The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament is well underway, with sixteen teams all vying for the National Championship. The first round of games will be played amongst four cities including Providence, RI, Allentown, PA, Fargo, ND, and Manchester, NH. Mixed among those sixteen teams are a slew of players with connections to the North American Hockey League and more importantly, the Austin Bruins. There are ten total Bruins’ alums who have a dog in this years NCAA Tournament fight.
Let’s take a look at the team-by-team breakdown of those competing in the hockey version of the “sweet sixteen” with Bruins ties. For a better look at the entire bracket and teams facing off in this year’s round of sixteen, click here. (In alphabetical order by team)
American International College Yellow Jackets, AHA Champions
The Yellow Jackets from AIC won in overtime to capture this year’s AHA title over Niagara. They finished the season with a 22-16-1 record and ranked 19th in the national polls.
Bruins Connection: Only one connection for the black-and-gold of the Bruins to this black-and-gold of the Yellow Jackets, and that’s forward Jan Stefka. The three year Bruins’ forward played in 18 games during his freshman season scoring his first NCAA goal. They’ll have their work cut out for them as they open the tournament against the top-seed and favorite to win-it-all, St. Cloud State.
Next Tournament Game: Friday, 3/29 vs St. Cloud State – Rd of 16
Clarkson Green Knights, ECAC Champions
After finishing with a record of 26-10-2 and topping the Cornell Big read, the Clarkson Green Knights are your 2018-19 ECAC Champions.
Bruins Connections: Netminder Jake Kielly has been nominated for the Mike Richter Award given out annually to the best collegiate goaltender. Former Bruins forward and current Clarkson captain Nico Sturm has also garnered an award of his own, being named one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy. One other player on the Green Knights roster with Bruins ties is forward John Carter MacLean who’s got seven points in 30 games this season with Clarkson.
Next Tournament Game: Friday, 3/29 vs Notre Dame – Rd of 16
# 3 Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks, WCHA Champions
The Mavericks finished with a 32-7-2 record on the season and toppled Bowling Green for the WCHA title last weekend in miraculous fashion. The Mavericks scored two goals on 48 seconds apart in the final 1:44 of the game and capped off the win in overtime to claim the title.
Bruins Connections: Ian Schied is sixth on the Mavericks in scoring with 25 points on the season. He also ranks second amongst defensemen with that point total. Also manning the blue-line for Minnesota State – Mankato is former Bruin Riese Zmolek. While he didn’t get in any action this season, Jacob Berger is listed as the team’s third goaltender which isn’t out of the ordinary for a freshman. Berger played two games with the Bruins back in 2015-16.
Next Tournament Game: Saturday, 3/30 vs Providence – Rd of 16
The Friars are in a great situation as one of the four host-cities for this season’s round of sixteen also happens to be Providence, RI. What kind of home-ice advantage will they have playing the third-ranked MSU-Mankato team? We’ll find out this weekend.
Bruins Connections: Josh Wilkins in his junior season is one of the leaders on this Providence team. The Raleigh, NC, native has 40 points in 37 contests for the Friars including a career high in goals (16) and assists (24). Also of note, freshman and former Bruin Jake Kucharski is listed as the third goaltender for the Friars. Kucharski hasn’t played in any games this season and isn’t likely to get into play during the tournament.
Next Tournament Game: Saturday, 3/30 vs MSU – Mankato Rd of 16
#2 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, NCHC Champions
The defending NCAA champs are back trying to make it two in a row. The UMD Bulldogs walked away with the NCHC defeating the #1 seed St. Cloud State last weekend.
Bruins Connection: Jade Miller won the title last year with UMD and he hopes to repeat that performance. The junior hasn’t had his most productive season since joining the Bulldogs in 2016-17, but the forward is still collecting points with 10 in 29 games, only three off of his career-high of 13.
Next Tournament Game: Saturday, 3/30 vs Bowling Green- Rd of 16