Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals

College hockey: 2014 NCAA tournament field set

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We know you’re busy with the NCAA basketball tournament and have probably set your brackets ablaze by now, but fear not there’s a chance for redemption with hockey.

The NCAA announced the 16-team field for this season’s tournament and after a season that saw new conferences come into play, there are more than a few familiar faces in the field this year.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers head into the tournament as the No. 1 team and will be the top seed in the West Region. They are followed by fellow regional top seeds Boston College (Northeast), Union College (East), and Wisconsin (Midwest).

Here’s how the brackets break down for the right to play for the national championship at the Frozen Four in Philadelphia on April 10 and 12.

Northeast Regional – Worcester, MA (March 29-30)

1. Boston College vs. 4. Denver
2. UMass-Lowell vs. 3. Minnesota State

Notes: Boston College features Hockey East player of the year and Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau. Denver won the NCHC Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAAs. UMass-Lowell did the same winning the Hockey East tournament. Minnesota State took home the WCHA tournament title after playing strong all season.

East Regional – Bridgeport, CT (March 28-29)

1. Union College vs. 4. Vermont
2. Providence vs. 3. Quinnipiac

Notes: Union was the ECAC regular season and tournament champion. Providence had a strong season before losing in the Hockey East semifinals. Quinnipiac lost in the national championship game to Yale last season and had another strong campaign this season. Vermont had a surprisingly strong season in Hockey East.

Midwest Regional – Cincinnati, OH (March 28-29)

1. Wisconsin vs. 4. North Dakota
2. Ferris State vs. 3. Colgate

Notes: Wisconsin won the Big Ten tournament title and by doing so helped North Dakota get into the NCAA tournament. Ferris State lost to Minnesota State in the WCHA Final. Those two were the top teams in that conference all season. Colgate powered their way into the ECAC Final against Union capping off a strong season for the Raiders.

West Regional – St. Paul, MN (March 29-30)

1. Minnesota vs. 4. Robert Morris
2. Notre Dame vs. 3.St. Cloud State

Notes: Minnesota is the top team in the country and they’ll face a Robert Morris team making their first trip to the NCAAs. Amazingly, the Colonials started the season 2-12-2 and rallied to make it to the big dance. Notre Dame bowed out in the Hockey East semifinals losing to Lowell while St. Cloud comes in well rested after losing to Miami in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.