(Argo Athletics Media Release)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The Mountain West Collegiate Hockey League announced the brackets for the conference tournament in Provo, Utah next weekend.
The University of Providence men's hockey team received the No. 2 seed and will take on the host, No. 7 Utah Valley University on Thursday, Feb. 6. at 4:30 p.m. The University of Mary is the top seed and will receive a bye for the first round of the tournament. Montana State is the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 seeded BYU in the first round while #4 Weber State will open the tournament against No. 5 Weber State.
If the Argos (19-6-2) win on Thursday, they would take on the highest seed between the winners of the other two first round games. Mary would face off against the winner of the lowest seed.
"We're pleased with our seeding," head coach Jeff Heimel said. "Obviously the only thing better than where we ended up would be if we had gotten a bye. Mary is a good team. It will be fun to see where all this plays out. It's a favorable draw for us. We're excited to go take care of business."
Of the seven teams in the MWCHL, five of them are currently ranked in the Top 7 in the West region of the ACHA. Mary is currently ranked No. 1, Providence is ranked No. 2, Montana State is No. 3, Weber State is No. 5 and Utah State is No. 7.
"What a testament to the conference," Heimel said. "I'd rather this than just kill teams every night. It's cool that anything could happen. It's really up for grabs for anyone that wants to show up and play some hockey."
The team that wins the tournament will get an automatic qualifier into the ACHA West Regional Tournament. How teams do during the conference tournament can also impact seeding for the Regional.
The top two seeds of the regional rankings will be given a bye during Regionals and will qualify straight for the National Tournament. Mary and Providence currently hold the top two spots in the West region, while Montana State trails closely behind in third. The next rankings will come out this Thursday, and the final rankings will be released after the conclusion of the conference tournament.
"We just have to continue to work hard," Heimel said. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel or anything. We've had success because we've been harping on the little details all year. We've had good leadership. I think the guys know that this particular tournament is the last opportunity to do stuff before the rankings freeze. This has particular significance. They're going to be fired up. They're going to be ready. I can see it already in their prep and some of the conversations that we've had. It's time to take care of business now."
The Argos have nine days to prepare for their face off against Utah Valley (2-16-1). The Argos will take a few days off to recover from their previous road trip, but otherwise it's business as usual.
"We're really excited," Heimel said. "On one hand to see that the season is coming to a conclusion is a little crazy to even think about. You work towards the postseason all year and we're here. We're getting closer to all of this playing out. It's pretty exciting."
"We're coming into this tournament with the expectation to win," he said. "We think our chances are as good as any. Certainly we have to show up and we have to play. To set the bar any lower than trying to win the tournament isn't what we're about. It's our expectation to win."