The 2021 NCAA men’s hockey tournament is upon us. COVID-19 cancelled last year’s event, but this year’s event is ready to go. There are 16 teams spread out across four regions vying for the NCAA Division I title. It all culminates with the Frozen Four April 8-10 in Pittsburgh.
Here’s a look at all four regions and some things to watch this weekend.
2021 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament Guide
Teams: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Lake Superior State, Bemidji State
When: March 26-27
Montreal Canadiens fans will be salivating at another look at prospect Cole Caufield. The Badgers are hoping to complete the sweep of the NCAA hockey titles after the women were crowned champions for a second straight time. Former NHLer and current coach Tony Granato is going with the goalie rotation of Robbie Beydoun and Cameron Rowe. However, don’t be surprised if Granato rides the hot hand despite if they make it out of the regional.
UMass won the Hockey East tournament title for the first time after beating UMass-Lowell. Bobby Trivingo is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals and 30 points for coach Greg Carvel. Minnesota Wild prospect Filip Lindberg and Matt Murray (not that one) share the nets for the Minutemen.
Damon Whitten is leading the revival at Lake Superior State, which makes its first tournament appearance since 1995-96. The Lakers get goals from Ashton Calder and Pete Veillette. Mareks Mitens gets the bulk of the starts and has a .933 save percentage to go with 13 wins.
Bemidji State likely got into the tournament due to St. Lawrence University dropping out due to health and safety protocols. The Beavers are led by Alex Ierullo and Ethan Somoza in points and goals, respectively. Zach Driscoll played all but one game in net Bemidji, who won six of its last eight to get into the field.
Teams: North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, American International
When: March 26-27
The Fighting Hawks will have almost home-ice advantage because they’re not far from Grand Forks. North Dakota has a total of 12 players that have been drafted by NHL teams. Ottawa Senators prospect Shane Pinto leads the team in goals and San Jose Sharks pick Jasper Weatherby is also tied with Pinto for second in points. UND is one of the favourites to win it all for the first time since 2016.
Michigan is also a team with many NHL drafted prospects, including Vegas Golden Knights choice Brendan Brisson and Sharks prospect Thomas Bordeleau. Brisson leads a balanced-attack with 10 goals for the Wolverines. Also, don’t sleep on Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder Cam York.
Minnesota-Duluth are technically still the defending national champions and will be a tough out. The Bulldogs have eight players drafted by NHL teams, including Wild prospect and leading scorer Nick Swaney. Also look out for Tampa Bay Lightning sixth-round pick Cole Koepke, who tied for the team lead in goals with Swaney (13).
AIC is not your traditional fourth-seed from Atlantic Hockey because they’ve been ranked most of the year. The Yellowjackets stunned overall top seed St. Cloud in the 2019 tournament. Carolina Hurricanes goalie Jake Kucharski is the only NHL pick on the team, but it’s a talented group. Tobias and Justin Cole are the co-leaders in goals with nine.
Teams: Boston College, St. Cloud State, Boston University, Notre Dame (withdrawn)
When: March 27-28
Boston College has already advanced due to positive COVID tests within Notre Dame program. The Eagles have 13 NHL drafted players, including Minnesota’s Matt Boldy and future Florida Panthers goalie Spencer Knight. BC will have the advantage of being rested going into Sunday’s regional final.
The Huskies are looking to shake their stunning loss to AIC in the opening round of 2019. Toronto Maple Leafs sixth-round pick Veeti Miettinen is tied for the team-lead in goals with 10. Los Angeles Kings draft pick David Hrenak will be the likely starter in goal for SCSU.
BU is a team loaded with NHL drafted players as well, including Flyers first-rounder and co-leading scorer Jay O’Brien. Nashville Predators’ third-round pick David Farrance is also tied with O’Brien in points. Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso will get the start vs. St. Cloud. A win here will see Beanpot rivals meet in the regional final.
Teams: Minnesota, Minnesota State (Mankato), Quinnipiac, Nebraska-Omaha
When: March 27-28
The Golden Gophers have 14 NHL drafted players on their team and are led by Colorado Avalanche third-rounder Sampa Ranta (18 goals). Watch for Buffalo Sabres first-round choice Ryan Johnson and Sammy Walker, who was taken in the seventh round by Tampa Bay.
Minnesota State completes the field from the State of Hockey, which is the first year all five DI schools made it to the tournament. The Mavericks are led in goals by Julianand Reggie Lutz with 10 each. Dryden McKay will see the start for the Mavericks in the net.
Quinnipiac won the ECAC regular-season title but was stunned by St. Lawrence in the tournament final. Hobey Baker Award nominee Odeen Tufto has 45 points and Detroit Red Wings pick Keith patrols the net. has a 1.83 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage.
UNO is led in points by Chayse Primeau (23) and in goals (11) by Avalanche draftee Tyler Weiss. Golden Knights prospect Isaiah Saville will be in net for the Mavericks and is one of the more exciting younger players for Vegas.