The chase for TD Garden is officially on.
The field for the NCAA men's hockey tournament has been made official, and 16 dreams are looking to be fulfilled in the Frozen Four on April 9 and 11 in Boston. The top four seeds, in order, are Minnesota State Mankato, North Dakota, Boston University and Miami (Ohio), but nothing ever seems to go to script in this pursuit of the hardware on the frozen pond. What will happen? Who do we watch? What are the quirks about this field of 16? Let's answer a few of those questions here.
1. Once again, no repeats
For the 10th consecutive year we are assured of no repeat national champion. Last season's title winner, Union College, finished 19-18-2 and at No. 28 in the Pairwise Rankings and will sit home for this season's tournament. Beyond the Dutchmen, the other three of last season's final four teams -- Minnesota, North Dakota and Boston College -- are back in the field of 16. The last time there was a repeat national champion was Denver, which won in 2004 and 2005.
2. NCHC party
This season's 16-team field features six teams from the NCHC, led by No. 2 overall seed North Dakota, which is making its 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance. That is the longest active tournament streak. St. Cloud State joins UND in the West Regional in Fargo, North Dakota. Also, No. 4 overall seed Miami will also have NCHC rival Denver in the East Regional in Providence, Rhode Island. Minnesota-Duluth will see familiar foe Minnesota in a first-round game in Manchester, New Hampshire. The final NCHC representative, Nebraska-Omaha, will play in the Midwest Regional in South Bend, Indiana.
3. Toughest regional: Northeast
The field in Manchester features three of the top 10 teams in the Pairwise. But more importantly Minnesota, the preseason No. 1 team, has found its stride, having won 11 of its past 14 games, including breezing through the Big Ten tournament. But the Gophers also lost three out of four regular-season games to first-round opponent Minnesota-Duluth.
And is there anyone out there hotter than top seed Boston University? Not sure anyone wants to play Jack Eichel & Co.
4. Easiest road to the Frozen Four: Minnesota State
The Mavericks are the No. 1 overall seed, so it stands to reason they get a little preferential treatment here, right? They get Atlantic Hockey champion RIT in the first-round matchup then face either Omaha or Harvard in Round 2. Not that either one will be a pushover, but both teams have had their cold spells down the stretch. Omaha has won only twice since the start of February (though it did win a pair of shootouts against Minnesota-Duluth). Harvard suffered a 3-9-1 slide midseason but has righted the ship lately, finishing the season winning seven of its last eight.
The other good thing Minnesota State has going for it? Unlike the other three regionals, there will be no "home team" in South Bend.
5. Upset alert: Miami (Ohio)
The Redhawks have multiple things going against them heading into their opening game on Saturday. First off, as the No. 4 overall seed, they were given the toughest opponent of any of the top four. And that is by leaps and bounds, too. The Redhawks are the only team in the field that will have to play a true road game as they'll travel to Providence to play the Providence Friars and hot goaltender Jon Gillies. The other factor working against them is that NCHC tournament MVP Blake Coleman has been suspended for one game after he got his third game misconduct penalty in the NCHC finals.
6. Play it again, Sam
Lots of rematches and familiar faces going into this season's NCAA tournament. As mentioned above, former WCHA rivals Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth have already played four times this season. Denver and Boston College split a pair of close games back on Halloween weekend and will face off in Round 1 in Providence. And there are lots of potential second-round rematches, particularly with all the NCHC teams in the field. North Dakota-St. Cloud State and Miami-Denver are both second-round possibilities between teams that have faced off five times this season. If Providence pulls the upset of Miami, the Friars could face off with Boston College, with which they have split a pair of games as Hockey East opponents.
7. Non-No. 1 Seed to Watch: Minnesota
If any national power has underachieved this season, it's the Gophers. But as mentioned above, they have gotten hot down the stretch, and if their sizable amount of talent can keep it together and play as a unit, the Gophers could lift the hardware once again.
8. The most painful weekends: Bowling Green and UMass-Lowell
Nobody had a worse weekend than Bowling Green, which sat at a fairly confident No. 12 spot in the rankings a week ago but lost to a very good Michigan Tech squad 5-2 on Friday. By Saturday night, the Falcons knew their Pairwise ranking had plummeted to No. 16 and off the board for the Big Dance. The UMass-Lowell River Hawks were in a very similar boat, entering the weekend right at No. 16 in the Pairwise and even made it to the Hockey East title game before losing to BU 5-3. That loss helped push their ranking down to No. 17 in the end.
9. Star power
Seven of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award are still alive and will play this coming weekend, led by freshman extraordinaire Jack Eichel of Boston University at the Northeast Regional in Manchester. An intriguing possible second-round matchup could come to fruition if North Dakota and Michigan Tech advance in the West Regional. If that happens, we'll see Tech forward Tanner Kero take aim at UND goalie Zane McIntyre. The other finalists in the field are RIT center Matt Garbowsky, Denver defenseman Joey LaLeggia, Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly and Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey.
10. Drop the puck already
Be sure to call in sick for work on Friday as the action gets underway at the Northeast Regional, where BU and Yale will drop the puck at 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com, followed by Michigan Tech and St. Cloud State in the West at 4:30 on ESPN3.