St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato and the University of Minnesota-Duluth are in prime position to do something that's never been done before.
Since the first Frozen Four began in 1948, the State of Hockey has never had multiple schools make it, despite having five Division 1 programs, albeit entering the D1 ranks at different times.
Minnesota and UMD have gone to the frozen four with close border rival North Dakota in the past, but never have two Minnesota-based teams made it in the same year, let alone three, which might be possible this year.
The Gophers and Bemidji State won't be in the tournament this year, but SCSU, MSU and UMD will be – and they're all ranked in the top four of national polls and inside the top four of the Pairwise, a tool used to predict the field of 16.
It means all three have outstanding chances to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Regionals next week.
St. Cloud State
The Huskies have spent the majority of the season on top of national polls. They lost just four games in regulation (29-4-3) and their offense has scored 148 goals this season, which is the second most in the nation.
In the rare instances when the team is trailing, they always seem to come back to win.
- Record when opponents lead after second period: 4-2-1
- Record when tied after two periods: 4-1-1
Of course, the Huskies were in this exact scenario at last year's tournament and were upset by No. 16 seed Air Force.
Luckily, they won't have to go too far for their regional. USCHO's latest bracketology has them going to Fargo, North Dakota.
Note: these matchups aren't set in stone and could change.
- West Regional (Fargo):
- 16. American International vs. 1. St. Cloud State
- 9. Clarkson vs. 8. Northeastern
Minnesota State is playing for WCHA Conference Tournament title this weekend on home ice against Bowling Green but no matter the result, they've done enough to earn a No. 1 seed.
Since the WCHA realigned, Minnesota State hasn't missed a beat and has been the class of the conference. They're 31-7-2 this season but history says they're a snake-bit team in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite five trips since 2003 – including the No. 1 overall seed in 2015 – the Mavericks have never won a tournament game.
Could this be their year? Here's who they'd face, according to the latest bracketology from USCHO.
- Midwest Regional (Allentown)
- 14. Providence vs. 3. Minnesota State
- 11. Cornell vs. 6. Denver
University of Minnesota-Duluth
The defending national champion Bulldogs are the only team in jeopardy of not being a No. 1 seed.
Duluth plays Denver in the semifinals this weekend at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul. The Bulldogs are fourth in the Pairwise and Denver is fifth.
The NCHC also has a consolation round, so the loser of Friday's semifinal games will play again on Saturday.
The only instance where UMD wouldn’t get a No. 1 seed, is if Denver defeats UMD in the semifinal round and then wins the NCHC Conference Title game, followed by another Bulldogs loses to Colorado College in the consolation game.
Basically, if UMD lands a win in either game this weekend they're locked into a No. 1 seed.
The majority of the Bulldogs' roster remains from last season's national title team and their bread and butter is goaltender Hunter Shepard, who's started every game this season with a 1.96 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
The latest bracketolgy has Duluth going to the Providence region, but Bowling Green and Harvard are bubble teams and could be outside the field depending on what happens this weekend.
Note: Harvard and Quinnipiac can't meet in the first round because both teams are from the same conference, explanation is below. It's likely that Arizona State will be added to the East Regional.
East Regional (Providence)
- 13. Bowling Green vs. 4. Minnesota Duluth
- 12. Harvard vs. 5. Quinnipiac
Tricky seeding guidelines
There's a few guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to seeding, according to Nate Wells of NCAA.com.
Six teams automatically qualify by winning their conference tournament and the remaining 10 spots are filled by the 10 best teams who didn't receive an automatic bid.
After the 16 the teams are selected, the top four are No. 1 seeds in the four regionals. That way, if all four teams advance to the Frozen Four, the seeding is 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3.
So as long as SCSU, MSU and UMD are No. 1 seeds, they could all meet in the Frozen Four.
There's two very tricky but important situations to remember.
First, host institutions will be placed at their home regional no matter what. This year's regionals and host schools are:
- East Regional (Providence, RI) - Brown University
- Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH) - University of New Hampshire
- Midwest Regional (Allentown, PA) - Penn State University
- West Regional (Fargo, ND) - University of North Dakota
Only Penn State and Brown remain in tournament contention. If they make the field of 16, they'll each be placed in their respective regional no matter what.
Second, brackets are then filled with inner-conference matchups being avoided at all costs, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket.
Basically, if five or more teams from one conference make the tournament, then they will have conference matchups in the first round. However, that won't an issue since no conference will have five teams.
If you want to have some fun, head on over to College Hockey News' You Are The Committee function, where you can play around with possible seedings and matchups.
The NCAA Selection Show is this Sunday, March 24 at 6 p.m. and will air on ESPNU.
Of Minnesota teams, only the Gophers and Bulldogs have won D1 national championships, so is this the year St. Cloud State or Minnesota State can hoist the trophy? Time will tell.