Michigan hockey headed to NCAA tournament with matchup vs. Minnesota Duluth

Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

To be the best, you've got to beat the best, and Michigan hockey will get its chance off the jump in the 2021 NCAA tournament beginning Friday.

The Wolverines received a 2-seed in the Midwest region and will face No. 3 seed Minnesota Duluth in the first round in Fargo, North Dakota, at 4 p.m. Friday (ESPNU). The Bulldogs are the two-time defending national champions, with titles in 2018 and 2019. (The 2020 tournament, which was scheduled to finish with the Frozen Four at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

If U-M can take down the defending champs, they're likely to face to the No. 1 overall seed in this year's tournament, North Dakota. The winner of Friday's regional semifinals will advance to Saturday's regional final against the winner of the matchup between No. 1-seed (and host) North Dakota and No. 4 seed American International.

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The Wolverines finished the regular season with a 14-9-1 record and made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament before being eliminated in overtime by Minnesota.

The Big Ten was especially strong this season, with the seven-team league placing four teams in the 16-team field. Minnesota and Wisconsin nabbed No. 1-seeds in the East (Bridgeport, Connecticut) and West (Loveland, Colorado) region, respectively. Notre Dame claimed the final spot in the field when St. Lawrence was forced to pull out of the tournament with a positive COVID-19 test.

Michigan State's goalie Drew DeRidder, right, prepares to stop a shot by Michigan's Matty Beniers during the third period on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, at the Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.
Michigan State's goalie Drew DeRidder, right, prepares to stop a shot by Michigan's Matty Beniers during the third period on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, at the Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.

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The Wolverines aren't the only team from the state in the tournament, either. Lake Superior State, located in Sault Ste. Marie, went 19-6-3 in the regular season and made the field as a surprise automatic qualifier by winning the WCHA tournament. The tournament win was LSSU's first as a league member and locked up the Lakers' first NCAA berth since 1996.

The Lakers received a 3-seed in the East region and will face No. 2-seed Massachusetts at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Bridgeport (ESPNU). The winner of that game will advance to Saturday's regional final (4 p.m., ESPNU) against the winner of No. 1-seed Wisconsin's game Friday against No. 4 Bemidji State.

This is Michigan's 38th NCAA tournament appearance — tied with Minnesota for the most ever — and first since 2018. It's also the second appearance in the tournament for the Wolverines under head coach Mel Pearson, who took over for Red Berenson before the 2017-18 season and took the Wolverines to the Frozen Four.

NCAA hockey tournament pairings

Midwest region: Scheels Arena, Fargo, North Dakota

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (14-10-2) vs. No. 2 Michigan (15-10-1), Friday, March 26, 4 p.m. (ESPNU); No. 1 North Dakota (21-5-1) vs. No. 4 American Int’l (15-3-0), Friday, March 26, 9:30 p.m.; Regional Championship: Saturday, March 27 | 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

East region: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Connecticut

No. 1 Wisconsin (20-9-1) vs. No. 4 Bemidji State (15-9-3), Friday, March 26, 1 p.m. (ESPN2); No. 2 Massachusetts (16-5-4) vs. No. 3 Lake Superior State (19-6-3), Friday, March 26, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU); Regional Championship: Saturday, March 27, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

West region: Budweiser Events Center, Loveland, Colorado

No. 2 Minnesota State (20-4-1) vs. No. 3 Quinnipiac (17-7-4), Saturday, March 27, 4 p.m.; No. 1 Minnesota (23-6-0) vs. No. 4 Omaha (14-10-1), Saturday, March 27, 9 p.m. (ESPNU); Regional Championship: Sunday, March 28, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Northeast region: Times Union Center, Albany, New York

No. 1 Boston College (17-5-1) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (14-13-2), Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m. (ESPNews); No. 2 St. Cloud State (17-10-0) vs. No. 3 Boston U. (10-4-1), Saturday, March 27, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNews); Regional Championship: Sunday, March 28, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Frozen Four

PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

Semifinals, April 8: Midwest champion vs. East champion, Northeast vs. West champion.

Final, April 10: Semifinal winners.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan hockey headed to NCAA tournament vs. Minnesota Duluth