D1 Hockey Regional Comes with Risks, High Expectations for the Region

Jeff Smith acknowledged that, at this time of year, he’s certainly plugged into the NCAA Division 1 hockey rankings, standings, and something called … bracketology, a science of sorts whereby an analyst, starting several weeks in advance, projects which teams will wind up in the season-ending tournament and where they will play.

Most of his attention is focused on UMass Amherst — he’s the school’s deputy athletic director for External Operations — which has been a regular in the tournament the past several years and won the national championship in 2021. But he’s also looking at how the tournament brackets will shake out and what the competition might be.

This year, however, he’s watching things even more closely, because there is much more at stake than where the Minutemen might play and whom — although that’s still top of mind, obviously.

Indeed, it was Smith who went to his boss several years ago with the idea of the university, working in tandem with the MassMutual Center and American International College, co-hosting one of the tournament’s regional slate of games.

Long story short — we’ll go back and fill in some of the details later — the three parties submitted a bid in early 2020 to host a regional round in 2023, 2024, and 2025, and the NCAA awarded Springfield one for 2024 — specifically, three games to be played later this month that will determine which team will punch their ticket for the Frozen Four, to be played in St. Paul, Minn.

Which brings us back to bracketology.

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