With the regular season finally wrapped, it’s time for the conference tourney. Where teams who are out of contention look to earn an auto bid for the NCAA Tournament, and the conference powerhouses look to put another trophy in their trophy cases. Action gets underway on Friday night and wraps up on Monday if third games are necessary.
1 St. Cloud State vs 8 Miami (OH)
The Huskies host the Redhawks at home in this first round matchup. The Huskies, who won the regular season title, have been dominant all season and are the heavy favorites to win the conference tourney. The Redhawks are the worst team in the conference and have had their share of struggles this season. Including a winless streak that lasted 11 games and are currently on a five game skid. I don’t see this series going in any direction other than what’s expected. St. Cloud is going to sweep Miami and walk their way into the conference semis.
2 Minnesota Duluth vs 7 Omaha
These two teams only met once in the regular season and it resulted in a sweep for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are also coming off of two tight losses to St. Cloud last weekend and are looking to get back to the Conference Finals for revenge. Omaha is a team that is good enough to shock the hockey world, but this Bulldog team is hungry and I don’t see them losing. They have the best goaltender in the conference, Hunter Shepard, and should make it to the Conference Semis fairly easily.
3 Western Michigan vs 6 Colorado College
These two teams met in Colorado Springs a couple of weeks ago, and the Tiger offense exploded in that matchup for 12 goals. The series was split, but WMU struggled in all areas. The Broncos have struggled as of late, but are coming off an explosive sweep of Miami (OH). Goaltender, Trevor Gorsuch, has struggled between the pipes over the last month and a half and that plays into CC’s favor. The Tigers are a dangerous team that no one should overlook. They might be the biggest sleeper team in the conference. They’ve played everyone tough and have pulled off some great upsets down the stretch. I fully expect this series to go to a third game, but I do expect WMU to advance because of their home ice advantage.
4 Denver vs 5 North Dakota
This could be the toughest matchup of the quarterfinals. Denver has been ranked as highly as sixth this season, and North Dakota is only a couple years removed from a National Championship. The Eagles, along with CC, are the most dangerous underdog in this tournament. They’ve went into hostile environments and played elite level hockey and are well equipped to make a run in this tournament. I see this series going three games as well and I like North Dakota to advance.
To recap, I expect SCSU, UMD, WMU, and UND to advance to the conference semifinals. The teams will be reseeded after the quarterfinals depending on who wins, and the semis will be played in Saint Paul, MN. We’ll be back next week to recap the quarterfinals and preview the semis for you. Until then, follow us on Twitter @StudentUHockey for more hockey coverage.