The defending national champions don’t have to go far in their attempt to repeat.
Providence is the top seed in the Northeast Regional, which will be held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., only 39 miles from campus. The Friars will open play against fourth-seeded Minnesota Duluth Friday. Second-seeded Boston College and third-seeded Harvard play afterward, with the championship on Saturday.
Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass)
• Providence vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 4:30 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPN3
• Boston College vs. Harvard, 8 p.m. EDT Friday, ESPNU
• Regional championship game: 9 p.m. EDT Saturday, ESPNU
Boston College beat Harvard 3-2 in the opening game of the Beanpot in February, while Providence and Minnesota-Duluth haven’t played since 2011.
The bracket has plenty of experience, as the Bulldogs (2011), Eagles (2012) and Friars (2015) have combined to win three of the last five national titles.
Despite that, Worcester is the only of this year’s regionals without a conference champion. Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth lost in their respective league championship games, while Boston College and Providence both lost in the league semifinals. However, the Friars and Eagles shared the regular season Hockey East title.
It’s the third straight NCAA tournament appearance for coach Nate Leaman and Providence, the first time in program history that the Friars have made the tournament three years in a row. Before the start of that stretch, the school hadn’t made an NCAA appearance since 2001.
Even with the loss in the conference semifinals, Providence is in good position to defend its national title. Goalie Nick Ellis has been outstanding in the place of the departed Jon Gillies, while Providence has seven players with at least nine goals.
However, the Friars will be without defensemen Jake Walman, as it was announced last week that the sophomore will undergo surgery for an injury suffered in December and miss the rest of the season. Walman’s 13 goals lead all Division I defensemen.
Harvard has had injuries on defense as well, as sophomore Wiley Sherman missed the conference championship weekend. The Crimson dressed sophomore Thomas Aiken in his place.
The Crimson were also without forward Sean Malone on Saturday, but coach Ted Donato expected him to be back in time for the NCAA tournament.
Like Providence, the Crimson have become regulars in the NCAA tournament after a lengthy absence. It’s the second straight appearance for Harvard after making five straight appearances from 2001 to 2005.
Minnesota-Duluth entered the NCHC tournament outside of the NCAA picture. But the Bulldogs, who finished fourth in the regular season, made it to the conference title game, losing 3-1 to St. Cloud State.
It’s the fourth NCAA appearance in six seasons for Duluth.
The Eagles have been the steadiest NCAA tournament participant among the four teams in the bracket, as this is the school’s seventh consecutive appearance. BC has missed the NCAAs only three times since 1998.
Goalie Thatcher Demko is among the Hobey Baker Award finalists, while the Eagles have a deep lineup that is fourth in the country in scoring.
Boston College has won the last two regionals held in Worcester, including beating Minnesota-Duluth 4-0 in the 2012 final en route to a national title. That season, the Frozen Four was held in Tampa, Fla., just as it is this year.