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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 18 2012

UND earns top seed for West Region

GRAND FORKS – The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team is headed back to St. Paul.

One day after winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship in the Xcel Energy Center, the Sioux found out that they’ll be headed back to the home of the Minnesota Wild for the first round of the NCAA tournament.

UND’s opponent will be Western Michigan, which finished second in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this season and won the league’s postseason tournament, defeating Miami and Michigan this weekend.

The Sioux-Broncos game will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Regional-host Minnesota plays Boston University in the regional’s other first-round game.

The Sioux are the top seed in the regionals after going 21-5-2 since Thanksgiving, including last weekend’s run to a third straight Broadmoor Trophy.

It is the 10th consecutive season that UND has played in the NCAA tournament – the second-longest active streak in the country behind Michigan.

UND has a couple of connections with Western Michigan. The Broncos’ coach is former St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray. He’s the father of former Sioux forward Brady Murray.

Former Sioux forward Mike Cichy also transferred to Western Michigan after last season but is not eligible to play until next year.

The Broncos, who will move to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with UND for the 2013-14 season, enter the NCAA tournament on a six-game unbeaten streak. They have a 21-13-6 mark for the season.

The Sioux have had plenty of success in the Xcel Energy Center, winning three straight WCHA tournaments there. But they also have an ugly memory from last season, losing in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals in the building.

Because UND is under NCAA sanctions, it won’t be allowed to wear its Sioux jerseys at the event. UND has alternate jerseys lined up, but they have not been unveiled yet.

The Sioux are 10-2 in NCAA regional games under eighth-year coach Dave Hakstol.

The Broncos (21-13-6) returned to Kalamazoo early Sunday after beating Michigan, 3-2, in the CCHA championship game Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The Broncos made the NCAA field for the fifth time in school history and for the first time in consecutive seasons. Western Michigan made the NCAA tournament last year under coach Jeff Blashill (now a Red Wings assistant coach) and will return under first-year coach and former NHL coach Andy Murray.

“We got the perfect fit in Coach Murray to come in and continue moving this program forward to national prominence,” WMU athletic director Kathy Beauregard said. “He’s one of the most humble coaches I’ve ever worked with. He certainly is all about the team.

“Andy came in with a world reputation. We believed in his success and his ability to take an opportunity he’s never had before and coach a collegiate team.

“We certainly took an unbelievable step last night, being able to win the CCHA championship, and I know a lot of credit goes to him and our staff, but also the leadership of Ian Slater and just the incredible teamwork this team has done – these five seniors have played for three head coaches in their career, and they’ve stuck with it and believed in the Broncos, believed in our university and have really believed in themselves turning the program around.”

Brad Schlossman is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper