For the first time in three years, Wisconsin is in the NCAA men's hockey tournament. The Badgers were pegged as a three seed in the East Region when the brackets were announced Sunday and will play two-seed Ohio State (26-15-0 overall, 16-12-0 Central Collegiate Hockey Association), Friday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. CST at Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y.
Wisconsin (21-12-8 overall, 14-7-7 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) players and coaches watched the televised tournament selection announcement from the Kohl Center.
"There was unbridled enthusiasm when we found out," head coach Mike Eaves said. "They were truly just like a kid coming downstairs and seeing a Christmas tree right away."
"You could feel the energy in the room just as we were sitting there and we saw Wisconsin up there on the screen," defenseman Andy Wozniewski said. "That is just a great feeling."
"Us guys who have been there are really going to have to take the young guys aside and let them know what its going to be all about," Boeser said.
Wisconsin is 1-3-1 in its last five games, but despite the weak finish there was little doubt the team's name would be called Sunday. In the last two weeks of the regular season, Wisconsin never dipped lower than 11th in the PairWise rankings and was in a tie for tenth after the conference tournaments concluded. Sunday, Wisconsin was given the 11th overall seed in the 16-team tournament.
If the four major conference tournaments had been won by teams ranked beneath Wisconsin, there may have been some anxious moments. Boeser, for one, was keenly aware of what was going on around college hockey this weekend.
"I was looking at it all weekend, but I had a good sense for it after Alaska and (Colorado College) lost (in the WCHA Final Five)," he said. "That kind of really put us in there I think. I looked late last night and saw the final PairWise, so (I) had a pretty good idea we were going to get it."
In the end, there were few surprises Sunday. U.S. College Hockey Online's final bracketology projections Sunday morning correctly predicted all 16 teams in the tournament and their final overall seeds. USCHO.com only incorrectly predicted two first round matchups, assuming that the committee would include travel considerations in placing 14th overall seed Harvard and 15th seed Niagara. Instead, the committee stuck more stringently to the bracket, placing Harvard in the East Regional to face overall three seed Maine in round one and matching Niagara against Boston College in the Northeast Regional.
In addition to Wisconsin, four WCHA teams reached the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota (29-7-3) is the No. 1 overall seed and will face 16th-seeded Holy Cross (22-9-4) in the first round of the West Regional Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Colorado Springs, Colo. Minnesota (26-13-3) also earned a No. 1 seed and the fourth overall seed, and was placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Gophers face Notre Dame (20-14-4) in round one Saturday. The two seed in the Midwest and fifth overall seed, Minnesota-Duluth (26-12-4) takes on Michigan State (23-16-2), also on Saturday. Friday in Colorado Springs, Denver (23-12-5), a two seed and the seventh overall seed, takes on Miami (Ohio) (23-13-4).
If the Badgers win Friday, they will play again Saturday at 5 p.m. against the winner of the matchup between Maine (30-7-3) and Harvard (18-14-3).