MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University hockey team saw its faint dream of reaching the NCAA tournament dashed on Saturday evening after a pair of scenarios failed to go the Wildcats' way via losses by Colgate and RIT.
Cornell clinched its spot in the NCAA tournament by defeating Colgate, 3-0, in an ECAC consolation game on Saturday afternoon.
Air Force earned a second-straight NCAA bid by beating RIT in the Atlantic Hockey championship, 4-0.
Air Force celebrates its first goal during the first period against RIT in the Atlantic Hockey Association Championship game on Saturday in Rochester, N.Y. The Falcons' 4-0 win over the Tigers proved to be the final nail in the season for the Northern Michigan University hockey team. The Wildcats would have received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament had RIT won. (AP photo)
Had either Cornell or Air Force lost, NMU would have earned an at-large berth.
Heading into Saturday's games, the Wildcats needed Colgate and Union to win in one scenario to get into the NCAA tournament. In another scenario, NMU needed wins by Western, RIT and Union to climb into the top 15 of the PairWise rankings and receive an at-large bid.
Union did its part and defeated Harvard, 2-1, in the ECAC title game and Western Michigan helped NMU out by holding off Michigan, 3-2, for the Mason Cup in the CCHA championship.
NMU bowed out of the CCHA playoffs in the first round after losing a best-of-three series to Bowling Green State in Marquette, 2-1. NMU has not played a game since its March 4 loss to BGSU in Game 3. After taking a week off for spring break, the Wildcats returned to the Berry Events Center ice for practice this week in hopes of playing this weekend in an NCAA regional semifinal.
Now seniors Justin Florek of Marquette, Tyler Gron, Andrew Cherniwchan, Reid Ellingson and Devan Hartigan are free to sign professional contracts if they so wish.
All but Florek, a 2010 Boston Bruins draft pick, are free agents, meaning they can sign anywhere they wish.
The field of 16 for the 2012 NCAA tournament will be made official at noon today on ESPNU.
For the complete NCAA tournament field, visit www.miningjournal.net this afternoon or see Monday's edition for a complete analysis of the selection process.