College Sport

Projecting the NCAA men’s hockey tournament field

With the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament selection in about a month and the Frozen Four in less than 50 days, the 16-player field is taking shape.

Of course, things can still change at the end of the regular season, especially in the conference tournaments starting March 3, where teams that don’t know can automatically get NCAA bids.

The NCAA is made up of the winners of six conference tournaments—Atlantic, Big Ten, CCHA, ECAC, Hockey East, and NCHC—and 10 teams in the wild based on PairWise Ratings. Pairs for the NCAA Tournament will be announced March 19, with regionals taking place March 23-26 in Allentown, PA; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Fargo, North Dakota; and Manchester, New Hampshire. Frozen Four will take place April 6-8 in Tampa, Florida.

Here’s a look at how things are on the NCAA field, with teams listed in PairWise ranking order as of Feb. 16. is not in the top 16 but is predicted to receive an automatic league bid.

In addition to viewing each team’s summaries, we’ve included commentary on each team from Sportzshala College Hockey Analyst Colby Cohen. The surveys mentioned are the USCHO survey, the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine survey, and the #Coulidgehawks Top 16, chosen by Sportzshala correspondent John Buccigross. Entries until February 16th.

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1. Minnesota (21-8-1, 15-4-1 Big Ten)

Polls: 2/2/2

Key Findings: 3-1 against Michigan; 4-0 against Michigan State, beating Spartans 25:6

What’s ahead: Two games at Penn State; two against Ohio State

Numbers to know: Minnesota freshmen Jimmy Snuggerud (1.33) and Logan Coley (1.31) are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring per game.

Cohen’s view: The Gophers have to be the favorite to win it all. Minnesota has been a dominant force all season and boasts not only one of the best and most productive offenses in the country, but also a very tight defense, led by the likes of Brock Faber and Jackson Lacombe.

2. Quinnipiac (24-3-3, 16-2 ECAS)

Polls: 1/1/1

Key Findings: 1-1 against Cornell; 2-0 against Harvard, overtaking Crimson 7-1

What’s ahead: Singles against Yale, against Brown, at Union, at RPI

Numbers to know: After consecutive losses in mid-January, Quinnipiac won six in a row with four shutouts, edging out their rivals 24-5. The Bobcats lead the nation by 2.23 points.

Cohen’s view: The Bobcats record speaks for itself: 24-3-3, which is the best winning percentage in the NCAA. Will this finally be the year they put up the national title banner? It remains to be seen, but they definitely have goalkeeping ability, conceding just 1.67 goals per game. Sophomore Yaniv Peretz leads or is near the top in each statistical category with a 1.60 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

3. Michigan (20-9-1, 12-8-0 Big Ten)

Polls: 4/4/3

Key Findings: 1-1 against BU; 2-0 against Western Michigan; 1-0-1 against Harvard; 1-3 vs. Minnesota

What’s ahead: Houses and houses with the state of Ohio; two against Notre Dame

Numbers to know: Michigan have won seven games in a row, including a win over Minnesota in overtime, and are averaging 5.43 goals per game over that series.

Cohen’s view: That team could have two of Hobie Baker’s three finalists in sophomore Luke Hughes (16 points in his last seven games) and freshman sensation Adam Fantilli (national leader with 1.88 points per game). Michigan is playing as well as anyone else, and after the Cold Four’s disappointing loss to Denver in the semi-finals last year, the Wolverines should be hungry to put up another banner in Ann Arbor.

4. Denver (23-7-0, 14-4-0 NCHC)

Polls: 3/3/4

Key Findings: 1-3 vs. St. Cloud State; 1-1 against Omaha

What’s ahead: Two games against Minnesota-Duluth; two in Western Michigan; home and home with Colorado College

Numbers to know: Denver is ranked sixth in the nation in offensive scoring and fifth in defensive scoring. Only Quinnipiac (fifth and first) is better.

Cohen’s view: The reigning national champions have stayed in the top five all season thanks to their skill, experience and coaching. With this combination of talent and David Karl on the bench, you’ll never be able to sleep with the Pioneers, and I think they have as much of a chance this spring as anyone else.

5. Penn State (19-10-1, 9-10-1, Big Ten)

Polls: 7/7/7

Key Findings: 1-3 vs. Michigan; 1-1 against Minnesota; 1-2-1 vs Michigan State

What’s ahead: Two games against Minnesota; two against Wisconsin

Numbers to know: Special teams were a problem for the state of Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions are 47th in penalty kill percentage and 46th in powerplay percentage. They only have 17 powerplay goals (only five teams have fewer).

Cohen’s view: After one of the hottest starts in the country, the Nittany Lions cooled off in the second half and were 2-4 up in their last six games. Despite their struggles, their hot start placed them in a comfortable position in PairWise. Guy Gadowski’s group will need to step up their offense in a tough Big Ten playoff.

6. Boston University (20-8-0, 14-4-0 Hockey East)

Polls: 5/5/5

Key Findings: 1-1 in Michigan; 1-2 against the Northeast; victories over Harvard and Cornell

What’s ahead: Home and home with Merrimack; two games in Vermont; house and house with providence

Numbers to know: BU is second in the country with 4.11 goals per game. Senior Matt Brown and freshman Lane Hutson are third and fourth in points per game at 1.41 and 1.38, respectively.

