UMass, AIC preparing for first round of NCAA hockey tournament

Two western Massachusetts schools are in the contention for the championship game, which will be held in Boston.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 2:21 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 5:10 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Plenty of eyes are currently focused on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but closer to home, it’s all about the Division I hockey tournament and trying to reach the Frozen Four.

Two western Massachusetts schools are in the contention for the championship game, which will be held in Boston.

The UMass Minutemen are now on course to potentially defend their title as one of the 16 teams suiting up later this week in the Division 1 championship tournament, but head coach Greg Carvel told Western Mass News that it’s business as usual.

“We got just another game on Friday night. They’re all the same. You win and you move on,” Carvel noted.

Carvel is no stranger to the tournament. His Minutemen will make their third straight appearance when they take the ice at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“I’m glad I don’t have to jump on a plane. I’m guessing it will feel like a home-ice advantage for us. It will be the shortest road trip of the year…pretty damn good for NCAA regionals,” Carvel noted.

AIC Yellow Jackets Head Coach Eric Lang added, “When the weather starts to get warm and you’re still playing hockey, that’s a good thing. That’s the first good sign.”

Lang excited for his team’s tournament opportunity. The Yellow Jackets will also appear for a third straight time, when they hit the ice on Friday in Allentown, PA against a Michigan team that features 12 NHL draft picks.

“In these one game tournaments, in essence that’s what we have here Friday, anything can happen. There hasn’t been a year where a #4-seed hasn’t beaten a #1-seed. A lot of things have to go our way on Friday. We know that,” Lang explained.

If AIC is able to make it out of their regional, Lang said getting to potentially play at the TD Garden in Boston for a championship would be an amazing experience.

“In terms of having to win two hockey games and be in Boston for the Frozen Four, boy, that would be pretty neat for little old AIC,” Lang noted.

Both UMass and AIC will play their opening regional games on Friday. The puck drops for the Yellow Jackets at 3 p.m. against the tournament’s top seed, Michigan. The minutemen will hit the ice at 6 p.m. in Worcester when they take on Minnesota.