RedHawks take NCAA hockey top seed

Miami (Ohio) came thisclose to capturing its first NCAA hockey championship last April at the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. But the RedHawks couldn't hold on to a 3-1 lead in the final minute of the third period and lost in overtime and in heartbreak fashion to Boston University.

Enrico Blasi's club responded this season with the nation's most consistent performance and now Miami (27-7-7) has a chance to make another run at next month's Frozen Four and an elusive national title. This will mark the RedHawks' fifth consecutive and eighth overall NCAA appearance.

When the pairings for the 2010 NCAA men's hockey tournament were announced on ESPN2 Sunday morning, the No. 1 seeds went to -- in order -- Miami (Midwest), Denver (East), Wisconsin (West) and Boston College (Northeast).

The automatic bids for this year's tournament went to the conference champions from Atlantic Hockey (Rochester Institute of Technology), College Hockey America (Alabama-Huntsville), CCHA (Michigan), ECAC (Cornell), Hockey East (Boston College) and the WCHA (North Dakota). Only RIT doubled as a regular-season champion.

The 10 at-large bids went to Alaska, Bemidji State, Denver, Miami, New Hampshire, Northern Michigan, St. Cloud State, Vermont, Wisconsin and Yale.

Defending champion Boston University (18-17-3), which lost to Maine in the Hockey East semifinals, failed to qualify for the tournament, while Alaska and RIT will be making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearances.

Michigan, which needed the CCHA automatic bid to qualify for the tournament, will be making its 20th consecutive NCAA appearance. That's the longest active streak and the Wolverines now pass Minnesota for most overall tournament appearances with 33. Michigan also has won the most NCAA championships with nine, but Red Berenson's team hasn't won a title since 1998.

The Wolverines beat Miami 5-2 on Friday night in the CCHA semifinals in Detroit.

A pair of consecutive appearance streaks was kept alive when UNH (9) and North Dakota (8) qualified for the field of 16.

Regional play begins Friday and Saturday in Albany, N.Y. (East Regional), St. Paul, Minn. (West), Worcester, Mass. (Northeast) and Fort Wayne, Ind. (Midwest). The Frozen Four will be played at Detroit's Ford Field on April 8 (ESPN2 HD) and 10 (ESPN HD).

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

Miami and Denver are tied for the most wins nationally with 27 but the RedHawks have the fewest losses (7) entering the NCAA tourney. For the RedHawks to advance to their second consecutive Frozen Four they will need to beat Alabama-Huntsville (the only team in the field with a losing record) and then the winner of Bemidji State-Michigan. Bemidji State is also trying to advance to a second consecutive Frozen Four.

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