College Hockey: UMass Lowell headed to Manchester
A local favorite, some college hockey royalty and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The NCAA Division I Northeast Regional next weekend at the SNHU Arena in Manchester, it seems, has a little of everything.
The 16-team field for the NCAA tourney was set on Sunday, with the University of Minnesota receiving the top seed for the Northeast Regional in Manchester. The Golden Gophers will battle Notre Dame — they’ll be annual opponents when Notre Dame moves from Hockey East to the Big Ten next season — in the second of two first-round games on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
At noon, No. 2 seed UMass Lowell, the Hockey East tourney champion, will battle always-potent Cornell, the ECAC tournament runner-up.
The regional final is set for next Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
The event, at the arena for a seventh time, will be hosted once again by the University of New Hampshire. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com.
The four teams are competing for a trip to the Frozen Four the weekend of April 6-8 in Chicago. None will have a bigger home ice advantage than UML, which regularly sells out games at its 6,500-seat Tsongas Center, only 35 miles south of Manchester.
The River Hawks held on to beat Boston College, 4-3, in Saturday’s Hockey final at TD Garden in Boston, earning an automatic NCAA berth. The victory was the 11th in 12 games for Lowell (26-10-3), which is making its eighth NCAA appearance as a Division I program.
The River Hawks have had tournament success in the Queen City. In 2013, they blasted Wisconsin 6-1 then blanked UNH 2-0 to win the regional. In the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Lowell fell to eventual national champ Yale 3-2 in a semifinal.
Cornell (21-8-5), which lost to Harvard 4-1 in Saturday’s ECAC championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., has never played at Manchester’s downtown arena and hasn’t been to the tournament since 2012. But the Big Red, accompanied by their raucous, traveling pep band, are no strangers to NCAA success, having qualified 20 times, with two NCAA titles (1967, 1970) under their belt.
Twenty NCAA appearances are a lot, but Minnesota has 37 — the most among Division I teams — including five in the last six years. The Gophers (23-11-3), ranked fourth nationally, lost 4-3 to Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals on Friday. They’ve won it all five times, most recently in 2003.
The tournament bracket can be viewed below:
Like Minnesota and Cornell, Notre Dame (21-11-5) earned an at-large bid to the tourney. The fourth-seeded Irish, in their ninth NCAA appearance, are coming off a 5-1 loss to Lowell in the Hockey East semis on Friday in Boston.
Like Lowell, the Irish have had success in downtown Manchester. The Fighting Irish’s last NCAA Tournament wins, in fact, came on Elm Street, when they beat UNH 2-1 in the 2011 Northeast Regional final.
Notre Dame has reached the NCAA championship once, losing in the 2008 championship game to Boston College, 4-1, in Denver.
Nationally, Denver (in the Midwest, Cincinnati), Minnesota-Duluth (in the West, Fargo, N.D.), Harvard (in the East, Providence, R.I.) joined Minnesota as the top regional seeds. Denver is the top overall seed.
The NCAA selection committee placed defending national champ North Dakota in its home state, in Fargo, N.D., to play Boston University.
Similarly, Providence College was placed at its home-away-from-home and will play Harvard in a first-round game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Friars advanced out of the regional at “The Dunk” before winning the national title in 2015.