In each of the last six years, the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional had been played on Friday and Saturday. The last two years, with the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., the first semifinal opened tournament play.
But for the first time since 2006, the East Regional is playing on Saturday and Sunday, and it will be the last regional to get its games going.
By the time top-seeded Quinnipiac will face fourth-seeded Canisius in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m., the other regionals will have had as many as three games played. Today’s West Region final will be underway 90 minutes before Quinnipiac-Canisius gets going.
Mark Bedics, associate director of NCAA championships, explained why the East is last this year.
“The first thing we do is ask the host schools what they really like, whether it’s the Friday-Saturday or the Saturday-Sunday,” Bedics said Friday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. “Then, obviously, if one in the East and one in the Northeast don’t want the same days, then we just match them up, so it works out perfectly.
“This year, we had the Northeast and the Midwest as the conversation. Manchester [N.H., the Northeast Regional host] hadn’t been Friday-Saturday the last three times they hosted. So we were able to give them an opportunity to host it on Friday-Saturday, as opposed to Saturday-Sunday.”
ESPN also plays a role in the start times. Most of the games are being televised by ESPNU.
“We try, from ESPN’s standpoint, to get as many live windows as possible,” Bedics said. “Saturday’s tough because you have the two regional finals [Northeast and Midwest], and then the other four [East and Midwest regional semifinal] games. So you have six games going on about the same time.”
The fact that it’s Easter weekend makes it a bit more difficult, too. Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, who has served on the NCAA hockey tournament committee, had his own ideas of how this weekend should have played out.
“To me, with Easter weekend, we should have all four regions Friday-Saturday,” Pecknold said. “We probably shouldn’t worry too much about the TV, but that’s where it is.”
The East final will start 6:30 p.m. Sunday. That is earlier than last year’s Northeast Regional final, which was an 8 p.m. start. The Midwest final starts at 4 p.m.
“Nobody was a huge fan of hosting Easter weekend,” Bedics said. “Normally, when it’s not Easter, it’s not that big a deal. The one thing we worked out with ESPN is to move up the start times on Sunday.”
ALBER ON UNION
Boston College senior defenseman and Clifton Park native Patch Alber is very excited about facing Union for the first time in tonight’s semifinal.
“I was an RPI fan growing up,” Alber said. “My dad had season tickets all the way through since I was in diapers. I grew up watching Union, looking at the scores. I got to know a couple of the players, so that was exciting. I played for sectional titles there [at Messa Rink] for Shen, so I have some really good memories there.”
Alber missed two months of the season because a torn meniscus. He returned for the Hockey East tournament quarterfinals against Vermont on March 15.
PRACTICE AT BROWN
Union left campus Thursday for Providence, and the Dutchmen held a practice in the late afternoon at Brown’s Meehan Auditorium.
It was ironic because the Dutchmen earned their trip to the NCAAs by beating Brown, 3-1, in last Saturday’s ECAC Hockey tournament championship game.
“I’d just like to thank their athletic director Jack Hayes,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “[He] did a great job. [He] reached out, showed a lot of class this past week and asked if we needed anything. I guess we did, we needed ice time, so we appreciate that and, obviously, it was a little odd going there after last weekend. But it shows what a first-class person he is.”