BC gets No. 1 overall seed

BOSTON -- Boston College hockey coach Jerry York views trophies as the ultimate measure of success. And with the college hockey season down to its final tournament, York's Eagles have put themselves in prime position to compete for the sport's most coveted piece of hardware.

Boston College, along with Michigan, Union and North Dakota, in that order, were awarded No. 1 seeds for the 2012 NCAA men's hockey tournament.

The pairings were announced Sunday on ESPNU.

The automatic bids for this year's tournament went to the conference tournament champions from Atlantic Hockey (Air Force, 21-10-7), CCHA (Western Michigan, 21-13-6), ECAC (Union, 24-7-7), Hockey East (Boston College, 29-10-1) and the WCHA (North Dakota, 25-12-3). Air Force, Boston College and Union doubled as regular-season champions.

The 11 at-large bids went to Boston University (23-14-1), Cornell (18-8-7), Denver (25-13-4), Ferris State (23-11-5), Maine (23-13-3), Miami (24-14-2), Michigan (24-12-4), Michigan State (19-15-4), Minnesota (26-13-1), Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6) and UMass-Lowell (23-12-1).

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

Defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth is the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Region and will try to become the first repeat winner since Denver in 2004-05.

BC, which beat Maine 4-1 on Saturday night to capture the Hockey East tournament title, is the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Region. The Eagles could face the Black Bears again in the regional final if Maine can skate past Minnesota-Duluth in the first round.

The Eagles enter the NCAA tournament on a tear, having won a nation's best 15 consecutive games.

"We always have that picture of a national championship in the background but we look to get better every day," said BC defenseman and Hobey Baker Award finalist Brian Dumoulin. "I feel like that's what we've been doing and why we we've become successful because we all want the same thing as a team -- we all have that similar goal in mind and that's the next game and trying to win that one."

Michigan, which lost to Western Michigan in the CCHA championship game, is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region and will be making its 22nd consecutive NCAA appearance. That's the longest active streak and the Wolverines also own the most overall tournament appearances with 35. Michigan has won the most NCAA championships with nine, but Red Berenson's team hasn't won a title since 1998.

Union enters the national tournament with the fewest losses (7) and is the top seed in the East Region. North Dakota, which kept its consecutive appearances streak alive by qualifying for the NCAA tournament for a 10th straight season, is the No. 1 seed in the West Region.

No school will be making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, but UMass-Lowell is in the national tournament for the first time since 1996 and Ferris State qualified for just the second time in school history and the first since 2003.

Regional play begins Friday and Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. (East Regional), Green Bay, Wis. (Midwest), St. Paul, Minn. (West) and Worcester, Mass (Northeast). The Frozen Four will be played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. on April 5 (ESPNUHD/ESPN2HD/ESPN3) and April 7 (ESPN2HD/ESPN3).

The Northeast and West Region winners will meet in one national semifinal and the East and Midwest Region winners will face off in the other Frozen Four semifinal on April 5.

For Boston College, which has already won the Beanpot and two Hockey East titles this season, it is three trophies down and one to go.

"We understand that each one is more difficult than the preceding one," BC coach York said. "The Beanpot is four schools, the regular season is all 10 of us and then the Lamoriello Cup is the top eight of the 10.

"Now we're looking at the elite of the whole nation and that national crown is something we're always thinking about."

David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com.