No. 1 seed Cornell lost to No. 4 seed Princeton in the ECAC semifinal game.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

No. 1 seed Cornell lost to No. 4 seed Princeton in the ECAC semifinal game.

March 20, 2018

LINSEY | NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament: Legitimate Contenders, Surprise Teams and Quick Exiters

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Cornell men’s hockey’s pursuit of the Whitelaw Cup fell by the wayside at Lake Placid last weekend.

But this week the team regroups for the NCAA tournament and a chance to battle the nation’s top teams. Due to Cornell’s Ivy League status, the Red plays just seven out-of-conference games a year, which can leave Cornell fans a bit detached from the college hockey world as a whole. Let’s profile the 16 NCAA tournament teams and their chances of winning it all, on a scale from “soon to be eliminated,” “potential to surprise,” “dark horse contender” and, lastly, “legitimate title contender.”

West Regional: Sioux Falls, S.D.

No. 1 St. Cloud State was the most dominant team in the country this season. Hobey Baker candidate Jimmy Schuldt and the Huskies are the favorites to be national champions. Can they deliver a title to St. Cloud?

Rating: Legitimate title contender

No. 2 Minnesota State had a dominant season in a weak conference, the WCHA. Like all the Minnesota teams in this regional, they have a short trip to Sioux Falls and will be close to home if they qualify for the Frozen Four. That said, St. Cloud State would be a tough matchup for them in the regional finals.

Rating: Potential to surprise

No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth qualified for the tournament over the University of Minnesota by .0001 RPI. This fact does not make the Bulldogs a pushover; they were national runners-up last season and are battle-tested from playing a tough schedule in the NCHC.

Rating: Dark horse contender

No. 4 Air Force Academy was not expected to be here, but they qualified by winning the Atlantic Hockey championship. In last year’s NCAA appearance, they topped Western Michigan, but do not expect any NCAA wins from the Falcons this time around.

Rating: Soon to be eliminated

 

East Regional: Bridgeport, Conn.

No. 1 Notre Dame made a surprise Frozen Four run last year and are widely predicted to return this year. Cale Morris has been dominant in goal for the Fighting Irish.

Rating: Legitimate title contender

No. 2 Providence went on a strong run in the second half of the season to easily earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their talented coach Nate Leaman could propel them to success.

Rating: Dark horse contender

No. 3 Clarkson is a well-known foe to Cornell fans. The Golden Knights have struggled in recent months, and their first round matchup seems to favor the Friars.

Rating: Soon to be eliminated

No. 4 Michigan Tech won the automatic bid from the WCHA. The Upper Peninsula school, one of three teams named the Huskies in the tournament, should pose no difficulties for Notre Dame.

Rating: Soon to be eliminated

Midwest Regional: Allentown, Penn.

No. 1 Ohio State is a consistent and talented team from top to bottom. Mason Jobst and Dakota Joshua are the offensive players to watch.

Rating: Legitimate title contender

No. 2 Denver is the defending national champion, and certainly has the talent to repeat. Henrik Borgstrom, Jarid Lukosevicius and Troy Terry can terrorize any goaltender.

Rating: Legitimate title contender

No. 3 Penn State will have a strong contingent of fans present, but taking down Denver may be a tough ask. If they can, though, this team, with one-time Cornell commit Alex Limoges, could make a run.

Rating: Potential to surprise

No. 4 Princeton defeated Cornell and Clarkson last weekend to earn the ECAC autobid and was rewarded with a short trip to Allentown. Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner and the Tigers could upset Ohio State to continue their improbable run.

Rating: Potential to surprise

Northeast Regional: Worcester, Mass.

No. 1 Cornell was handed a tough draw, having to play No. 4 Boston University so close to Boston. Thus, the Red is the only No. 1 seed that many experts predict to lose their first game. The Red will have to prove doubters wrong to advance far in the tournament, but they are certainly capable of doing so.

Rating: Dark horse contender

No. 2 Michigan is missing star Will Lockwood due to injury, but Tony Calderone put this team on his back and carried them to the NCAA Tournament. A trip to Worcester to face Northeastern may mean the end of their season, though.

Rating: Soon to be eliminated

No. 3 Northeastern boasts the best line in college hockey, consisting of Hobey Baker nominees Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette as well as talented center Nolan Stevens. This Huskies team does not have a strong NCAA track record, though, and probably will not make the Frozen Four.

Rating: Potential to surprise

No. 4 Boston University won the Hockey East tournament to get here and will face Cornell in the first round in a Red Hot Hockey rematch. Out of all the four seeds, the Terriers appear the most likely to make a Frozen Four run.

Rating: Potential to surprise