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Hockey: Conference sends four teams into the tournament

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, March 25, 2009

With four CCHA teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame and its conference mates are one of the most dangerous groups in this year’s postseason.

Ohio State and Miami both received No. 4 seeds despite failing to make the semifinals of the conference tournament. Both of them have wins over Notre Dame and Michigan this year. If not for their early exits in the CCHA playoffs they most likely would have received a better draw. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said they will be a tough challenge for any No. 1 seed.

“I think Boston University is going to have their hands full against Ohio State and we know what Miami can do. We saw that first hand in the beginning of the year,” Jackson said.

Miami swept the Irish at home back in October, and the RedHawks are the only team in the country to beat Notre Dame more than once.

Notre Dame and Michigan, which met in Saturday’s CCHA Championship game, were both given No. 1 seeds. Michigan is playing out of the Bridgeport, Conn. bracket, and Notre Dame is staying close to home in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Neither of those teams will have to face off against the tough CCHA No. 4 seeds because the NCAA rules prevent a team from playing someone in its own conference in the first round.

Each team is in separate brackets, giving the opportunity for an all-CCHA Frozen Four.

“As much as I don’t want to have to play Michigan again, I’d like to see them get to the Frozen Four,” Jackson said. “I’d love to see Miami take a shot at it and Ohio State. But it would be tough to do that because there are a lot of good teams all over the country.”

The Irish received the second overall ranking behind only Boston University. Despite the fact that the Irish had the No. 1 ranking and a higher winning percentage, the Terriers were able to edge Notre Dame because its PairWise Ranking was one point higher. The PairWise rates teams based on common opponents, wins over ranked teams, head-to-head record and the RPI. Boston University won its only game against Michigan this season, and its winning percentage (1.000) against the Wolverines tops Notre Dame’s (.667), which most likely gave them the edge.

Both teams had plenty of chances to take on top competition as the Hockey East – the Terriers’ conference – is the only other conference with four teams in the tournament. Notre Dame is looking forward to the chance to prove itself against the strong Hockey East teams.

“Any time you get the chance to showcase your team and your conference’s skill against other conferences you really want to do well and let people know you’re one of the better, if not the best, in the country,” Irish senior Christian Hanson said.

All of the Notre Dame players are looking forward to seeing their conference do well in the tournament.

“I think even if there was a situation where we didn’t make the tournament we would still be rooting for the other CCHA teams,” sophomore Ben Ryan said.

The Irish have a lot of pride in their conference. That was never more evident than last weekend when they won the CCHA’s Mason Cup.

“We put a lot of pride in the trophy,” Hanson said. “It was a big deal to win it and we’re not going to let anyone take it from us. We’re protecting it.”