St. Cloud State gets top overall seed for 2018 NCAA men’s hockey tournament

Denver defeated St. Cloud State for the NCHC championship on Saturday, but the Huskies still got the top overall seed in the 2018 NCAA tournament (photo: Jim Rosvold).

St. Cloud State, Notre Dame, Cornell and Ohio State were the regional No. 1 seeds when the brackets were announced Sunday for the 2018 NCAA men’s hockey tournament.

The field also included No. 2 seeds Denver, Minnesota State, Providence and Michigan; No. 3 seeds Northeastern, Clarkson, Penn State and Minnesota Duluth; and No. 4 seeds Boston University, Princeton, Michigan Tech and Air Force.

BRACKET: See our NCAA tournament page

For the first time since the NCAA tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003, all four No. 4 seeds gained entry via automatic qualifier for winning a conference tournament.

That left Minnesota, 13th in the PairWise Rankings, out of the tournament by .0001 in the Ratings Percentage Index, which served as a tiebreaker between the Gophers and Minnesota Duluth.

Out of 64 possible outcomes in Saturday’s conference championship games, only one would have kept the Gophers out of the tournament with the Frozen Four in their backyard in St. Paul, Minn. That’s the one scenario that played out: titles by Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Notre Dame (Big Ten), Princeton (ECAC Hockey), Boston University (Hockey East), Denver (NCHC) and Michigan Tech (WCHA).

BRACKETOLOGY: How the committee decided

Air Force, the last team in the field by PairWise order, drew top overall seed St. Cloud State in the first round. The Falcons made the regional finals last season before losing to Harvard.

“Our confidence comes from the fact that we step and play people,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said after his team’s 5-1 victory over Robert Morris in Saturday’s Atlantic Hockey championship game. “We played Denver, we played Colorado College, we played Boston College last year. We play these teams during the regular season for a reason. We’re going to go into these games, whoever we get, we’re going to have the upmost respect for, but we’re not going to fear them. We’re going to go in and do what we do.”

The Big Ten led the way with four teams selected, the first time the conference has had more than three teams in the field. There were three teams from ECAC Hockey, Hockey East and the NCHC, two from the WCHA and one from Atlantic Hockey.

Regionals are Friday through Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Allentown, Pa.; Worcester, Mass.; and Bridgeport, Conn.

The 2018 NCAA men’s hockey tournament schedule (all times Eastern):

East Regional

At Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Conn., March 23-24

Friday: Notre Dame vs. Michigan Tech, 3 p.m., ESPN2

Friday: Providence vs. Clarkson, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday: Friday winners, 6 p.m., ESPNU

West Regional

At Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, S.D., March 23-24

Friday: St. Cloud State vs. Air Force, 4 p.m., ESPNU

Friday: Minnesota State vs. Minnesota Duluth, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3

Saturday: Friday winners, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Northeast Regional

At DCU Center, Worcester, Mass., March 24-25

Saturday: Cornell vs. Boston University, 1 p.m., ESPNews

Saturday: Michigan vs. Northeastern, 4:30 p.m., ESPNews

Sunday: Saturday winners, 4 p.m., ESPN2

Midwest Regional

At PPL Center, Allentown, Pa., March 24-25

Saturday: Ohio State vs. Princeton, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday: Denver vs. Penn State, 7 p.m., ESPN3

Sunday: Saturday winners, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

Frozen Four

At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn., April 5-7

Thursday, April 5: West Regional winner vs. Midwest Regional winner, 6 or 9:30 p.m., ESPN2; Northeast Regional winner vs. East Regional winner, 6 or 9:30 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, April 7: Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m., ESPN