Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals

College hockey: 2014 NCAA tournament field set


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.

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.