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College men's hockey: NCAA Division I tournament pairings announced

North Dakota has Wisconsin to thank for its selection Sunday into the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament, and the Grand Forks-based school hopes to express its gratitude by defeating its former Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival in its first tournament game.

North Dakota, based on its 14th-place standing in the final Pairwise Rankings, was the final at-large team chosen for the 16-team tournament by the NCAA selection committee. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season runners-up, who beat Western Michigan in the conference tournament’s third-place game Saturday, only advanced to the NCAAs due to Wisconsin rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third period to defeat Ohio State 5-4 in overtime of Saturday night’s inaugural Big Ten Conference championship game. Since the Badgers already were guaranteed a berth, a Buckeyes win would have taken away one at-large bid.

Wisconsin (24-10-2) and North Dakota (23-13-3) were paired in a Midwest Regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Ferris State and Colgate will play in the first semifinal, with the winners squaring off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Two other NCHC teams earned spots in the field: regular-season champion St. Cloud State (21-10-5) was seeded third in the West Regional and will play No. 2 Notre Dame (23-14-2) in a semifinal at 8 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (top-ranked Minnesota or Robert Morris await in Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. final); and tournament champion Denver (20-15-6) was seeded fourth and faces No. 1 Boston College (26-7-4) in a Northeast Regional semifinal at 3 p.m. Saturday at DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., with the winner advancing to play either WCHA tournament champion Minnesota State-Mankato or Hockey East winner Massachusetts-Lowell at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Four Eastern schools were matched up in the East Regional at Bridgeport, Conn. Top-seeded Union meets No. 4 Vermont at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by No. 2 Quinnipiac’s semifinal vs. No. 3 Providence.