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2018 NCAA hockey tournament: Denver Pioneers earn #2 seed in Midwest region, will face #3 Penn State

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The Pioneers are headed to Allentown, PA to begin their title defense

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Minnesota-Duluth Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Pioneers were one of a handful of teams fortunate and successful enough to not have to worry about the effect of a wild week of conference tournament upsets on their NCAA tournament hopes. The Pioneers controlled their own destiny by winning the NCHC tournament and were rewarded with the #2 seed in the Midwest region, announced Sunday afternoon.

It appears as if the Pioneers were regarded by the selection committee as the 5th best team in the field, as the Midwest region is headed by Ohio State, the #4 overall seed in the tournament. First, the Pioneers will have to get past #3 Penn State, who received an at-large bid out of the Big Ten after losing in the conference semifinals.

DU and Penn State are no strangers — the Pioneers drubbed the Nittany Lions 6-3 in the Midwest Regional Final last season to advance to the Frozen Four. DU may be at a slight disadvantage in having to travel to Allentown, PA, where there is sure to be no shortage of Penn State fans.

Just three teams from the NCHC earned bids, one fewer than the Big Ten. St. Cloud State, who split the NCHC regular season and tournament titles with Denver, earned the #1 overall seed in the tournament and thus got to stay close to home in the West Region held in Sioux Falls, SD. Minnesota Duluth received an at-large bid as a #3 in the same region. North Dakota fell victim to upsets by Princeton, Michigan Tech and Boston University, missing out on the tournament for the first time in over a decade.

Denver and Penn State will play Saturday night at 7 PM ET on ESPN3. The winner will go on to the regional final, played Sunday.