In the end — after quite a while Sunday night in Fort Wayne — we have three No. 1 seeds in the Frozen Four. Regional leaders Miami, Wisconsin and Boston College join No. 4 seed RIT in heading to Detroit’s Ford Field next week.
It’s the first time since 2005 that three top seeds are in the field. That year, Denver, Colorado College and Minnesota advanced as top seeds to an all-WCHA Frozen Four.
This season, the teams represent four conferences — Atlantic Hockey (a first), the CCHA, Hockey East and the WCHA.
Even with those top seeds in the mix, the story of the leadup to Detroit likely will be RIT.
And why not? In just their fifth season as a Division I team, the Tigers have ascended all the way to the final weekend of the season, an impressive achievement that serves as a testimony to the institutional support that lifted the program to a situation where it could so quickly be perennial contenders for the automatic bid in Atlantic Hockey.
Last season, the talk going into the tournament was about Bemidji State. This year, it’s RIT in that place. We’ll see if the Tigers can do more than just get there.
RIT gets Wisconsin in the 5 p.m. Eastern semifinal on Thursday, April 8. The Badgers have a pair of Hobey Baker Award finalists in Blake Geoffrion and Brendan Smith, and Geoffrion was named the most outstanding player of the West Regional to help his individual award prospects.
It’ll be Miami and Boston College in the 8:30 p.m. semifinal after Miami knocked off Michigan 3-2 in double overtime.
Having the Wolverines in the Frozen Four probably would have been a big boost for attendance at Ford Field, but instead, the RedHawks will have a chance to go at the national title again after coming so painfully close last season.
Ranked No. 1 for most of the season, the RedHawks still go into the national semifinals with one big question: Who’ll be in goal?
Hobey finalist Cody Reichard won the regional semifinal against Alabama-Huntsville; Connor Knapp stood on his head against Michigan.
Miami and Boston College are familiar NCAA tournament foes. In 2008, the Eagles advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-3 overtime victory. A year earlier, BC won the same game 4-0. In 2006, Boston College won 5-0 in the first round.
Is this the year the RedHawks get past the Eagles? It may be unless BC can shore up its defense.
The Eagles have allowed 14 goals in their last three games, but they’ve won them all by scoring 19 times in that span.
There are three games left in the college hockey season, and there should be plenty of story lines.