The Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team outscored Boston University and North Dakota by a combined score of 12-5 to win this year's West Regional. The only catch? The Gophers won the West as Regional hosts which afforded Minnesota the opportunity to advance to the Frozen Four while playing at the nearby XCel Energy Center.
Gophers fans will be quick to point out that the crowd for the West Regional Final between Minnesota and North Dakota was closer to an even split and that there wasn't much advantage gained by getting to play close to home as West Regional host. But recent history tells a different story.
Since the tournament expanded to 16 programs for the 2002-3 season, the University of Minnesota has hosted the West Regional on five separate occasions (2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2012). In three of those years, the Gophers were able to advance to the Frozen Four. Still don't think there's an advantage to playing closer to home come tournament time?
Granted many times the NCAA Regionals are hosted by schools that won't even sniff an NCAA Tournament bid in any given year. Teams like Holy Cross, Fairfield and Michigan Tech rarely make an NCAA Tournament appearance but continue to host a regional every few years. Other college hockey heavyweights -- like New Hampshire, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin -- are regular hosts for either the Regional round or the Frozen Four.
More often than not, however, Regional Hosts don't come away with a berth in the Frozen Four, while Frozen Four hosts typically don't come away with some hardware in the form of a National Championship. Take the Northeast Regional, for example, where the host school has never advanced out of the bracket and onto the Frozen Four from 2003-2012.
|Year||Northeast Regional Host||Frozen Four Participant|
|2003||Boston University||New Hampshire|
|2004||New Hampshire||Boston College|
|2006||Boston University||Boston College|
|2007||New Hampshire||Boston College|
|2008||Holy Cross||Boston College|
|2009||New Hampshire||Boston University|
|2010||Holy Cross||Boston College|
|2011||New Hampshire||Notre Dame|
|2012||Holy Cross||Boston College|
While Worcester's DCU Center has been sort of a home away from home for the Eagles, BC didn't officially host the Northeast Regional. But as you can see, playing in Worcester (or Manchester) has had its advantages for the Eagles. It's almost comical to compare that year's Northeast Regional host with the eventual Frozen Four participant advancing out of the Northeast with BC, BU and New Hampshire all taking turns trolling BU and UNH's Regional hosting duties.
Overall, Regional hosts have advanced to the Frozen Four four times over the last nine years -- Minnesota '03, Michigan '03, Minnesota '05, North Dakota '06 -- but only one of the four has gone on to win that year's title. Then again, that one program was Minnesota, who in 2003 won their last National Championship over New Hampshire in Buffalo, so all bets are off.
Which brings us to this 2011-12 Minnesota Gophers team, who parlayed their West Regional hosting into yet another Frozen Four berth. You have to wonder whether the Gophers will be able to leverage their Regional host "home" ice advantage into the program's sixth National title or whether they'll flame out in the Frozen Four.
Wisconsin is also the only recent Frozen Four host to win a National title in the same year. Sore subject.