NCAA MEN'S HOCKEY TOURNAMENT: UND the lone top seed to advance to Frozen Four
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Only one top seed survived the NCAA regionals this season.
UND will carry that banner to the Frozen Four after beating the University of Denver 6-1 in the Midwest Regional championship game Sunday at Resch Center.
The other three top seeds were knocked out over the weekend.
Two of them -- Miami and Boston College -- went down in the opening round. The defending national champion Eagles fell to Colorado College 8-4 on Friday night and the RedHawks lost to No. 4 seed New Hampshire 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.
The tournament's top overall seed, Yale, edged past Air Force in overtime to win in the first round, but fell to third-seeded Minnesota-Duluth 5-3 in the regional final on Saturday night.
No. 1 seeds haven't been very dominating in the last five years. They hold just an 11-9 edge in Round 1 games against No. 4 seeds.
In 2007, no top seeds made the Frozen Four. That season, the Frozen Four consisted of Boston College, a No. 2 seed, and three No. 3 seeds in UND, Maine and Michigan State. The Spartans won the national title that season.
UND saved that from happening again.
Because UND is the highest-seeded team remaining in the NCAA tournament, it will wear its white jerseys at the Frozen Four. UND went 9-0-1 this season in the black jerseys, completing a four-year undefeated streak in those sweaters (21-0-3).
"We're prepared to go home and go back to work," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "That's what we've done all year. We've had a very short and narrow focus. We won't look forward to 10 days down the road. We're going to look forward to our next day of practice, going out and doing the things that give us a chance to go out to St. Paul.
"We need to play our best hockey game. That's what I said coming into today. We needed to play our best game of the year against Denver. And I'll be honest with you. I think we did that. This was a complete hockey game by our team."
Just as UND is the only top seed left standing, its best player is the only leading candidate for the Hobey Baker Award left playing.
Matt Frattin and the Sioux will play in the NCAA Frozen Four beginning with a game against Michigan on April 7, while Boston College's Cam Atkinson and Miami's Andy Miele both saw their teams get knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Most analysts believe that Frattin and Miele are the top two candidates with Atkinson close behind.
The final Hobey vote will come early this week. The top three finalists will be announced on Thursday. The trophy will be handed out April 8 in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
Frattin made a strong case to win the award at the end of the season by scoring in nine straight games heading into the regional final. Frattin holds two of the five longest goal streaks in Sioux hockey history -- both coming this season. He had an eight-game streak earlier this season. The school record is 12 games, set in the 1940s and 1950s.
Frattin leads the country with 36 goals and has 60 points. His goal total is the highest by any UND player since Russ Romaniuk scored 40 during the 1990-91 season. He will go to the Frozen Four on a 15-game point streak, which was extended Sunday with an assist on UND's second goal.
UND's previous winners of the award are Tony Hrkac (1987) and Ryan Duncan (2007). When Duncan won the award, he was the only finalist to play in the Frozen Four.
Nelson plays big for Sioux
UND freshman forward Brock Nelson returned to the lineup in a big way Sunday.
One day after leaving the game early with an injury, he came back and scored a beautiful goal on a backhand to put UND up 4-1 in the third period. Nelson also assisted on a goal and has 11 points in his last 11 games.
It was unclear if Nelson would be able to play against Denver.
He went out five minutes in to the first period of Saturday's 6-0 victory over RPI on an open-ice check by forward Josh Rabbani. Nelson remained on the ice for several minutes before he was helped off with the assistance of trainers.
"We determined this morning through our medical staff and through Brock himself that he was ready to play," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "He was true to his word. He was ready to play. I thought he played an outstanding hockey game. The goal he scored with about six minutes to go was a huge goal and a great play.
"Brock went out and did his job. That's the best compliment I can give any of our players. They went out and did their jobs. He was one of the 20 that did that tonight."
n UND earned its 32nd win of the season, tying the most wins in a single season since the Hrkac Circus crew of 1986-87. The 1998-99 team also won 32 games. That squad lost in the NCAA regional final.
n Aaron Dell broke Ed Belfour's school record for wins in a season with 30. Belfour had 29 in 1986-87.
n UND broke a three-game losing streak to Denver in the NCAA tournament, earning its first win over the Pioneers in the NCAAs since the 1963 national championship game. UND lost NCAA games to Denver in 1968, 2004 and 2005.
n The Resch Center will host a regional again next season. The other regional hosts are St. Paul, Bridgeport, Conn., and Worcester, Mass.
n Fire alarms went off at Denver's team hotel at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sunday. Hotel workers said they were having kitchen problems.
n The referees -- Kevin Shea and Jeff Bunyan -- were from Hockey East. Shea officiated UND's series at Maine earlier this season.
n BC's Atkinson, a junior, gave up his final year of college eligibility on Sunday, signing a pro contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to email@example.com.