Gophers fail to make NCAA Tournament after six games go against them

Princeton, Boston University, Air Force, Michigan Tech, Notre Dame and Denver all won their games on Saturday, pushing the Gophers out of the tournament.

Gophers players rotate on and off the ice during a game at 3M at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 16.

Easton Green, Daily File Photo

Gophers players rotate on and off the ice during a game at 3M at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 16.

Drew Cove

Minnesota came into Saturday looking to see if it would fall into a three or four seed at the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, the Gophers were left empty-handed.

Minnesota was kept out of the NCAA Tournament after six games across the NCAA on Saturday all went against what would’ve kept the Gophers’ season alive.

The only scenario in which the Gophers wouldn’t make the tournament was if six teams — Princeton, Boston University, Air Force, Michigan Tech, Notre Dame and Denver — all won their games on Saturday, and that’s what happened. If just one of those teams had lost, the Gophers would’ve been in the NCAA Tournament.

One by one, each of the results went against the Gophers and now they won’t see the ice until October.

Head coach Don Lucia — the team’s coach since 1999 — will enter the final year of the contract extension he signed in 2016. The Gophers will not raise a regular-season conference championship banner at the start of next season for the first time since 2011.

Minnesota hadn’t played since getting swept in the Big Ten quarterfinals on March 3. In order for the Gophers to make the NCAA Tournament, they would have to get in with an at-large bid. Up until Saturday night, that looked promising for them.

Due to the six victories, the Gophers missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. The team finished the year 19-17-2. 

Late on Saturday evening, four of the six games had already gone against Minnesota’s bid, with Boston University, Princeton, Michigan Tech and Air Force all winning their conference tournament. Three of those four teams were outside of the top-16 in the PairWise ranking, which helps determine what teams make it to the NCAA Tournament.

The last hope Minnesota had to get in was to see conference rival Ohio State win the Big Ten tournament over Notre Dame. The game went to overtime and Notre Dame prevailed.

Minnesota’s seniors Jack Glover, Steve Johnson, Leon Bristedt, Mike Szmatula and Nick Lehr won’t see another game for the Gophers. Freshman Casey Mittelstadt, the 2017 Buffalo Sabres’ first-round pick, could leave early for the NHL.

Minnesota-Duluth finished just 0.0001 over the Gophers in RPI points, which ended up being the slim difference between going to the tournament or staying home.

After his team lost their fourth straight to Penn State in the Big Ten quarterfinals, Lucia was still optimistic about the team’s postseason chances.

“Unless there’s a bunch of upsets, we still should get in [to the NCAA Tournament],” Lucia said on March 3. “We’ve left it into somebody else’s hands, not our own.”