For the first time in three years, the Bulldogs will be making their way to the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament. The Bulldogs will be facing off against a familiar opponent — one they have already seen four times this season. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the Bulldogs are matched up against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in New Hampshire for the first game of the Northeastern Regional. The game is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Bulldogs huddled around the television in the player’s lounge at Amsoil Arena at 11 a.m. on Sunday for the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Selection Show. The thought coming from many bracket experts before the show began was that UMD would likely be playing against Boston College.
However, as the Providence, Rhode Island Regional was announced, Denver matched up with Boston College. The team seemed surprised by the news and immediately began discussing which team they thought they would be facing off against.
The consensus among the players was clear. They were looking for Minnesota.
And Minnesota they would get. UMD was announced as a part of the Manchester, New Hampshire Regional as a No. 2 seed in the tournament and will face off with the No. 3 Gophers for the fifth time this season.
“We know what’s going to be at the table,” Adam Krause, senior captain, said. “We know what they’re going to bring, they know what we’re going to bring. Obviously it’s going to be a special game for both teams with the rivalry there. It’ll be exciting.”
The Bulldogs have beat Minnesota three times in four outings this season, outscoring the Gophers 10-6 between the meetings. The four matchups have also taken place in four different locations – in South Bend, Indiana (Ice Breaker Tournament); Minneapolis (regular season game); Duluth (regular season game) and St. Paul (North Star College Cup).
Their fifth game will take place at yet another location, as the Northeast Regional will see the puck drop at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The last time UMD played in a NCAA Regional game was in 2012 when the Bulldogs lost 4-0 to Boston College in the Northeast Regional Final in Worcester, Massachusetts. Only two players on the current Bulldog roster played in that game — seniors Krause and Justin Crandall. Derik Johnson was also on the team at the time but did not dress for the game.
“You kind of took it for granted your first year,” Krause said. “You thought it would happen every year but it hasn’t the last two years. I know how special it is and how hard it is to make it to the tournament so you have to take advantage of the opportunity and that’s something I’m going to say to the young guys, too.”
The first regional game can be seen on ESPNU at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The winner will be playing on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., which can be seen on ESPN2.
- The NCHC contributed six of the 16 teams competing in the NCAA tournament with Miami and North Dakota filling No. 1 seed spots. Denver, UMD and Omaha are all No. 2 seeds while St. Cloud State comes in as a No. 4 seed.
- UMD will enter the tournament with an almost entirely healthy roster as Alex Iafallo returns from illness. Sammy Spurrell will not be playing as he went out with a season-ending injury earlier this season.
BY NICOLE BRODZIK