There are a few different bracket projections out there:
There are differences in each of them, but every single one has UND playing Niagara in the first round no matter what happens in today’s CCHA championship.
So, what do we know about Niagara?
1. Goaltender Carsen Chubak is a Hobey Baker Award finalists.
2. Forward Sam Alfieri might ring a bell to people around here. He played at Shattuck with guys like David Toews, Jordy Murray and Derek Stepan (and was one of SSM’s top scorers, too).
3. Niagara actually did not get the auto bid from Atlantic Hockey. The Purple Eagles have earned their way in through an at-large bid, a first for an Atlantic Hockey team.
Also, if history tells us anything, Atlantic Hockey teams have not been easy outs in the NCAA tournament. Here’s a quick breakdown of their performances recently.
2012 – Air Force (2-0 loss to BC). The Falcons played BC tougher than anyone in the NCAAs last year. The game was 1-0 with two minutes to go.
2011 – Air Force (OT loss to Yale). The Falcons had two power plays in the third period with a chance to win it, but couldn’t do so and lost in OT.
2010 — RIT (Reached Frozen Four). RIT upset Denver and New Hampshire en route to the Frozen Four, where it fell to Wisconsin in the semifinals.
2009 – Air Force (Beat Michigan, lost to Vermont in 2 OT). The Falcons nearly earned a trip to the Frozen Four, but were knocked out on the bizarre, through-the-net goal.
2008 – Air Force (OT loss to Miami). The Falcons lost to the top-seeded RedHawks in OT.
2007 – Air Force (4-3 loss to Minnesota). The Falcons had a lead in the third period but squandered it.
2006 – Holy Cross (Beat Minnesota, lost to UND). The Crusaders pulled off the stunning upset of the Gophers in the first round.
2005 – Mercyhurst (5-4 loss to Boston College). Mercyhurst had a power play in the final 3:40 of the game with a chance to tie it up.
2004 – Holy Cross (3-0 loss to UND). Zach Parise and Brandon Bochenski led UND past the Crusaders.
So, in the eight seasons since UND beat Holy Cross, Atlantic Hockey teams are 3-5 in the first round with four of those five losses coming by a goal. The only one that was by more than a goal was the BC game last year, which was 1-0 with under two minutes to go.
Even though Atlantic Hockey isn’t a powerhouse conference, it has proved to be more than capable on the big stage in recent years.