Cohen’s view: What is the difference per year. A freshman coaching staff led by Jay Pandolfo and assistants Joe Pereira and Kim Brandvold breathed new life into BU and the Terriers set their sights on the Cold Four. From last year’s US Olympic team goaltender Drew Commesso to the end, this is one of the strongest teams we’ve seen on Commonwealth Avenue in a long time.

7. St. Cloud State (18-8-2, 10-6-2, NCHC)

Polls: 6/6/6

Key Findings: 3-1 against Denver; 1-1 against Minnesota; 1-1 vs. Western Michigan; 2-0 v Minnesota State

What’s ahead: Two games in North Dakota; two in Omaha; two against Minnesota-Duluth

Numbers to know: St. Cloud State has a pair of goaltenders ranked among the top 12 in the nation in goals scored. Junior Dominic Basset (1.99) and senior Jackson Castor (2.09) were both stellar in what was pretty much evenly matched on the grid.

Cohen’s view: The 2021 runners-up Huskies are loaded with high schoolers from their latest Cold Four run, with players like Jami Krannila, Zak Okabe and Viti Miettinen waiting for another hit in the can. NCHC teams are battle tested, so don’t sleep on the huskies.

8. Western Michigan (19-10-1, 11-6-1 NCHC)

Polls: 8/8/9

Key Findings: 0-2 vs. Michigan (both games with one goal); victories over Northeastern and Michigan Tech; 1-3 against Omaha

What’s ahead: Two games against Colorado College, two against Denver, two in Miami.

Numbers to know: Senior Jason Paulin continues to lead the nation with 24 goals in 30 games. In December and January, he scored eight goals in three games.

Cohen’s view: The nation’s highest scoring team (4.17 goals per game) has only suffered one loss in 10 games since Dec. 27, and with head coach Pat Vershweiler looking to continue last year’s NCAA run, I think Western will continue their hot second half. . with a trip to Tampa within reach.

9. Ohio State (17-11-2, 10-9-1 Big Ten)

Polls: 9.10.8

Key Findings: 1-1 against Minnesota; 2-2 against Michigan State; 1-1 against Michigan; 1-1 vs. Penn State

What’s ahead: Home and home with Michigan; two games in Minnesota

Numbers to know: The Ohio Penalty Department was great. Not only does he have an 89% success rate, the Buckeyes have nine shorthanded goals, the most in the country.

Cohen’s view: First, OSU will always be well trained and disciplined on defense with Steve Rohlik at the helm. Throughout the season, the Buckeyes played very solidly, taking the most penalties in the country and finishing in the top 20 of the majority. Mason Laurey, a second-round pick by the Boston Bruins, is a good reason to tune in when the Buckeyes hit the ice.

T10. Cornell (16-7-2, 13-4-1 ECAC)

Polls: 11.11.11

Key Findings: 1-1 against Quinnipiac; 0-2 against Harvard; defeat UConn; loss in BU

What’s ahead: Singles against Clarkson, against St. Lawrence, at Brown, at Yale

Numbers to know: Big Red has the most powerful power play in the country, converting to .305 clips. Dalton Bancroft, one of Cornell’s strongest freshmen, leads with five points for the season.

Cohen’s view: Cornell never seems to turn down a lot of goals and this season is no exception. However, the main difference this season is that the Big Reds are also in the top 10 scoring teams. When you marry the two of them, you have a legitimate rival.

T10. Harvard (17-6-2, 14-4-0 ECAC)

Polls: 10.09.10

Key Findings: 0-1-1 in Michigan; 1-0-1 against the North East; loss of overtime at BU; 2-0 against Cornell; 0-2 vs. Quinnipiac

What’s ahead: Singles against the Union, against the RPI, in St. Lawrence, in Clarkson

Numbers to know: The Crimson were under heavy pressure in the late game, with the score going 6-1 in overtime. They also have two shootout competitions, a win over Michigan and a loss to the Northeast in the Beanpot Finals.

Cohen’s view: Another year, another team led by Teddy Donato is in the top ten in the country. Harvard has more NHL draft picks (15) than any other team in the country, and Crimson’s “big three” of Sean Farrell, Matthew Coronato and Henry Tran are looking to bring Harvard back into the Frozen Four for the first time since 2017 .

12. Michigan Institute of Technology (21-8-4, 14-6-4 CCHA)

Polls: 13.12.12

Key Findings: 1-0-1 against Minnesota; wins over Michigan State and BU; defeat to Western Michigan

What’s ahead: Two games in Minnesota

Numbers to know: Senior goaltender Blake Pietila ranks fifth in the nation in both GAA (1.98) and shooting percentage (.928) and is also second in minutes (1,817).

Cohen’s view: The CCHA pack leader is having a very solid season. The Huskies are as hot as anyone with a 10-2-1 record since the calendar moved to 2023. They have some very good non-conference wins, including a win over BU in Arizona, …


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