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March 24. 2013 12:52AM

Allen Lessels' College Hockey: Minnesota St. could be UNH's opponent in regionals

The waiting game ends a little after 9 tonight.

The NCAA will announce on a Selection Show on ESPNU the who, when and where of the Division I men's hockey tournament that begins on Friday.

The University of New Hampshire, along with 15 other teams, will receive marching orders for the tournament.

The Wildcats will likely pull down a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Northeast Regional and will play in one of two semifinal matches on Friday, perhaps against Minnesota State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The semis are scheduled for 4:30 and 8.

The regional championship is scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

As results came in from various league championship games on Saturday night, it looked more and more as if UNH would land the No. 2 seed and be joined in Manchester by Hockey East rival UMass-Lowell as the No. 1 seed.

UNH and Lowell would only play each other if each won its first-round game.

The River Hawks won their first Hockey East tournament title with a 1-0 triumph over Boston University at the TD Garden and probably ended the season and 40-year career of Terrier coach Jack Parker in the process. BU needed to win the league tournament to clinch a spot in the NCAAs.

What's a few extra hours among friends, said UNH coach Dick Umile of having to wait and wait some more into the night while the Central Collegiate Hockey Association today wraps up what will be the final tournament for the league, which is disbanding after this season.

"We will have been waiting around for a week," Umile said. "A few extra hours are not going to make a difference, I guess."

It became a little easier to be at least somewhat patient earlier last week when the folks who watch these things closely and do all the computer calculations determined that UNH was going to make the NCAA tournament despite losing its Hockey East quarterfinal series, two games to one, at Providence last weekend.

After last weekend, the Wildcats were at No. 8 in the PairWise rankings that mimic the system used by the NCAA to pick teams for the tournament. Five of the 16 spots go to the winners of league tournaments. The other 11 are at-large selections.

UNH owns a 19-11-7 record and was still within the top eight Saturday night and it appears the Wildcats will remain there.

Each of the four Regional sites - Manchester, Providence, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Toledo, Ohio - get a one, two, three and four seed.

Quinnipiac, the No. 1 team overall in the PairWise ratings, will likely play in Providence.

Most signs point to Minnesota State being UNH's opponent in its first-round game on Friday.

The Mavericks are led by freshman goalie Stephon Williams, who has a 1.96 goals against average and .925 save percentage.

Minnesota State stumbled on Thursday night and lost to Wisconsin 7-2, in the WCHA Final Five. They bring a 24-13-3 record into the tournament.

Lowell also won its first Hockey East regular season title this season.

UNH won all three games it played against the River Hawks this year, but the series wrapped up on December 1. The Wildcats climbed to No. 1 in December with a great start and UMass-Lowell came on in the second half of the season.

The Wildcats beat Lowell, 3-0, on the road on Nov. 16 and then won a pair of 5-2 games on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

UNH never faced Lowell freshman goalie Connor Hellebucyk, who led the second half charge. He has a 1.39 goals against average and .949 save percentage and made 36 saves on Saturday night to knock off BU and register his fifth shutout.


alessels@unionleader.com

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