St. Cloud, MN – The waiting game is over. As expected, after North Dakota was bounced from the NCAA tournament after the game results on Saturday, the Huskies were directed to Sioux Falls for the NCAA West Region tourney games next weekend. As the number #1 seed in the tournament, the Huskies will face #16 seed Air Force who qualified for the NCAA tournament after winning the Atlantic Conference post season tourney. Air Force, the #5 seed in the Atlantic defeated Robert Morris to punch their second consecutive ticket to the NCAA tournament. It was not a surprise to see #6 Pairwise MSU-Mankato in the West bracket but was certainly a surprise to see the UMD Bulldogs also assigned to this bracket. The Bulldogs, whose fate was also uncertain until Saturday edged the Minnesota Gophers by a minuscule margin (.0001 to be exact) to qualify for the tournament. It didn’t help that the Bulldogs, one of the hottest teams in the NCAA prior to the Frozen Faceoff fell flat losing both games to Denver and North Dakota. However, the third place win by North Dakota was futile as wins by Princeton in the ECAC tourney and BU in Hockey East sealed their fate as a non-qualifier in this years tournament. It was also a blow to the program as they are the host school at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, the venue for the West Regional.
Here’s somewhat of an explanation from College Hockey News concerning the placement of teams:
“I think we go back and forth. We want to have a national flavor, we don’t want to see a game that’s already played. Which is why we avoid that first round conference matchups. But the Committee’s goal is provide a championship environment. Sometimes it’s a little easier to do than other years.” The Pairwise is not a precise enough measurement to be a slave to the overall seed, anyhow. So it’s not that big a deal. Where perhaps it is a bigger deal is when 4 seeds are kept at venues that are close to their campus, for attendance reasons. This year’s case in point is Boston University, getting to play in Worcester. It was similarly controversial in 2015, when Providence College was placed in the Providence Regional as a 4 seed. It wound up winning the national championship (in Boston, against BU, for what it’s worth). But McGinnis said the seed of the team is not something the Committee is worrying about too much in this case. “At the end of the day, it’s still a neutral-site tournament,” McGinnis said. “We’re not playing on any campuses. That creates some level of neutrality regardless of any seeds we’re dealing with.”
The Huskies, who had little to play for other than more hardware concerning their NCAA standing defeated North Dakota 3-2 in overtime Friday but also fell flat against Denver in the championship game by a 4-1 score. This was the Huskies second defeat in the Frozen Faceoff championship game in three tries. They now try to regain some momentum against a hard-working and capable Air Force squad that will be disciplined and looking to upset the Huskies much like Ferris State did two years ago in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
There are a lot of connections in play in this West Regional. MSU Mankato head coach Mike Hastings is a former SCSU player and of course UMD is a conference rival and could end up in a fifth matchup with SCSU with a first round win. Air Force head coach Frank Serratore is a personal friend of SCSU Coach Motzko and former SCSU assistant coach Tom Serratore’s son is a member of the Air Force squad. This regional will have a Minnesota flavor with UMD, MSU Mankato, SCSU and an Air Force squad with eight Minnesota players. Obviously that was the intent of the committee assigning the brackets as a focus was on proximity and travel expenses.
|Regionals||March 23-25, 2018|
|Frozen Four||April 5 & 7, 2018|
The West Regional looks like this:
West Regional, March 23-24
Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Friday, March 23, 3 p.m. Central time, ESPNU/WatchESPN No. 1 St. Cloud State (25-8-6) vs. No. 4 Air Force (22-14-5)
Friday, March 23, 6:30 p.m. Central time, ESPN3/WatchESPN
No. 2 Minnesota State Mankato (29-9-1) vs. No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (21-16-3)
Saturday, March 24, 8 p.m. Central time, ESPN2/WatchESPN West Regional Championship
The Denny Sanford Center holds 13,000 fans. As such, logically with North Dakota bumped from the tourney there will be ample tickets through the secondary market, Ticketmaster and through the host schools.
Currently, lodging is a little tight in Sioux Falls. But, again, with North Dakota a non-qualifier this will open up lodging in Sioux Falls as the week progresses. Be forewarned however that the local hospitality industry has bumped lodging rates for the West Regional weekend and there are few bargains out there.