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Bracketology: UConn men’s hockey on outside looking in headed into final regular season weekend

The Huskies two losses to Northeastern pushed them to the fifth team out.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 19 UConn men’s hockey put more than 100 shots on Devon Levi over the weekend, including over 60 on Friday night, but had nothing to show for it. The Canadian Olympian played an otherworldly goaltender for Northeastern as the Huskies from Boston took both matchups over the Huskies from Storrs.

Heading into the weekend as the third team out of the NCAA Tournament, Northeastern has taken UConn’s place with Mike Cavanaugh’s team sliding all the way down to the fifth team out.

This was a big missed opportunity for UConn. A split would have kept the Huskies as the first team out while a sweep would have placed them at No. 14 in PairWise, which would be the second-to-last team in, according to College Hockey News’ PairWise tool.

This was the final weekend in the regular season for four of Division I’s six conferences, as the Atlantic Hockey, Big Ten, CCHA and ECAC tournament will all commence next weekend, while Hockey East and the NCHC will have one final weekend of regular season games. Time is running out for UConn to get back into the NCAA field.

Update on teams around the cut line

Hockey East teams continue to dominate the bubble as the final two teams in the tournament, Northeastern and UMass Lowell, are members of the conference, while four of the first five out (Boston University, Providence, Merrimack and UConn) are also Hockey East schools. Clarkson, currently the second team out, is the only non-Hockey East squad in the first four out.

Michigan Tech, which is on top of the last four in, lost a pair of 2-1 decisions, one of which was in overtime, to Minnesota State and are the No. 2 seed in the CCHA Tournament, hosting a best-of-three series against No. 7 Ferris State in the quarterfinal. The semifinals and final, each hosted by the high seed, are single games.

The Huskies are followed by Ohio State, which was idle last weekend and earned the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes will face off at home against No. 5 Penn State in a best-of-three quarterfinal. The semifinals and final will be at the site of the high seed and are a single elimination.

Propelled into the second-to-last NCAA Tournament slot with its sweep over UConn, Northeastern, which is tied for second in Hockey East with Merrimack, has a Tuesday matchup with Vermont followed by a home-and-home series with the aforementioned Warriors to close the regular season.

The final team in the tournament, UMass Lowell, is fourth in Hockey East and played a single non-conference game against LIU, earning the win at home. The River Hawks will close with a home-and-home series against New Hampshire.

Boston University renewed the Battle of Comm. Ave. with Boston College, earning a win on Saturday, but a road defeat on Sunday knocked the Terriers out of the field. In the final weekend of the regular season, Boston University will face Maine on the road in a two-game set. Tied for fifth in Hockey East with UConn and Providence, the Terriers are competing for the final first-round bye in the Hockey East Tournament.

Clarkson had two single games at home to close its regular season, falling to Yale on Friday before a victory over Brown the following evening. The Golden Knights will be the No. 2 seed in the ECAC Tournament and earned one of four first-round byes. They will host a best-of-three quarterfinal in two weeks.

Two spots ahead of UConn in the PairWise, Providence is tied with the Huskies and Boston University for fifth in Hockey East, but completed its regular season schedule with a home sweep over Maine, including an overtime winner in the Saturday finale. The Friars will await their single-game opening round opponent, which is dependent upon the 11 conference games remaining this season. They will play an exhibition against the USNDP U-18 team on Friday to keep fresh before the opening round on March 9.

Merrimack played a single game over the weekend, grabbing a victory over New Hampshire on the road. The surprising Warriors are tied for second in Hockey East, but Northeastern, their opponent for a home-and-home this weekend, have a game in hand.

Bracketology

Unlike most NCAA Tournaments, the hockey committees merely seed the teams and fill the regionals without actually selecting the field. This objective measure gives teams a sense of what they need to do at all times while also giving fans sneak a peek at what may be coming down the road.

The top four teams in the 16-team field earn a seed and are placed in one of four regions, which are filled out according to straight bracket integrity, though the committee does adjust first-round matchups within an individual seeding band to keep teams within a nearby regional while also avoiding intra-conference games. Additionally, teams hosting a regional must play within that regional.

This year, that will likely only impact Denver, as it is hosting the West Regional in Loveland, Colorado. The ECAC is hosting the East Regional, while Holy Cross is hosting the Northeast Regional and Penn State is hosting the Midwest Regional. Neither Penn State nor Holy Cross are high enough in the PairWise to merit at-large consideration and must win their respective conference tournaments to secure a bid.

With those mandates in mind, here is a look at how the bracket looks as of the start of play on Feb. 28. An asterisk represents an automatic bid, assuming the conference’s leader in the regular season standings would earn the bid.

NCAA Men’s Hockey Bracket- Feb. 28

Midwest (Allentown, PA) East (Albany, NY) West (Loveland, CO) Northeast (Worcester, MA) First Four Out
Midwest (Allentown, PA) East (Albany, NY) West (Loveland, CO) Northeast (Worcester, MA) First Four Out
No. 1 Minnesota State* No. 2 Michigan No. 3 Denver No. 4 Minnesota* Boston University
Quinnipiac* Notre Dame North Dakota* Western Michigan Clarkson
St. Cloud State UMass* Minnesota Duluth Michigan Tech Providence
AIC* UMass Lowell Northeastern Ohio State Merrimack

Minnesota State is now the No. 1 team in the PairWise, taking over for Michigan after the Wolverines were swept by Notre Dame, while Minnesota is the second Big Ten team on the top line after two home wins against Wisconsin. Elsewhere, Northeastern has jumped into the field after it took both contests against UConn, while Boston University’s split with Boston College knocked the Terriers from the field in favor of UMass Lowell.

The lack of seeded Northeast teams continues to complicate placing those top teams, but straight bracket integrity requires just two switches. Ohio State cannot play Minnesota in the first round, as they are both Big Ten teams, so the Buckeyes will swap spots with Boston University, bringing the Terriers back to Worcester.

Meanwhile, North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth, both NCHC schools, cannot face off. The committee will be unwilling to pull UMass out of Albany and placed in Loveland, while Michigan Tech, also a member of the NCHC, cannot face off against North Dakota. Thus, it’s likely Minnesota Duluth stays in the West Regional and North Dakota shifts to the East Regional, trading with Notre Dame.