The field of 16 teams for the 2014 NCAA tournament was announced Sunday and with Yale not making the tournament, there will be a new national champion crowned on April 12 in Philadelphia.
Three teams from the 2013 Frozen Four — Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State and Massachusetts-Lowell — are back in the tournament this year.
Minnesota is the No. 1 overall seed, with Boston College No. 2, Union third and Wisconsin the fourth seed.
The Gophers open the West Regional in St. Paul, Minn., at the Xcel Energy Center against Atlantic Hockey champion Robert Morris.
St. Cloud State and Notre Dame play in the other West Regional opening game.
“All 16 teams are doing something right,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “It’s a great field, and I think it’s another one of those years right now, it’s wide open. It’s anybody’s ball game to get after. Everyone is going to point at Minnesota and Boston College to be the two favorites to fight it out, but if history plays out the way it has the last few years, this thing’s wide open.”
In Worcester, Mass., for the Northeast Regional, three conference champions will take part at the DCU Center as NCHC champs Denver open against Boston College and then Massachusetts-Lowell (Hockey East) plays Minnesota State (WCHA).
“At this point you want to play the best possible teams you can because you’re going to face them at some point,” Massachusetts-Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “It’s going to be interesting in facing an opponent [in Minnesota State] that we haven’t faced.”
Said River Hawks captain Josh Holmstrom: “I think at this point we’re worried more about ourselves. I try to focus on what we can do and worry about our game plan more than who we’re playing.”
The Pioneers are back in the tournament under first-year coach Jim Montgomery.
“It’s great to add to the storied tradition that’s already here in place,” Montgomery said. “With the seven national championships and numerous WCHA regular season and postseason championships, it’s nice in the inaugural season to be able to add to it. All the alums, they are really proud. The social media messages and the phone messages I have received shows the pride all the Pios have.”
The East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., at the Webster Bank Arena features Union playing Vermont and Providence facing 2013 national runner-up Quinnipiac.
Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena hosts the Midwest Regional with North Dakota and Wisconsin battling in a game of ex-WCHA teams and Ferris State taking on Colgate.
North Dakota made it to the tournament only because Wisconsin beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game Saturday, keeping the Buckeyes out of the field.
“Obviously we’ve seen a lot of new and different things on the college landscape this year,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “This is a new possibility. It comes down to the immediate season. Wisconsin has had a phenomenal year, No. 1 seed, coming into the tournament winning their league championship tournament. We’ve got our hands full coming in as a four seed. That being said, it should be an exciting game, a great matchup for fans.”
Colgate beat Ferris State 3-0 on Jan. 4 for the Mariucci Classic championship after the teams split a pair of season-opening games in Hamilton, N.Y.
“We’re familiar with [Colgate] and obviously they are very familiar with us,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “What’s interesting, we were talking about it, after that [NCAA] game, we’ll have played them more times than Minnesota State this year. We’ve got a healthy dose of respect for them.
“It didn’t come as any surprise to us they made the tournament. I thought they were one of the best teams we faced during the course of the year. Both them and Minnesota State and then Alaska-Fairbanks were in my opinion were three of the best teams we saw.”
The regionals begin Friday night and run through Sunday.
Contributing: Jim Connelly, Candace Horgan, Matt Mackinder, Matt Wellens