Bulldogs take NCAA hockey top seed

Yale, North Dakota, Boston College and Miami were awarded No. 1 seeds for the 2011 NCAA men's hockey tournament, as the seedings were announced Sunday morning on ESPN2.

The automatic bids for this year's tournament went to the conference tournament champions from Atlantic Hockey (Air Force), CCHA (Miami), ECAC (Yale), Hockey East (Boston College) and the WCHA (North Dakota). Boston College and North Dakota doubled as regular-season champions.

The 11 at-large bids went to Colorado College, Denver, Merrimack, Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, New Hampshire, Notre Dame, Rensselaer, Union and Western Michigan.

Defending champion Boston College (30-7-1), which beat Merrimack for the Hockey East title on Saturday night, is the No. 1 seed in the West region and will try to become the first repeat national champion since Denver in 2004-05.

"We need continued improvement from our team and we have a whole week to prepare. And we have [sophomore forward] Chris Kreider coming back [from a broken jaw]. He's a dynamic player who adds a lot to our team," Boston College coach Jerry York told ESPNBoston.com after winning Hockey East on Saturday night. "We didn't lose a lot of players to the NHL. We lost a good senior class, but we had a number of very good players come back to try to win another championship."

Yale is the top seed in the East region and the No. 1 overall seed, while North Dakota is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region and Miami is the top seed in the Northeast region.

Michigan, which won the CCHA regular-season title, will be making its 21st consecutive NCAA appearance. That's the longest active streak and the Wolverines also own the most overall tournament appearances with 34. Michigan has won the most NCAA championships with nine, but Red Berenson's team hasn't won a title since 1998.

Union (26-9-4) will be making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, while Merrimack (1988), Rensselaer (1995) and Western Michigan (1996) are in the national tournament for the first time in at least 15 seasons.

A pair of consecutive appearance streaks were kept alive when UNH and North Dakota qualified for the field of 16 for the 10th and ninth straight seasons, respectively.

Regional play begins Friday and Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. (East Regional), St. Louis, Mo. (West), Manchester, N.H. (Northeast) and Green Bay, Wis. (Midwest). The Frozen Four will be played at the Xcel Energy Center on April 7 (ESPN2HD/ESPN3.com) and 9 (ESPNHD/ESPN3.com).

The conference breakdown for the tournament has five teams from the WCHA, four from CCHA, three from ECAC and Hockey East and one from Atlantic Hockey.

Boston College and North Dakota are tied for the most wins nationally with 30 but Yale has the fewest losses (6) entering the NCAA tourney. For the Eagles to defend their title and bring a fifth trophy back to Boston, they will first need to beat Colorado College and then the winner of Nebraska-Omaha vs. Michigan to advance to the Frozen Four. From there BC would face the winner of the Midwest Regional in a national semifinal.

"Our players have shown that they're able to handle the big stage and the bright lights, winning Beanpots and Hockey East titles," York said. "Our kids are accustomed to this atmosphere. But with the experience, they also have a hunger. They want to keep winning."

David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at espncaa@gmail.com.