OXFORD, Ohio – The NCAA announced its 16-team field for the 2017 Hockey Tournament, setting the field for the Midwest Regional that Miami is hosting at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
The four teams battling for a spot in the Frozen Four in Chicago are Denver, Union, Penn State and Michigan Tech. Denver is the top overall seed and takes on Michigan Tech at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, that game is televised on ESPNews. That game is followed by Union and Penn State, with puck drop set for 4:30 p.m. on ESPN3. The winners of those semifinals will square off in Sunday’s regional final at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
Denver won its first Penrose Cup as the regular season champion of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and is appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 27 times with seven national titles. The Pioneers enter with a record 29-7-4 and set a league record for fewest NCHC losses after going 18-3-3-2 in league play. Denver is the nation’s top defensive team, allowing just 1.80 goals per game and its 3.30 goals per game are tied for 11th nationally. DU boasts NCHC Player of the Year/Offensive Defenseman of the Year and Hobey Baker Award finalist Will Butcher on its blue line, with his 35 points ranking second among NCAA defensemen. The Pioneers are also paced offensively by NCHC Rookie of the Year Henrik Borgstrom (21 goals and 38 points) along with Dylan Gambrell (37 points) and Troy Terry (36 points) while goaltender Tanner Jaillet (1.82 goals against average, .930 save percentage) was the NCHC Goaltender of the Year.
Union returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since claiming its first national title in 2014. The Dutchmen 25-9-3 and shared the regular season Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference title with Harvard after going 16-4-2 in league play. Union is the nation’s fourth-highest scoring team at 3.78 goals per game, led by Hobey Baker Award finalists Mike Vecchione (29g, 33a, ECAC Player of the Year) and Spencer Foo (24g, 36a). The Dutchmen had a seven-game unbeaten streak snapped in the ECAC Semifinals against Cornell, a 4-1 setback.
In the fourth year of its existence, Penn State is making its first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big Ten Tournament, topping Minnesota and Wisconsin in double overtime for both of its final two tournament victories. The Nittany Lions went 24-11-2 and placed fourth in the Big Ten standings with a 10-9-1-0 conference mark. PSU boasts the nation’s third-highest scoring team with 3.97 goals per game with freshman Denis Smirnov pacing the team with 45 points.
Michigan Tech is back in the tournament for the second time in three years after winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament with a double overtime victory over Bowling Green on Saturday night. The Huskies enter the postseason with a 23-14-7 overall record and finished second in the WCHA regular season standings at 15-7-6-3 in conference play. The Huskies rank fifth in the country in scoring defense, paced by the play of freshman goaltender (1.76 GAA, .920 save%) while they have nine players who tallied at least 20 points, led by Joel L’Esperance’s 27.
Tickets for the NCAA Midwest Regional are available through the U.S. Bank Arena Box Office either online or by calling (513) 421-4111. All session tickets for the entire weekend are available for $40.
Saturday, March 25 (Midwest Regional Semifinals) No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 Michigan Tech, 1 p.m. ET (ESPNews) No. 2 Union vs. No. 3 Penn State, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Sunday, March 26 (Midwest Regional Finals) Denver/Michigan Tech vs. Union/Penn State, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)