Sunday, March 22, 2009
Terriers take NCAA hockey top seed
By David Albright
BOSTON -- Boston University sealed its No. 1 overall status in college hockey with a 1-0 win over UMass-Lowell at the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday night to capture the Hockey East championship. The Terriers' win kept the River Hawks from making the NCAA tournament field and it also allowed Ohio State to make the field of 16 as the last at-large team. So it's somehow fitting that the Buckeyes and BU will face each other in the first round of the national tournament.
When the pairings for the 2009 NCAA men's hockey tournament were announced on ESPN2 Sunday morning, the No. 1 seeds went to -- in order -- Boston University (Northeast), Notre Dame (Midwest), Denver (West) and Michigan (East).
The automatic bids for this year's tournament went to the conference champions from Atlantic Hockey (Air Force), College Hockey America (Bemidji State), CCHA (Notre Dame), ECAC (Yale), Hockey East (BU) and the WCHA (Minnesota-Duluth). The Bulldogs from Duluth were the only tournament champion that didn't double as a conference regular-season champion.
The 10 at-large bids went to Cornell, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Northeastern, Ohio State, Princeton and Vermont.
Defending champion Boston College (18-14-5), which lost to BU in the Hockey East semifinals, failed to qualify for the tournament, while Northeastern and Yale will be making their first NCAA tournament appearances since 1994 and 1998 respectively.
Michigan will be making its 19th consecutive NCAA appearance, the longest active streak, and the Wolverines now tie Minnesota for most overall tournament appearances with 32. Michigan also has won the most NCAA championships with nine, but Red Berenson's team hasn't won a title since 1998. A pair of consecutive appearance streaks was broken when Minnesota (8) and Boston College (6) didn't qualify for the field of 16.
Regional play begins Friday and Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. (East Regional), Grand Rapids, Mich. (Midwest), Manchester, N.H. (Northeast) and Minneapolis (West). By next Sunday night the Frozen Four field will be determined and then played at Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center on April 9 (ESPN2) and 11 (ESPN).
The conference breakdown for the tournament has four teams from the CCHA and Hockey East, three teams from ECAC and the WCHA and one each from Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America.
Boston University (31-6-4) comes into the NCAA tournament on a 20-2-3 run since the calendar turned to January. And the Terriers are 13-0-2 in their last 15 games on the road or at neutral sites, with the last loss away from Agganis Arena coming way back on Nov. 14 at UMass in Amherst.
All of which would make anything but a deep run in the NCAA tournament for Boston University, which hasn't won a national title since 1995 or made an appearance in the Frozen Four since 1997, a bitter pill to swallow. In order to play on the final weekend of the college hockey season, the Terriers will need to beat Ohio State and then the winner of North Dakota-New Hampshire -- keeping in mind that the Fighting Sioux have made four consecutive Frozen Four appearances and that the Northeast Regional is being played at the Wildcats' home away from home in Manchester.
"If we don't get to the Final Four, if we don't have a chance to win something bigger I think this still might be a bit of a disappointing season because comparatively speaking we're pretty good vis a vis the rest of the nation," BU coach Jack Parker said. "But unfortunately right now we're not playing as well as we were playing a month ago and that's what I'm concerned about."
David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org