Thursday, March 21, 2013

Final Five morning skate

It's a banner day for the Minnesota State men's hockey team as it will play in the WCHA Final Five for the first time in a decade. The Mavericks snapped that 10-year drought and all but did the same for the NCAA tournament by their play this season. Now they will try to break another streak, as MSU has never won a game in the tournament, going 0-3 in their two appearances (two semifinal losses to Minnesota and a third-place loss to Minnesota Duluth). How far can they go this year?

Minnesota State will kick off the tournament against Wisconsin at 2:07 p.m., with top-seeded St. Cloud State awaiting the winner. Meanwhile Colorado College and North Dakota will meet in the nightcap.

Looking through the first, second and third All-WCHA teams, 14 of the 18 players named to those teams are playing in this event. It's truly a star-studded field. However, the teams are all well-balanced — you have to be to get to this spot — and have their share of unsung heroes and players overshadowed by their team's big-guns. For Minnesota State, Chase Grant seems to fit that bill, and that's just fine with him. 

Meanwhile, the other participating coaches were asked who their under-the-radar players are, and you can read about their choices here.

As for the game and the tournament, this will be the rubber match for the Mavericks and the Badgers, who split their four games this season. MSU scored its road sweep in Madison over Thanksgiving weekend, while Wisconsin did the same in Mankato in January. Read The Free Press' Final Five preview here.

For those not traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota State will have three official viewing parties folks can go to this afternoon — two downtown and one on campus. For details go here.

For the Badgers, they're on the Pairwise bubble and may need to win the Broadmoor Trophy to get to the NCAA tournament. That means a win for them today is a must. Read more here from the Wisconsin State Journal.

As for the other quarterfinal, North Dakota and Colorado College, the Grand Forks Herald breaks down the matchup here. UND is also anticipating to hear two of its players' names, Danny Kristo and Corban Knight, when the Hobey Baker top 10 is announced later on Thursday. For Colorado College, the Tigers upset Denver and have underdog status in St. Paul, thanks to an improved defense.

The theme of the weekend is the end of an era, with the Final Five marking the breakup of the WCHA and the last Final Five of its kind. I wrote about that for Wednesday's Freep. Read more from the Pioneer PressStar Tribune, Grand Forks Herald and The Associated Press.

See you in St. Paul later today. Of course, I'll be live chatting right here during the game, and you can always follow me on Twitter.

1 comment:

crossjcek said...

hopefully it's not just a "participation" banner day!