p style=”text-align: center”>This story is part of The Sun’s 2018 NCAA Hockey supplement. To view the rest of the supplement, click here.
Northeast Region – Worcester, Massachusetts
Even before faltering in the ECAC semifinals, Cornell had already locked up a No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Red recorded the nation’s best winning percentage during the regular season, in addition to having the best defense with 1.53 goals allowed per game.
The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds respectively are Boston-area schools Northeastern and Boston University — both just a short trip from Worcester. These Hockey East groups do not receive much of a disadvantage playing in this region, despite their lower seeds.
While Northeastern, like Cornell, lost in its respective conference semifinal, the Huskies were second in the Hockey East regular season standings and have an offensive menace in Adam Gaudette, who is third in the nation with 0.81 goals per game.
Tied with Northeastern in the PairWise rankings and also in the Northeast region is No. 2 seed Michigan. The Wolverines have the seventh best offense in the nation, but struggle greatly on defense relative to the rest of the field.
The Northeast is arguably the strongest overall region, with all four teams ranking 15th or higher in the PairWise rankings.
East Regional – Bridgeport, Connecticut
Coming in as the No. 1 seed in the East is Big Ten champion Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have been consistently near the top of the rankings all year and are a strong contender for the national title. If Cornell can make it out of its region, its Frozen Four game will be against the winner of the East, so Notre Dame is a likely opponent — undoubtedly a difficult matchup.
The third and final Hockey East school in the field is No. 2 seed Providence, playing a couple hours down I-95 in Bridgeport. The Friars are not far removed from tournament success, having won the NCAA Championship in 2015.
Providence will square off against Cornell’s ECAC foe and No. 3 seed Clarkson in the first round. Both squads will be hungry to continue their seasons after losing in their respective conference finals.
Clarkson is making its return to the tournament for the first time in 10 years. The Golden Knights saw a season of ups and downs, but, aside from some inconsistency, this is a squad full of talent. Goaltender Jake Kielly is the anchor of the nation’s second best defense behind Cornell.
No. 4 Michigan Tech extended its season by winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Championship. The Huskies have the best scoring defensive corps in the country.
Midwest Regional – Allentown, Pennsylvania
After upsetting Cornell in the ECAC semifinals, No. 4 seed Princeton went on to win the ECAC Championship against Clarkson in overtime to earn a spot in the tournament. The Tigers have the best power play in college hockey, converting on over 28 percent of man advantages.
Despite losing in overtime to Notre Dame in the Big Ten Champion game, Ohio State managed to maintain its status as a No. 1 seed. The Buckeyes are a dangerous squad on both sides of the puck, ranking fifth and 11th nationally in team defense and offense, respectively.
The defending NCAA champions and No. 2 seed Denver will begin their quest to defend their title in the Midwest region. Coming off a 4-1 win over No. 1 overall seed St. Cloud State in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference title game, the Pioneers are rolling entering this final stretch.
Squaring off against the defending champs are the fourth and final Big Ten squad in the tournament: No. 3 seed Penn State. The Nittany Lions are the region’s host in Allentown, just a couple hours trip across the Keystone State from State College. Penn State posted a losing record in a competitive Big Ten field, but nonetheless recorded 3.7 goals per game this season — second best in the country.
Western Regional – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Finishing atop the PairWise rankings, St. Cloud State earned its place as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. The Huskies missed out on the tournament last season and will be hungry to make a run as the top overall seed.
No. 2 seed Minnesota State boasts the best team offense in the nation, tallying 3.87 goals per game. In the first round, the Mavericks will face off against in-state foe No. 3 seed Minnesota-Duluth — the runner-up of the 2017 NCAA Championship.
No. 4 seed Air Force rounds out the bracket as the lowest overall seed in the tournament. The Falcons squeaked into the tournament as an auto-bid for winning the Atlantic Hockey Association Championship — the conference’s only team in the tournament.