Niagara Gazette — The Niagara hockey team was awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament on Sunday when the selection committee released the field of 16 teams.
The No. 3-seed Purple Eagles will face No. 2 North Dakota in the west regional at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Val Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. The game will be aired live on ESPNU.
"To be recognized by college hockey for a great season, and invite us to the NCAA Tournament is very special," head coach David Burkholder said. "The players have worked so hard for this opportunity and that is what makes it so rewarding."
This is the program’s second-ever at-large bid into the national tournament, and it is the program’s fourth trip to the postseason. NU earned automatic spots in 2004 and 2008 as a part of College Hockey America after winning the conference tournament, while the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament came in 2000 as an at-large bid. Niagara becomes the first Atlantic Hockey team to earn an at-large bid since the conference’s inception in 2003.
"To be playing a program like North Dakota that has so much history is going to be a huge challenge that I know our players, and our entire university community will embrace," added Burkholder.
Niagara, ranked No. 14 in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and No. 15 in the USCHO.com poll, finished the regular season with a 23-9-5 overall record, and a 20-5-2 Atlantic Hockey mark which earned the Purps its first AHA regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. After sweeping the eighth-seeded RIT Tigers in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament, Niagara lost in the semifinals to seventh-seeded Canisius, 5-3 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.