UMass hockey: Minutemen earn at-large selection to NCAA tourney, will play Denver at MassMutual Center in Springfield

Elliott McDermott and the UMass hockey team will play in the NCAA Tournament after earning an at-large berth into the field. The Minutemen will open on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the first round at MassMutual Center in Springfield.

Elliott McDermott and the UMass hockey team will play in the NCAA Tournament after earning an at-large berth into the field. The Minutemen will open on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the first round at MassMutual Center in Springfield. PHOTO BY CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 03-24-2024 6:45 PM

Modified: 03-24-2024 6:57 PM


The UMass hockey team is dancing.

The Minutemen got in just under the wire when they were selected for the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. UMass earned a spot in the 16-team field as the final at-large pick when the brackets were released during the tourney selection show Sunday night.

UMass (20-13-3) earned a No. 4 seed in the Northeast Regional, and will play No. 1 Denver (27-9-3) in the opening round on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

Despite being the last at-large team in the field, the Minutemen still earned placement in a regional less than 30 miles from campus. Among the rules for NCAA tournament selection is a section stating “schools that are hosting regionals and make the field of 16 will play at that site.”

“There are several bracketing principles that ultimately dictate where we send teams and that's how it played out this year,” NCAA D1 Men’s Ice Hockey Committee Chair Jeff Schulman said on the ESPNU broadcast Sunday night, noting that both UMass and Omaha are hosting regionals and thus were bracketed accordingly.

No. 2 Maine (23-11-2) and No. 3 Cornell (21-6-6) will meet in the other Northeast Regional semifinal game Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Springfield. The winners will meet back at the MassMutual Center on Saturday at 4 p.m. with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.

It’s the fourth time UMass has made the NCAAs in the last five tournaments, and the school returns after missing out on qualification a year ago. The Minutemen lost in the Hockey East semifinals to Boston College on Friday, 8-1.

The Eagles, which went on to beat Boston University in the title game on Saturday night, are the No. 1 overall seed in the 16-team field and will be the top seed in the East Regional in Providence, R.I. that begins play on Friday. BC (31-5-1) will tangle with No. 4 Michigan Tech (19-14-6) at 2 p.m., with the other regional semifinal between No. 2 Wisconsin (26-11-2) and No. 3 Quinnipiac (26-9-2) to follow at 5:30 p.m.

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Boston University and Michigan State were selected as the other No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament.

The Terriers (26-9-2) are the top seed in the West Regional, and will play No. 4 RIT (27-10-2) in the opening round on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Sioux Falls, S.D. In the other semifinal, No. 2 Minnesota (22-10-5) will play regional host No. 3 Omaha (23-12-4) at 8:30 p.m.

The Spartans (24-9-3) are the 1-seed in Midwest Regional, and will meet No. 4 Western Michigan (21-15-1) on Friday at 5 p.m. in Maryland Heights, Mo. No. 2 North Dakota (26-11-2) and No. 3 Michigan (21-14-3) will follow at 8:30 p.m.

UMass’ postseason fate was uncertain until late Saturday night. Thanks to wins by Denver in the NCHC final over Omaha and Cornell in the ECAC final against St. Lawrence, the Minutemen finished just ahead of Colorado College in the final PairWise Rankings, which largely determine the at-large field for the tournament.

UMass and Denver have some recent history on the ice. The Minutemen defeated the Pioneers in the 2019 Frozen Four, and the two schools have met during the regular season for two different series’ since then (2-2 record). Denver won the 2022 national title, one year after UMass won its first-ever championship in 2021.

The 2024 Frozen Four is set for April 11 and 13 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. Quinnipiac beat Minnesota in overtime to win the 2023 title.