ALBANY — For the second time in two seasons, COVID-19 has had an adverse impact on the Division I NCAA men’s hockey tournament at Times Union Center.
The NCAA announced on Thursday that Notre Dame, scheduled to play Boston College at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Northeast Regional semifinals, was forced to pull out of the tournament because of positive COVID-19 test results within the Fighting Irish’s Tier 1 testing group.
The Notre Dame-Boston College game was declared a no-contest, and the Eagles automatically move on to Sunday’s regional final against the Boston University-St. Cloud State winner. BU and St. Cloud State were scheduled for 6:30 on Saturday, but that semifinal has been moved to 1.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, and I feel for our guys, especially our seniors,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said in a story posted on the hockey program’s official website. “The team was excited about returning to the NCAA tournament and ready to continue competing after earning the opportunity. But with the multiple positives and subsequent contact tracing, it became clear that for the safety of our team and the others in the tournament we could not proceed.”
The TU Center was scheduled to host the East Regional in 2020, but that and all other NCAA events were canceled during the early stages of the pandemic.
“It is disappointing that hockey fans won’t be able to see Notre Dame play Boston College in what would have been an exciting match,” Albany County executive Daniel McCoy said in a release from his office. “However, this is an example that COVID-19 has not gone away and testing needs to continue. I sympathize with Notre Dame players, alumni and fans who have seen their quest for a championship end this way. They have successfully made twelve NCAA tournament appearances, and we look forward to seeing them play at the Times Union Center in the years to come.”
In a statement from the NCAA, the decision for Notre Dame to withdraw was made “in consultation with the Albany County Public Health Department and the NCAA Medical Advisory Group. Because of privacy issues, we cannot provide further details.”
The Northeast Regional was originally scheduled to have been held in SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, but that venue withdrew because of COVID-19 concerns.
After losing to Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on March 14, the Irish remained in Big Ten testing protocols through Saturday, March 20, according to the Notre Dame site. The team then began additional PCR testing on campus, and went through a total of seven rounds of testing in the seven days leading up to its departure for Albany on Wednesday.
Notre Dame (14-13-2) tied for the regular-season NCAA lead with 28 games played.
The last time the Fighting Irish played Boston College in the NCAA tournament was in the 2008 national championship game, won by the Eagles 4-1.