Irish hockey team draws Minnesota

Eric Hansen South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

The Notre Dame hockey team will get a taste of what life will be like in the Big Ten next season when the 10th-ranked Irish face No. 5 Minnesota Saturday in the first round of the 16-team NCAA Tournament.

The Irish (21-11-5), finishing fourth in their final season in Hockey East, meet the Gophers (23-11-3) at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday in the Northeast Regional, held at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. Minnesota is the region’s No. 1 seed and the Irish the fourth seed.

The ND-Minnesota game will be televised on ESPNU.

Hockey East tourney champ UMass-Lowell (26-10-3), ranked fourth and seeded second, squares off against Cornell (21-8-5), ranked ninth and seeded third, in a Northeast Regional noon matchup on Saturday. Winners advance to a Sunday regional title game at 3:30 p.m., on ESPNU.

The Northeast Regional is the only one with more than two Top 10 teams, and it has four.

Top-ranked Denver (29-7-4) is the tourney’s No. 1 overall seed and was placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati. Minnesota-Duluth (25-6-7) is the No. 2 overall seed and leads the West Regional field in Fargo, N.D., while Harvard (26-5-2) was designated the No. 3 overall seed and is the favorite in the East Regional at Providence, R.I.

The four regional champs will play for the national championship at the Frozen Four, April 6 and 8 in Chicago.

Notre Dame made the NCAA tourney field for the second consecutive season and the ninth time in program history, eight of those under current head coach Jeff Jackson. The Irish were one of four Hockey East teams to earn a bid — with Boston University and Providence joining ND and UMass-Lowell.

The Irish and Gophers most recently met on Nov. 6-7, 2015, when Notre Dame hosted Minnesota for a weekend series. The teams split, including a 4-3 win by the Irish in game one. Minnesota is led by head coach Don Lucia, a 1981 Notre Dame graduate and former Irish defenseman.

The Irish are 7-6-2 against the NCAA Tournament field, including games against Minnesota Duluth (1-1-0), Penn State (0-1-1), UMass-Lowell (1-2-0), Michigan Tech (1-1-0), Providence (3-0-1) and Boston University (1-1-0).

Notre Dame is 6-8-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, 6-7-0 under Jackson.

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Notre Dame players celebrate a goal by Anders Bjork (10) during the Boston College at Notre Dame hockey game in Compton Family Ice Arena Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA