For college hockey fans, this is the most wonderful time of year. Before the 16-team NCAA tournament field set to be revealed on Sunday night (7 p.m. on ESPNU), at least one New England team will be playing among the final four teams in each of the three conferences centered in the region.
While Hockey East once again takes center stage at Boston’s TD Garden, Harvard and Brown will both battle it out for spots in the ECAC title game at Lake Placid, N.Y., while American International is the top seed in Atlantic Hockey’s field playing in Buffalo for the first time ever.
The Hockey East field includes all three Beanpot teams for the second consecutive year, but UMass joins that group at the Garden for the first time since 2007 and will be playing as the No. 1 seed. The Minutemen and Northeastern are sure of their NCAA fate, but Boston College and Boston University will need to post back-to-back wins in order to extend their seasons for another weekend.
Brown punched its first ticket to Lake Placid since 2013 with an impressive sweep of Quinnipiac, while Harvard is back among the ECAC’s final four for the fifth straight year. AIC has been one of college hockey’s top stories this season and enters Harborcenter after winning its first-ever Atlantic Hockey regular-season title.