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MADISON - Wisconsin’s improbable run continues.
On a quest for the school’s seventh national championship, Wisconsin was seeded in the Northeast Region of the 16-team tournament field and will face the region’s number one seed and the tournament number three overall seed – UMass-Lowell – in Manchester, NH.
The game will be Friday at 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPN3. Denver (20-11-5) faces New Hampshire (19-11-7) in the other semifinal, at 7:30 p.m.
The semifinal winners meet Saturday for a berth in the Frozen Four, set for April 11 and 13 in Pittsburgh.
“We get to play another weekend,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “It didn’t look like that at the beginning of the season… At the beginning of December, we were just trying to win a hockey game.”
No.14 Wisconsin (22-12-7) earned the right to play in its 25th NCAA tournament (24th officially) by beating Colorado College, 3-2, Saturday night to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championship for the first time since 1998.
Faltering on their way to a 1-7-2 start to the 2012-13 campaign, the Badgers battled back to go 21-5-5 the rest of the way amidst the adversity of losing streaks, injuries, line changes and coaching changes.
“Within those first 10 games we could’ve fallen right apart,” Eaves said. “I think because of the leadership of some of our older guys and the coaches working together and staying with it, we eventually turned the ship around.”
The River Hawks (26-10-2, 16-9-2 WCHA) won the regular season and Hockey East tournament championship to tie a school Division-1 record for wins. Tournament MVP Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves in the 1-0 championship shutout over Boston University to claim the school’s first tournament championship. He improved his record to 18-2-0 and enters the NCAA tournament with a save percentage of .949 and a goals-against average of 1.39.
It was the first time in nine seasons Boston University or Boston College didn’t win the Hockey East title.
Winning three division 2 national championships in 1979, 1981 and 1982, UMass-Lowell is making its fifth division 1 tournament appearance since 1988 and second straight. The River Hawks have never advanced to the Frozen Four.
Wisconsin is 7-1-1 all-time against UMass-Lowell when the programs met four consecutive seasons between 1984 and 1988. UW last met the River Hawks March 19-20 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, which was then a two-game, total-goal series. UW won 7-1 the first night and tied 4-4 the next.