Posted by: Feldman
We haven't had much time to talk college hockey on here this season, thanks to a 12-pound 3-month-old who clearly doesn't think I should work at home, and a 5-year-old with a much more active social life than me or Mrs. Feldy.
But, with the high school season having wrapped up, we can talk some college hockey now and through the national tournament. Let's get right to it:
* Huge news came Friday for former Austin High standout defenseman Tim Kirby, who was named one of the top 10 Hobey Baker finalists this week. Kirby, a senior at Air Force, is the third Falcons player to be honored as a top-10 finalist since 2007 (Eric Ehn, 2007; Jacques Lamoureux, 2009). Kirby, of course, is coached by former Rochester Mustangs head coach (and quote machine) Frank Serratore.
KIrby has 12 goals and 27 points in 36 games. His 12 goals are third-most by a defenseman in the country. He ranks ninth in school history in points by a defenseman (87) and holds the AFA record for most career games played (152). He's never missed a game in his four seasons.
The top-10 list will be cut down to three names (the Hobey Hat Trick finalists) on March 29. The Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced on April 6 in Tampa, Fla., the day before the national championship game. You can find bios of all 10 finalists here.
Kirby had an assist on the game-winning goal Saturday as AFA topped Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology, 4-0, in the Atlantic Hockey championship game. That victory gives the Falcons an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday. It appears that the Falcons will likely be sent to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., where they will face top-ranked and No. 1 overall seed Boston College.
* There's a good chance that Western Michigan ends up in the West Regional, at the Xcel Energy Center, as the No. 4 seed in that region. The Broncos beat Michigan for the CCHA postseason championship on Saturday, earning an automatic bid into the national tourney.
The Broncos are coached by longtime NHL coach Andy Murray, and Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler is an assistant coach for WMU.
* We could have a meeting of two former Rochester Mayo players out east as USCHO.com is projecting Maine and Minnesota-Duluth to meet in the first round. Defenseman Bill Norman, a 2011 Mayo grad, is a freshman at Maine, though he hasn't played in a game this season. UMD's head equipment manager is 1997 Mayo grad Chris Garner, who is in his fourth season with the Bulldogs.
* The Gophers are in the tournament for the first time since Alex Kangas was a freshman (2007-08), and as the site host, they're locked into playing in the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday-Sunday, most likely as the region's No. 2 seed. By the time you're reading this, we'll probably know the other teams who have been slotted into that regional (the tournament selection show will air at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU), but it sounds like there's a good chance that North Dakota will end up back at The X for a second consecutive weekend.
Either North Dakota or Michigan is expected to the be the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. The question that the selection committee faces, though, is this: Do they hold up what's referred to as "bracket integrity" (send the No. 1 seeds as close to their homes as possible?) or do they consider attendance issues? If it's the latter, then Michigan will come to The X and UND will head to Green Bay and the Midwest Regional.
From the NCAA's point of view, the Gophers will carry the West Regional, attendance-wise. Sending UND to St. Paul would guarantee a sellout crowd, but it might also guarantee a a lot of empty seats in the Resch Center in Green Bay (with Michigan, Ferris State, Denver and Cornell the likely teams to land in that region).
Either way, if the Gophers get past their first game (quite possibly against Boston U.), they'll be staring down a big rival in the regional final -- UND or Michigan.