ASN’s Elite Eight: North Dakota slides into top spot

Ice hockey under the lights

The quarterfinals of conference hockey tournaments rarely go as planned, as evidenced by Quinnipiac, Boston College and Robert Morris. All No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences and each needing victories in decisive Game 3s on Sunday to advance to this weekend’s semifinals.

Some regular-season powerhouses — namely Yale and Notre Dame — were swept out by Saturday and now have to wait to see if they’ll earn at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

The guess here is both will. As should Boston University, which was swept by UMass Lowell.

Nebraska Omaha, a one-time fixture in the ASN Elite Eight, dropped its final eight games to fall to 18-17-1 and is done.

On the flipside, North Dakota moves into the top spot after ripping through Colorado College by a combined 12-2 score. They’re also No. 1 in PairWise and took over No. 1 in both national rankings this week.

St. Cloud State and Providence also earned sweeps. Maybe the biggest surprise of our Elite Eight ranking is Northeastern slipping in for the final spot despite a No. 14 PairWise ranking.

It’s simple: The Huskies have one of the top goalies in the country and are tied for the nation’s longest wining streak. Yale, Michigan and Minnesota Duluth were also considered for the Elite Eight, as was the WCHA’s behemoth Michigan Tech (23-8-5).

In the end, Northeastern’s road sweep at Notre Dame made us believers.

ASN’s Elite Eight

nchc-northdakota1. NORTH DAKOTA

Record: 30-5-3 | Conference: NCHC | Last week: 2

Brad Berry ties legendary coach Gino Gasparini’s school record of 30 wins (1978-79) by a first-year coach with a potential six games remaining.

ecac-quinnipiac 2. QUINNIPIAC

Record: 27-3-7 | Conference: ECAC | Last week: 1

Bo knows scoring, and Pieper’s two goals Sunday keyed the Game 3 win against Cornell, keeping the Bobcats’ hope for a No. 1 seed alive.

Providence College3. PROVIDENCE

Record: 27-5-4 | Conference: Hockey East | Last week: 3

Gave up just one goal in sweep of Merrimack, but injured defenseman Jake Walman out indefinitely tempers enthusiasm.

nchc-stcloudstate4. ST. CLOUD STATE

Record: 29-8-1 | Conference: NCHC | Last week: 5

Struggled to sweep Western Michigan; now comes red-hot Denver to test Huskies’ mettle.

hockeyeast-bostoncollege5. BOSTON COLLEGE

Record: 26-5-5 | Conference: Hockey East | Last week: 4

Superman has kryptonite, the Eagles have Vermont. Home-cooking Sunday staved off a second consecutive tournament ousting by the Catamounts.

nchc-denver6. DENVER

Record: 21-8-5 | Conference: NCHC | Last week: 6

Colin Staub ended the longest game in Magness Arena 8:54 into double OT to sweep Omaha and run DU’s win streak to 11 games, tied for best in the nation.

hockeyeast-uml7. UMASS LOWELL

Record: 23-8-5 | Conference: Hockey East | Last week: 8

Providence beware: River Hawks have won last four semifinal games, including past three seasons. Senior goalie Kevin Boyle now has seven shutouts.

hockeyeast-northeastern8. NORTHEASTERN

Record: 20-13-5 | Conference: Hockey East | Last week: Not ranked

No. 14 PairWise, but sweeping third-seed Notre Dame and an 11-game winning streak makes them the sleeper pick.

DROPPING OUT: Yale (19-8-4), stymied by a hot goalie and swept by Dartmouth, the ECAC’s No. 2 seed is now in wait-and-see mode for an at-large bid into NCAA tourney.

Dave Dondoneau

Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu. Follow him on Twitter @DakotaHI.