Robert Morris University served as the host school for last spring’s NCAA Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center, but the Colonials were spectators as Yale earned its first men’s hockey title.
But while last year the NCAA selection committee denied RMU’s bid at an at-large tournament berth, this time around the Colonials barged their way into college hockey’s final 16 by winning the Atlantic Hockey Association’s playoff title – the first NCAA berth in the program’s 10-year history.
RMU clinched the AHA’s automatic bid with a 7-4 win over Canisius on Saturday in Rochester, N.Y., capping a stirring run through the conference tournament. The Colonials (19-17-5, 13-9-5 AHA) topped Army (three games) and UConn (two games) in best-of-three series to reach this weekend’s semifinals, where they survived a late Niagara rally to win 5-4 in overtime.
And so, after going 2-12-2 to start the season and entering the AHA playoffs as the conference’s fifth seed, RMU will make its NCAA tournament debut Saturday against Minnesota, the top team in the country.
The Colonials and Golden Gophers (25-6-6, 14-3-3 Big Ten) will face off from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., with St. Cloud State and Notre Dame joining RMU and Minnesota in the West Regional.
The Colonials were one of six schools to earn automatic berths to the tournament, along with UMass Lowell (Hockey East), Union (ECAC), Wisconsin (Big Ten), Minnesota State (WCHA) and Denver (NCHC). RMU is the lone first-timer in the tournament, as well as the AHA’s only qualifier.
Along with Minnesota, Union (East), Boston College (Northeast) and Wisconsin (Midwest) are top seeds in their respective four-team regions. The other six at-large teams are as follows: Ferris State, Colgate, North Dakota, Quinnipiac and Providence. View the entire bracket here.
It would be an enormous upset if the Colonials were to get past Minnesota in what will essentially be a home game for the Gophers, but all 16 schools in the tourney are just two wins away from making this year’s Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
Getting that far is likely a distant dream for RMU; however, Pittsburgh’s only Division I men’s hockey program has already accomplished much by getting to this point.
Saturday’s game will start at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time; it will be televised on ESPN2.