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Mark Bedics | | March 14, 2014

Notebook: Fighting to the make the field of 16

Tony Capobianco

With conference tournaments in full swing this weekend and the final weekend of the regular season a week away, teams are playing to work their way into the NCAA Championship field of 16 teams, which will be unveiled March 23 at noon ET on ESPNU.

With 59 teams playing NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey and only 16 berths on the line, every result counts. Each of the winners of the six conferences tournaments (Atlantic Hockey, Big Ten, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East, National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Western Collegiate Hockey Association) will receive automatic bids. The remaining 10 slots will be determined at-large.

With only 27 percent of the competing teams making the NCAA field, earning a berth is difficult and even more difficult is putting together a string of berths in consecutive years. Last season, Michigan failed to make the tournament for the first time since the 1989-90 season, a stretch of 22 straight appearances.

Now that the Wolverines had their streak snapped, the new leader is North Dakota, who has made the tournament the last 11 years back to the 2001-02 season. North Dakota heads into the NCHC tournament this weekend trying to capture a conference crown and the automatic bid that goes with it to ensure bid number 12. If they could make it this year and next they would tie Minnesota for second on the all-time consecutive appearances list. The Golden Gophers appeared in 13 straight NCAA Tournaments from 1985-97.

In fact, only two other times have teams made the NCAA tournament at least 10 consecutive times. New Hampshire (2002-11) and Michigan (1948-57) both made it to an even decade worth of appearances in a row.

With regards to current streaks, Miami (Ohio) and Denver are second and third on the list behind North Dakota. The RedHawks and Pioneers are at eight and six, respectively, but it appears either would have to win the NCHC tournament to extend their streaks.

Currently, Boston College is the only other school with more than two consecutive years into the tournament as they sit on four with a likely fifth coming this year. In addition, the Eagles have had an amazing run in even years over the past decade. They won the 2008, 2010 and 2012 NCAA titles. In 2006 they lost in the championship game. In fact, the last time they didn’t make the Frozen Four in an even year was 2002. In the last seven even years of the championship, Boston College has made the Frozen Four six times with three national titles.

The 2013 champion Yale Bulldogs need some wins in the ECAC Hockey tournament to secure a bid an defend its NCAA title. Boston University is the last team that failed to make the tournament the year following winning the national title when it missed out on the 2010 NCAA tournament.

Crossing the blue line

North Dakota is playing host to Colorado College this weekend in the first round of the conference playoffs for the 12th consecutive season, the longest such streak in the nation. The last time UND was on the road for the first round was in 2001-02, when it was swept by eventual national champion Minnesota in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs. UND is seeking a berth in the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff tournament in Minneapolis after winning 11 playoff titles as a member of the WCHA.

Air Force is 21-5 all-time in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. The Falcons are 11-4 all-time in the AHA Quarterfinals and has won six of seven AHA Quarterfinal series. Last season, AFA fell to Canisius in the AHA Quarterfinals, marking the first time since Air Force joined the AHA in 2006-07 that the Falcons did not reach the AHA semifinals in Rochester. Air Force is one of just two teams in the nation to finish in the top half of its league for eight or more straight seasons. North Dakota is the other.

Canisius senior goalie Tony Capobianco, who already owns four single-season records and is the school’s all-time leader in career goals against average and save percentage, now has 2,870 career saves, surpassing the previous record of 2,829 held by Dan Morrison (2008-12). Capobianco also moved into sole possession of first in school history with eight career shutouts, breaking a tie for the previous stand of six he shared with Bryan Wosoz (2001-05) and Andrew Loewen (2006-10).

Minding the net

Michigan Tech defenseman Cliff Watson finished the regular season with the most blocked shots of any player in the nation. The 6-2, 200-pound freshman had 97 in 38 games (2.6 per game). … Providence is on a four-game winning streak, rebounding from a five-game winless streak. … It has been 1,543 games since Cornell has been shutout in back-to-back contests. The streak dates back December 1963 with games vs. Clarkson and St. Lawrence. … UMass Lowell currently owns a 11-game home win streak (8-0-3), their last lost at the Tsongas Center came on Nov. 9 vs. Northeastern. … Clarkson advanced in the ECAC Hockey Playoffs for the first time in seven years. … Denver has failed to advance past the opening round just twice since 2002 -- a loss at North Dakota in 2003 and a home loss in 2013 vs. Colorado College. … Braden Pimm has 11 special team goals this season for Northeastern (8 PPG, 3 SHG), the most for a Husky since 1993-94. … Vermont’s last four games have all been decided by one goal. They are 3-1 in those games. … Alaska Anchorage is 10-0-0 when leading after the first and 10-0-1 when leading after the 2nd. … This is the first time Minnesota State Mankato has won at least 20 games in back-to-back seasons in school history.

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