Allentown preview: Pair of Big Ten foes, Michigan Tech and Colgate set to battle for trip to Tampa
From Michigan's fantastic Fantilli to Colgate's March magic, here's what you need to know and what to watch for this weekend at the Allentown Regional
With the NCAA men's hockey turnament getting underway Thursday afternoon, The Rink Live will have coverage from all four regionals throughout the weekend.
Here's what you need to know for the Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Michigan will be the No. 1 seed in Allentown and the Wolverines are the No. 3 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Penn State (2), Michigan Tech (3) and Colgate (4) round out the field in the Allentown Regional.
What’s at stake?
Four teams will look to keep their season alive in eastern Pennsylvania. The Allentown Regional is one of four that will take place, joining Bridgeport, Fargo and Manchester.
Penn State and Michigan Tech will get the action started Friday, followed by Michigan and Colgate. The two winners will advance to the championship game Sunday at 5:30 p.m. CDT.
No. 1 seed Michigan takes on Colgate on Friday (March 24) at 8:30 p.m., on ESPNU at the Allentown Regional— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 20, 2023
Tickets >> https://t.co/4JI4iap7Qs#GoBlue pic.twitter.com/sw3FXRSJ3F
Sunday night’s winner will head to the Frozen Four and compete for a national championship April 6-8 in Tampa, Fla.
When are the games?
Three games will be played in Allentown this weekend, two on Friday (March 24) and one on Sunday (March 26).
Penn State vs. Michigan Tech, 4 p.m. ESPNU
Michigan vs. Colgate, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU
TBD vs. TBD, 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Where are they played?
The PPL Center is located in downtown Allentown and holds more than 8,500 fans for hockey. The arena, which opened in September of 2014, is home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.
This is the second consecutive season and the fourth time (2018, 2019, 2022, 2023) Allentown has been one of the four host cities.
Penn State will host this weekend’s regional and again in 2025. Allentown (pop. roughly 126,000) is just under three hours from Penn State’s campus.
How they got here
Michigan defeated No. 1 Minnesota last Saturday night, earning its second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title and an auto bid to the big dance. The Wolverines are a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and fifth time in program history.
Michigan has been ranked in the top 10 all season and Brandon Naurato’s lineup is littered with NHL picks and talent, starting with freshman phenom and Hobey Baker finalist Adam Fantilli.
The 2023 Hobey Baker Award, hydrated by @BioSteelSports, is here! Next up in our player profiles of the Top Ten Finalists is @umichhockey Forward Adam Fantilli. Cast your vote at https://t.co/qcClg3SaqA 🗳️@NCAAIceHockey #CollegeHockey pic.twitter.com/887hHiazKe— Hobey Baker Award (@HobeyBakerAward) March 20, 2023
Michigan's offense is averaging an NCAA-leading 4.1 goals per game. The Wolverines are 55-31 all-time in the tournament and this weekend will be their 40th all-time appearance, tied with Minnesota for the most in the country.
The Nittany Lions are back in the dance for the first time since 2018, when they also hosted a regional in Allentown. Penn State finished the season eighth in the pairwise after racking up nine victories against ranked opponents.
Despite a third-place finish in the Big Ten and a 4-10-1 showing in the second half, Guy Gadowsky's club reached the 20-win mark for the fifth time in program history.
Penn State will be making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in its 11-year history, all of which have come in the past seven seasons. The Nittany Lions are 1-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games but will look to improve to .500 Friday evening against Michigan Tech.
"We have to play fast," Gadowsky said. "For us specifically, and this is where the program has been for a long time, is that we have to play with a lot of passion. We have to play with a lot of energy and instinct."
THE MATCH-UP IS SET ‼️— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) March 19, 2023
Penn State secures its third NCAA Tournament berth in the past seven years earning the No. 2 seed in Allentown and will battle third-seeded @mtuhky at the @PPLCenter on Friday, March 24 at 5 p.m.#WeAre #HockeyValley
🎟️ https://t.co/kXQ0EdAN0N pic.twitter.com/a9nYdTbr02
Speaking of Michigan Tech, the Huskies are also making their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Michigan Tech also went to Loveland as a No. 3 seed last March but was knocked out by Minnesota Duluth in the first game.
"I think our guys are ready to go," head coach Joe Shawhan said. "It means a lot when it’s not a first-time thing. Our guys played in it last year and they’re probably going to another one in their time here as well.
"I sense more of a calmness. Last year, I think they were a little bit more nervous. Those guys got a lot of minutes last year, so I think we’re in a better position right now."
The Huskies have been one of the nation’s most consistent teams this season and have coupled strong defensive play with Hobey Baker finalist Blake Pietila between the pipes. Pietila ranks fifth in the country in GAA (1.99), is tied for third in save percentage (.929) and was named the CCHA Player of the Year.
Blake Pietila is the CCHA Player of the Year. #mtuhky #FollowTheHuskies— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) March 16, 2023
• Mike Richter Award top 3 finalist
• Hobey Baker Award top 10 finalist
• CCHA Player of the Year
• CCHA Goaltender of the Year
• All-CCHA First Team
📝 https://t.co/xk12kPQKeD pic.twitter.com/oGiCGS49ym
Freshman forward Kyle Kukkonen was named the CCHA Rookie of the Year while Shawhan took home the CCHA Coach of the Year Award.
Michigan Tech finished second in the CCHA standings and is the No. 10 team in the pairwise. It’ll be the 15th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and the fifth in the last nine years.
However, Michigan Tech hasn’t won a tournament game since 1981. The Huskies are 9-9 all-time in tournament play.
Colgate won its first conference tournament since 1990 last Saturday night with a 3-2 win over Harvard. The Raiders entered the ECAC Tournament as the No. 5 seed and went on quite the run, winning five straight games and securing an auto bid.
Colgate’s run included a thrilling double overtime win in the ECAC semifinals over Quinnipiac, who is the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Don Vaughan’s club then followed it up with another upset win over Harvard.
"Probably no one is happier to be here than me," Vaughan said. "It's been a long time coming for us to win a championship. Last weekend was an emotional time for all of us.
"Something I'll never forget is just the pure joy and excitement of our guys after winning that game against a really good team. So, we're thrilled to be here."
This will be Colgate’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and in its first since 2014. Vaughan, who has been at the helm for 30 years, leads a team into Allentown that is unbeaten in the month of March.
They’ve done it with strong defense and stellar play from goaltender Carter Gylander. Gylander has won his last six starts.
Your Most Outstanding Player is Carter Gylander!— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) March 19, 2023
2023 All-Tournament Team
G - Carter Gylander, @ColgateMIH
D - Henry Thrun, @HarvardMHockey
D - Zach Metsa, @QU_MIH
F - Ross Mitton, @ColgateMIH
F - Alex Young, @ColgateMIH
F - Alex Laferriere, @HarvardMHockey #ECACHockey pic.twitter.com/rFpSMGUTUb