It’s official: The thrill of winning the Mason Cup is over.
That’s because the Wolverines learned who will be coming to Yost this weekend for the NCAA Midwest Regional when the tournament brackets were announced last night. Michigan was seeded third in the regional and will play second-seeded Maine this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Yost Ice Arena.
The winner of that game will play the winner of the other regional semifinal between Colorado College and College Hockey America champion Wayne State at 3:00 p.m. next Sunday for a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four April 10-12 in Buffalo, N. Y.
“(The Mason Cup) is over and done with,” senior captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “If we want to make a run at a national championship, it starts this week.”
The 10th-ranked Black Bears – last season’s national runner-up – started the season 21-2-3 and were ranked as high as second in the nation. But they took a nosedive in the season’s final month. They went 2-5-1 in their last eight games and were swept at home by Massachusetts in a stunning Hockey East first-round playoff series. This means that they will have had a 22-day layoff before stepping on the ice at Yost. Maine and Michigan have met in three NCAA Tournament games in the past decade, the last of which was when Maine won in the 2000 East Regional to go to the Frozen Four.
“I saw (Maine) as one of the top four teams most of the year,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They could have been a one seed if they had won their first round.”
The Wolverines were the highest-ranked third seed according to the Pairwise Rankings, which mimics the selection of the at-large berths and seeds. Michigan was tied with Boston College for eighth in the Pairwise, but Boston College likely received a two seed instead of Michigan because its RPI was higher.
“We thought we’d maybe get a two seed after (winning the CCHA Tournament),” Ortmeyer said. “But it was (the committee’s) decision.”
Michigan was one of three CCHA teams to make the first-ever 16-team field, while Hockey East and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association both received five bids despite being smaller leagues. CCHA teams such as Northern Michigan and Michigan State were left out, while WCHA member St. Cloud State is in with a record two games above .500.
“I think our league got short-suited in terms of credibility,” Berenson said.
Colorado College won the WCHA regular-season championship and was ranked No. 1 in the last USCHO.com poll. The Tigers lost on Saturday night to Minnesota in the WCHA Final Five title game, giving Cornell the tournament’s top seed.
“They’re bringing the best team in the country to Yost in my mind,” Berenson said.
But, for the second straight year, the WCHA’s best might have to face Michigan at Yost to reach the main event.
“It’s going to be to our advantage a little bit, and we’re going to love it,” Shouneyia said. “But we’re still going to have to go out and beat Maine.”