Boston College, Michigan, Union and North Dakota got the No. 1 seeds in the four regionals when the brackets for the 2012 Division I men’s tournament were released on Sunday.
The CCHA led the tournament with five teams in the field (Michigan, Miami, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Michigan State), with four for Hockey East (Boston College, Massachusetts-Lowell, Maine, Boston University) and the WCHA (North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, Denver).
Union and Cornell represent ECAC Hockey, while Air Force earned Atlantic Hockey’s automatic bid.
Boston College returns to Worcester, Mass., from where it made the Frozen Four in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
“We’re excited to be close to home, but definitely four really strong teams in our bracket,” Eagles captain Tommy Cross said. “Obviously, Duluth won it last year, Maine, we found out last night has a really strong hockey team, Air Force, we were really impressed with at Grand Forks in the beginning of the year and they’ve only gotten better since then.”
The Eagles take a 15-game winning streak into the regional.
“We’re proud of [the 15-game win streak] because it means we’re playing good hockey,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “A lot of the games have been tightly contested games so we’ve had to make good plays to win them and that builds your confidence. But now we’re starting from scratch and everyone’s 0-0.”
Massachusetts-Lowell is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996.
“Sixteen years is much too long,” Massachusetts-Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “These guys have earned this. Now we have to make sure Barry Melrose knows who we are when we leave Bridgeport.
“I’m excited for the guys. They put in a great body of work this year and they’ve been rewarded today.”
The River Hawks made the tournament in Bazin’s first season as coach.
“Everybody plays to win the national championship at the start of every season,” Bazin said. “We didn’t set a win total goal or a goal of making the NCAAs. We just wanted to play Lowell-style hockey and reestablish our identity. I think we did that.”
Air Force is in the tournament field for the second straight season, and coach Frank Serratore had no issues with being selected to face top overall seed Boston College.
“It’s beautiful. We have a lot of respect for BC,” Serratore said. “Their history, their tradition, how they play. We’re going to the national tournament and there’s no easy draws. But in the [Atlantic Hockey] tournament there’s no easy draws. We almost lost to Connecticut.”
Air Force lost to Yale in overtime in the first round last season and was an overtime goal away from the Frozen Four in 2009 after beating Michigan in the first round.
“Smaller-level schools have the opportunity to get old and deep,” Serratore said. “Look at college basketball. It’s the same thing with players leaving early. The top is down and the bottom is up. There’s more good players that can fill the 58 division I rosters.”
He added: “We’ve played No. 1 seeds every time. We beat one team. And the ones we lost to, I think we took a lot out of them. I’m sure I’m going to be in a fetal position tossing and turning next Friday and Saturday … but we’re going to take our swings. We’re playing with the house money.”
Boston University is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since winning it in 2009. It plays West Regional host Minnesota in the first round.
“There will be no question that it will be a big house for whoever we play,” Terriers coach Jack Parker said. “There will be a packed house for Minnesota, but there will be a packed house of North Dakota fans, too — and they might be rooting for us. I think it’s great; it’s an NCAA championship final atmosphere. It’s a big building with a packed house, so we’re excited to go there.”
Boston University captain Chris Connolly returns to his home state of Minnesota, while his brother, Minnesota-Duluth captain Jack Connolly, heads to Massachusetts to play Maine in the Northeast Regional.
“I think the only other thing I was reading about was the possibility of playing against him in Worcester, and that was a little nerve-racking,” Chris Connolly said. “I know it’s a potential possibility of meeting him at some point; I just didn’t know if it was going to be potentially this early, but they’ve got a good hockey team and every opportunity to do well and succeed out in Worcester. And for me it’s an opportunity to play at home.”
The full tournament schedule with TV listings follows:
East Regional (Friday, March 23-Saturday, March 24)
Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport, Conn.
• No. 1 Union (24-7-7) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (19-15-4), 3 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPNU
• No. 2 Miami (24-12-2) vs. No. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell (23-12-1), 6:30 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPNU
• Semifinal winners, 6:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, ESPNU
Midwest Regional (Friday, March 23-Saturday, March 24)
Resch Center, Green Bay, Wis.
• No. 2 Ferris State (23-11-5) vs. No. 3 Denver (25-13-4), 4:30 p.m. CDT Friday, ESPN Syndication (ESPNU, 10:30 p.m. Friday)
• No. 1 Michigan (24-12-4) vs. No. 4 Cornell (18-8-7), 8 p.m. CDT Friday, ESPNU
• Semifinal winners, 8 p.m. CDT Saturday, ESPNU
West Regional (Saturday, March 24-Sunday, March 25)
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
• No. 1 North Dakota (25-12-3) vs. No. 4 Western Michigan (21-13-6), 12:30 p.m. CDT Saturday, ESPN Syndication: FSN (ESPNU, 11:30 a.m. Sunday)
• No. 2 Minnesota (26-13-1) vs. No. 3 Boston University (23-14-1), 4 p.m. CDT Saturday, ESPN Syndication: FSN (ESPNU, 2 p.m. CDT Sunday)
• Semifinal winners, 4:30 p.m. CDT Sunday, ESPNU
Northeast Regional (Saturday, March 24-Sunday, March 25)
DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.
• No. 1 Boston College (29-10-1) vs. No. 4 Air Force (21-10-7), 4 p.m. EDT Saturday, ESPNU
• No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6) vs. No. 3 Maine (23-13-3), 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, ESPN Syndication: FSN (ESPNU, 11:30 p.m. EDT Saturday)
• Semifinal winners, 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, ESPNU
Games that are listed as being aired live on ESPN Syndication can be picked up by local and regional channels. All games are also available on ESPN3.com.
Contributing: Jim Connelly, Chris Lerch, Diana C. Nearhos, Scott Weighart