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NCHC closes quarterfinal series to the public, including this weekend's series between UMD and Miami at Amsoil Arena

NCHC joins NCAA in announcing postseason attendance restrictions

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The interior of Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minnesota on the evening of Wednesday March 11, 2020. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Update 12:21 p.m. March 12: The NCHC has canceled the entirety of its postseason tournament.

Minnesota Duluth’s best-of-three NCHC quarterfinal series this weekend against Miami at Amsoil Arena will be played without fans due to the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, as will the other three series, the league announced on Wednesday evening.

The second-seeded Bulldogs are scheduled to play the seventh-seeded RedHawks at 7:07 p.m. Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday in Duluth. The games will be closed to the public. Attendance will be restricted to student-athletes, coaches, event and team staff, credentialed media and student-athlete family members.

Because the NCHC Quarterfinal round games are closed to the public, the conference has made the decision to make all streams this weekend free to the public on NCHC.tv .

The league did not announce any restrictions yet for the Frozen Faceoff on March 20-21 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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Officials at UMD and the DECC referred all inquires about this weekend’s games at Amsoil Arena to the league office on Wednesday.

"The decision to have limited attendance was made for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, media and fans," read a statement from the NCHC. "The conference, in consultation with member school leadership and health agencies, is constantly monitoring all relevant information regarding COVID-19 to make any further decisions about the future of the NCHC Tournament."

The NCHC joined the NCAA on Wednesday in restricting postseason attendance to only essential staff and limited family members. The NCAA restrictions are for all sports, including the Division I men’s hockey regionals March 27-29 in Loveland, Colorado; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Albany, New York, as well as the Frozen Four April 9-11 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement the decision to limit attendance in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak was made in the best interest of public health and the health of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” the statement read. “We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

UMD already has one team in an NCAA tournament this week. The Bulldogs women’s basketball team is the No. 2 seed in the Division II Central Regional hosted by Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri. They take on No. 7 Fort Hays State at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

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The Bulldogs learned of the fan restrictions around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday not long after arriving in Warrensburg. Each player will be allowed up to six family members at the games.

“The NCAA is trying to protect the student-athletes,” said Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball coach Mandy Pearson, when reached by phone Wednesday by the News Tribune. “It’s going to be a very small group. They have to make the list. … The NCAA has been working very diligently trying to figure out the best approach to this.”

Pearson said being in Missouri, the attendance restrictions won’t impact her team much as the parents who came will make the short list to get in. Access for the parents was important to the UMD coach, and her players.

“I think for us, our parents are all still able to get in, so not much has changed on our end,” said UMD senior Katie Stark of Hayward. “The people who want to come will still be able to come. “We have a really good group of parents who travel to most of our games.”

The back-to-back national champion Bulldogs men’s hockey team is considered a statistical lock for its NCAA tournament, ranked fourth in system used to select and seed the tourney — the Pairwise rankings .

According to projections by USCHO.com , NCAA.com and the News Tribune , the No. 1 Bulldogs would be in Colorado taking on No. 4 Arizona State if the season ended Wednesday, with host and second-seeded Denver and No. 3 Bemidji State squaring off on the other side of the bracket.

Penn State — host of the regional in Allentown — announced Wednesday its Big Ten one-and-done semifinal against Minnesota on Saturday in University Park, Pennsylvania will be played without fans in attendance. Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell and Boston College will do the same for their Hockey East quarterfinals series.

The ECAC announced changes to its postseason tournament on Wednesday night after both Harvard and Yale pulled out of the tournament as both schools banned athletic teams from taking part in any postseason competition. The decision by Harvard and Yale was made after the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as its spring sports.

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The NCAA Division I women’s hockey tournament is scheduled to begin this weekend. Even before the NCAA’s ban, Wisconsin announced its quarterfinal on Saturday against Clarkson would be played without fans, as did Cornell for its game against Mercyhurst. Minnesota hosts Ohio State and Northeastern hosts Princeton in the other quarterfinals.

More college hockey games are expected to be played without fans, with both the governors of Michigan and Ohio recommending or mandating bans of spectators at sporting events.

Colleges across the country, including the entire University of Minnesota system, have canceled face-to-face classes in the wake of the coronavirus, moving instruction online .

The World Heath Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday. According to the New York Times, reported coronavirus cases in the United States have surpassed 1,200 and at least 37 people have died.

The News Tribune's Jon Nowacki contributed to this report.

This story was updated at 10:09 p.m. March 11 with announcement that ECAC is altering its tournament due to Yale joining Harvard in pulling out of the conference tournament. It was originally posted at 9:04 p.m.

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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