No. 12 Alaska Anchorage at No. 1 St. Cloud State
Records: Alaska Anchorage 4-23-7 (2-20-6 WCHA); St. Cloud State 21-14-1 (18-9-1).
Broadmoor history: Anchorage has never won the Broadmoor and last reached the Final Five in 2011, upsetting Minnesota to get there. St. Cloud State has one Broadmoor Trophy in 2001, losing to UND in title games in 2011 and 2006.
Regular season results: The teams split a two-game series in Anchorage on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The Huskies won the opener 4-3, but lost the finale 3-1.
The breakdown: The Seawolves have just one win in the last 22 games and just four goals in the last four games. They have the second-worst offense in the country (ahead of only Alabama Huntsville) and the third-worst defense in the country (ahead of only Huntsville and Sacred Heart). The Huskies, who have the league’s player of the year in senior forward Drew LeBlanc and the league’s defensive player of the year in junior Nick Jensen, will celebrate their first MacNaughton Cup in program history this weekend at the National Hockey Center.
The pick: St. Cloud State in two.
No. 11 Bemidji State at No. 2 Minnesota
Records: Bemidji State 6-20-8 (5-16-7 WCHA); Minnesota 24-7-5 (16-7-5).
Broadmoor history: Bemidji State has only been in the league two years, but advanced to the Final Five semifinals in 2011. The Gophers have seven Broadmoor Trophies, the most recent coming in 2007.
Regular season results: Minnesota swept the Beavers in Bemidji 4-3 and 5-1 last weekend.
The breakdown: The Gophers have the nation’s top-ranked offense (3.64 goals per game) and top-ranked power play (25.2 percent). Excluding empty-net goals, the Gophers haven’t lost by more than a game since an October contest in Houghton (5-3 loss to Michigan Tech). The Gophers also haven’t lost back-to-back games all year. Their only sweeps of the year have come against the Beavers and Seawolves. Bemidji State only has one win since Nov. 15 and the Beavers have just two road wins all season (the last coming in December).
The pick: Minnesota in two.
No. 10 Michigan Tech at No. 3 UND
Records: Michigan Tech 12-18-4 (8-16-4 WCHA); UND 19-10-7 (14-7-7).
Broadmoor history: Michigan Tech has never won the Broadmoor, but advanced to the Final Five a year ago. UND has won a WCHA-record 13 straight league playoff games, three straight Broadmoor Trophies and a WCHA-best eight total.
Regular season results: UND swept a series in Houghton 6-1 and 4-1 in December.
The breakdown: This is the fourth time in the last six seasons that Tech has traveled along U.S. Highway 2 to Grand Forks for a first-round series. These two teams have the top power plays in the nation since Jan. 1, with Tech checking in at 28.6 percent during that time and UND at 27.7 percent. Kevin Genoe played both games in net for Tech in the December meeting between the teams but is unlikely to do so this weekend. UND played Clarke Saunders for both games in Houghton, but is expected to start freshman Zane Gothberg tonight.
The pick: UND in three.
No. 9 Minnesota Duluth at No. 4 Wisconsin
Records: Minnesota Duluth 14-17-5 (10-13-5 WCHA); Wisconsin 17-12-7 (13-8-7).
Broadmoor history: Duluth has made four straight trips to the Final Five, winning it in 2009. The Bulldogs have three Broadmoor Trophies. Wisconsin has four Broadmoor Trophies with the last one coming in 1998. The Badgers have missed the last two Final Fives.
Regular season results: The teams haven’t played since October, when the Badgers took three of four points in Duluth. Wisconsin won the opener 2-0 and they tied the finale 2-2.
The breakdown: Wisconsin started the season 1-7-2, but the Badgers have one of the nation’s best record since December (16-5-4). The Badgers haven’t lost back-to-back games since freshman Nic Kerdiles became eligible on Nov. 30. They are the WCHA’s best defensive team, led by a pair of strong sophomore goalies in Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson. Wisconsin is hoping to move into contention for an NCAA bid. The Bulldogs had a nine-game winless streak in January and February, but enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak.
The pick: Duluth in three.
No. 8 Colorado College at No. 5 Denver
Records: Colorado College 14-17-5 (11-13-4 WCHA); Denver 19-11-5 (14-9-5).
Broadmoor history: The trophy is named after a hotel in Colorado Springs, but the Tigers have never won it. They had a close call in 2005, losing 1-0 to Denver in the finals. The Pioneers have won five Broadmoors, the most recent in 2008.
Regular season results: Denver swept a home-and-home series in November with 6-5 and 6-2 victories. Colorado College won 6-5 and tied 1-1 in February. Denver went 1-0-1 in Magness.
The breakdown: Denver won the Gold Pan as champs of the rivalry series this season. Second-team all-WCHA goalie Juho Olkinuora (.932 save percentage, 2.16 goals-against average) has steadied the Pioneers after their eight-game winless streak in November and December. The Tigers have a potent offense, ranking 10th nationally, but their defense is one of the worst, checking in at No. 55 in the nation. Colorado College and Denver are the only two teams in the WCHA who have six players who have reached the 10-goal mark.
The pick: Denver in three.
No. 7 Nebraska Omaha at No. 6 MSU-Mankato
Records: Nebraska Omaha 18-16-2 (14-12-2 WCHA); MSU-Mankato 22-11-3 (16-11-1).
Broadmoor history: MSU-Mankato hasn’t reached the Final Five since 2003, losing nine straight first-round series, while Omaha is 0-4 in WCHA first-round games since joining the league.
Regular season results: The teams split in their only meeting this season. Omaha won the opener 6-3 and Minnesota State won the finale 5-1. The games were played in Omaha.
The breakdown: Troy Jutting, who was fired as Minnesota State’s coach after last season, will return to Mankato for the first time as an assistant coach for Omaha. Meanwhile, MSU first-year coach Mike Hastings is a former Omaha assistant. Omaha is in disarray right now, going 2-7 in the last nine. Omaha’s penalty kill is at just 50 percent in the last five weeks and it has a team save percent of .831. Minnesota State is 1-11 in its last 12 playoff games, while Omaha is 0-7 in its last seven (and 1-12 in March in the WCHA era).
The pick: MSU-Mankato in three.
Article written by Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald