed in all of college hockey in North Dakota facing off against American International.
The Fighting Hawks received a majority of first place votes in the polls this season only missing out on four of them. They have been battle tested all year long with wins against quality programs including Minnesota Duluth, Denver and St. Cloud State.
In a conference with four ranked teams, it was North Dakota who came out on top as the NCHC conference champions are solidifying their place in this tournament. The Fighting Hawks have three players who have 30 points or more on the year, including Shane Pinto who leads the team with 15 goals.
They will face off against AIC who in a shortened season has only lost three games. Two were against Quinnipiac who is in the tournament and the other came against Army, who just narrowly missed the big dance.
American International is currently ranked No. 15 in the polls. The Yellow Jackets missed the final seven games of their regular season, but bounced back in the Atlantic Hockey Conference Tournament.
The Yellow Jackets received a bye in the first round as they were the No. 1 seed, but were also given a free pass into the semi-finals due to Bentley dropping out due to COVID-19. From there, the team narrowly beat Niagara in the semis before destroying Canisius College to win the conference tournament.
The other matchup will see Michigan face off against Minnesota Duluth.
Both are next to each other in the polls with the Wolverines at No. 8 and the Bulldogs at No. 9. Looking at the Wolverines, they are coming off a strange season for their standards.
They came in with high hopes with a talented freshman class, led by Owen Power. Power had them highly ranked in the preseason before being passed by Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Wolverines entered a COVID-19 pause midseason and once out of it the team won five of its last eight games to finish the regular season.
Their tournament run ended in the semis after an overtime loss to the eventual conference champion Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Wolverines had scored the first two goals in that contest before the Golden Gophers tied things up with two third period goals before Sammy Walker won it in overtime.
As for the Bulldogs, they have created a dynasty the last couple of years with two NCAA championships and one finals loss over the past five years. Although this year, the Bulldogs struggled to stay over .500.
They struggled the most against St. Cloud State as four of their ten losses in the regular season came against the Huskies. The Bulldogs would suffer a fifth loss against the Huskies this time in the conference semifinals in a 3-2 defeat.
Both matchups should be fun to watch and it wouldn’t be surprising if the winner of the NCAA tournament came from the Midwest.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Third-Year / Broadcast Journalism