Friday, March 26, 2010

National tourney time

The NCAA men's hockey tournament begins on today. Got your bracket filled out?

I think the national champion is coming out of the WCHA this year. North Dakota looked like a world beater during the Final Five, and I've liked Wisconsin and Denver all year (although neither had its best performances in St. Paul last weekend). St. Cloud State has the pieces to make a run, if it can put them all together at the same time.

Three WCHA teams will be in action on the first day, with St. Cloud State taking on Northern Michigan and Wisconsin playing Vermont at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and Denver playing RIT in Albany, N.Y., (the other game in Albany is Cornell vs. New Hampshire). has done a nice tournament preview, which can be found here. Also, there's a feature on Wisconsin defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is an amazing +21 this season.

For St. Cloud State, defenseman Garrett Raboin, who was a difference maker in the Huskies' first-round WCHA tourney win over Minnesota State, is still playing through pain. The Huskies' Garrett Roe is expected to play after getting carted off the ice on stretcher a week ago. Also, Kevin Allenspach writes a column about Walt Kyle, coach of red-hot NMU.

Denver's probably glad it's not playing at the X, where it had a rough couple of games in the Final Five. The Pioneers are hoping to shore up their defense against RIT. RIT has won 10 games in a row and is 17-3 since getting blasted 9-1 over two games by Minnesota State.

On Saturday, North Dakota will take on Yale in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.  The Sioux have a tough bracket that also features Boston College and Alaska. North Dakota is playing for their captain Chay Genoway, who hasn't played since November with a concussion.

The Midwest Regional in Fort Wayne, Ind., which also begins on Saturday, features Bemidji State, which will join WCHA next season. The Beavers will take on Michigan with the winner playing either Miami or Alabama-Huntsville. This bracket features two teams from the now-defunct College Hockey America conference (BSU and UAH). Read about that conference's player of the year, Bemidji's Matt Read, here.

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