Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014 NCAA Conference Tournament Update

To follow up on yesterday's preview of the 2014 NCCA Conference Tournaments, it was a day full of upsets all across the college hockey landscape. (All ranking numbers are within a team's own conference unless noted)

First, in Atlantic Hockey, #1 Mercyhurst (21-13-7) had their season come to an end in a dramatic 5-4 loss in double overtime to #7 Canisius. #5 Robert Morris advanced to face Canisius with their own 5-4 overtime win over #6 Niagara. With the regular season conference championship not being guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament, Merchyhurst's #32 raking in the PairWise Rankings won't be nearly enough to get them into the 16 team NCAA field.

The winner of this evening's Canisius (#48 PairWise) vs. Robert Morris (#47 PairWise) game will receive the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament and will likely have to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota for a date with the #1 rated Minnesota Gophers.

Speaking of the Golden Gophers, they lost to #4 Ohio State 3-1 in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes will now face #2 Wisconsin, who outlasted feisty Penn State 2-1. Teams on the bubble PairWise, will be hoping for a Badgers win, as their #4 PairWise ranking assures them a spot in the NCAA's, but a win by Ohio State (#19 PairWise), will cost someone in the top 16 a spot in the national tournament.

The ECAC went according to plan, with #2 Colgate defeating #3 Quinnipiac 3-2 in overtime and #1 Union advancing with a 5-2 defeat of #4 Cornell. The loss by Cornell was especially damaging, as they fell from #15 in the PairWise to #17 by the end of the day, leaving them on the outside looking in. With their win, Colgate rose from #14 to #12, which should be enough to solidify their spot in the national tournament even if they lose today to Union, who at #3 is a lock for the NCAA's.

In Hockey East, #3 Providence lost to #4 New Hampshire, who had the misfortune of actually dropping a place in the PairWise from #17 to #18 thanks to other results, leaving them in a must-win situation in tonight's championship game against #2 UMass Lowell (#7 PairWise), who had an easy time of it with a 4-0 shutout against #7 Notre Dame.

The NCHC is in turmoil, as last place #8 Miami shutout a frustrated #2 North Dakota 3-0 and #6 Denver knocked off #5 Western Michigan 4-3. The loss for North Dakota was especially damaging, as they fell from #11 PairWise to #15 - a position which may very well leave them out of the NCAA's when the automatic bids are given to the conference champions rated outside the top 16 in the PairWise. The winner of the Miami (#29 PairWise) and Denver (#23 PairWise) will claim one of those automatic bids when they play tonight in Minneapolis.

Teams on the NCAA bubble were happy to see the results from the WCHA "Final Five" in Grand Rapids, where the top seeds won, with #2 Minnesota State winning 4-0 against #4 Bowling Green and #1 Ferris State surviving a scare in overtime 5-4 over #6 Alaska Anchorage. With both Ferris State (#4 PairWise) and Minnesota State (#11 PairWise) solidly in the NCAA tournament, the winner will earn conference bragging rights without costing anyone a place in the national tournament.

Games to watch tonight begin with New Hampshire vs. UMass Lowell in Hockey East, as a win by New Hampshire will be bad for teams such as #13 Vermont and #14 Michigan, losers Thursday to Penn State.

Others to choose from with NCAA ramifications include the title games for both Atlantic Hockey and the NCHA. With automatic bids assured to the winners of Atlantic Hockey, #47 PairWise Robert Morris vs. #48 PairWise Canisius, and the NCHC, #23 PairWise Denver vs. #29 PairWise Miami, #15 North Dakota and #16 Northeastern will be out of the NCAA tournament if their rankings remain the same after today, although North Dakota has a chance to improve their standing with a game this afternoon against Western Michigan, as the NCHC is the only one of the six conferences to have a third place game, while Northeastern can only sit by and watch.

Additionally, with other spots potentially going to #19 Ohio State in the Big Ten and #18 New Hampshire in Hockey East, even #13 Vermont and #14 Michigan might find their places going to those with automatic bids, joining yesterday's big loser Mercyhurst on the sidelines.

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