Two coaches who won national championships in Albany are set to face off in the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament.
Jerry York’s Boston College Eagles (17-5-1), of Hockey East, will take on Jeff Jackson’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-13-2), of the Big Ten, in the Northeast Regional’s first semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Times Union Center.
The 16-team field was announced Sunday night. The second semifinal pits Hockey East’s regional third-seeded Boston University (10-4-1), of Hockey East, against regional second-seeded St. Cloud State (17-10-0), of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, at 6:30 p.m.
The winners meet in Sunday’s 5:30 p.m. championship game, with the victor advancing to the Frozen Four April 8-10 in Pittsburgh.
The Eagles, the Hockey East regular-season champions, are the top seed in the NCAA Hockey Tournament Northeast Regional, and No. 2 seed overall. BC was eliminated in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals by UMass Lowell in a 6-5 double overtime decision last Wednesday.
The 75-year-old York returns to Albany 20 years after guiding the Eagles to their first national title since 1949. Krys Kolanos scored 4:43 into sudden-death overtime to beat North Dakota 3-2 at then-Pepsi Arena. Niskayuna native Mike Lephart scored for BC.
“I have incredible memories,” York said on a Zoom call Sunday night. “It was our first one at BC in [over] 50 years. It was an incredible crowd at an incredible venue. North Dakota was an outstanding opponent. We’re going back again.
“I love the brand-name schools. … You’re playing Notre Dame. Our focus will be right on that. Our kids were excited when the Fighting Irish came up on the board.”
Jackson won his first NCAA title as a head coach in 1992 with Lake Superior State in one of the more memorable championship games ever played. The Lakers received 11 power plays against Wisconsin and won 5-3. The Badgers lashed out at referee Tim McConaghy after the game. The NCAA penalized the Badgers by vacating their runner-up finish.
“That was my first experience winning a national championship,” Jackson said during a Zoom call. “It was a long time ago. I don’t think that will have much to do with anything, but it will bring back memories to go back to Albany.”
Notre Dame, which was ousted in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals by Penn State last Sunday, may have benefited from the announcement late Sunday afternoon that ECAC Hockey Tournament champion St. Lawrence had to pull out of playing in the NCAAs because head coach Brent Brekke had tested positive for COVID-19. The Saints beat ECACH regular-season champion Quinnipiac 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. Quinnipiac ended up getting the automatic bid with St. Lawrence’s departure.
“At the time we were informed the issue occurred at St. Lawrence, we were discussing the last spot,” NCAA men’s hockey chair and Omaha associate athletic director Mike Kemp said in a phone interview. “The last spot had three teams involved in the discussion, Omaha, Notre Dame and Providence. I was not involved in the conversation. I had to go off the Zoom for anytime that our team [Omaha] was being discussed. It was an interesting situation.”
BU dealt with COVID-19 issues all season. The Terriers didn’t play their first game until Jan. 8 against Providence. They have played the fewest games among the 16 teams in the tournament.
“It’s been a crazy year for us, not starting until a lot later than everyone,” BU coach Albie O’Connell said. “Our first game versus Providence, we didn’t practice or play as a team for 34 days. We had four days of practice, and then we started playing.”
St. Cloud State finished second in the NCHC behind North Dakota. The teams met in the NCHC Tournament title game, and St. Cloud State lost 5-3.
North Dakota (21-5-1) is the overall No. 1 seed. It will face American International in the Midwest Regional semifinal at 9:30 p.m. Friday in Fargo, North Dakota. Friday’s other semifinal has Michigan (15-10-1) facing two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth at 4 p.m.
The puck drops on the tournament at 1 p.m. Friday at the East Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when Wisconsin (20-9-1) takes on Bemidji State (15-9-3). Hockey East Tournament-champion UMass (16-5-4) faces Lake Superior State (19-6-3) in Friday’s other semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
Quinnipiac (17-7-4) will travel to Loveland, Colorado, for the West Regional. The Bobcats play Minnesota State (23-6-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday. The other semifinal has Minnesota (23-6-0) taking on Omaha (14-10-1) at 9 p.m.