Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Morning Skate: Playoff edition

It's playoff time, people, and Minnesota State will host its first home games in five years on Friday night, Saturday night and (if necessary) Sunday night. MSU is hoping to advance to the Final Five for the first time since 2003.

And there are more than a few incentives for that to happen. 1. The Mavericks have to feel like they have a shot at a conference title. 2. Winning this weekend keeps their Pairwise ranking high and betters their chance at the NCAA tournament. 3. This is the final year of the WCHA as we know it, which means the final year of the Final Five as we've known it over the last 12 years or so.

Minnesota State collected a bunch of hardware when Thursday's WCHA awards were announced. Read more about that and reaction from coach Mike Hastings and goalie Stephon Williams here. Looking at MSU's success this season, Williams hasn't been the only rookie to make his mark; several freshmen have contributed to the team's turnaround.

The MSU Mavericks will play the UNO Mavericks in this weekend's matchup. Read more about the series in the Gameday preview, which also includes notes on the Gustavus Adolphus women's team playing in the NCAA D3 Frozen Four this weekend.

It will be interesting to see what kind of crowds MSU draws this weekend. Folks aren't just hoping for full buildings, but they're hoping for early arrivals, with a "30-Minute Power Play" featuring cheap food, pop and beer from 6:07 p.m. to 6:37 p.m.

As for Omaha, it is hoping to close out its brief WCHA era with a trip to St. Paul. UNO also had a first-team All-WCHA pick in league scoring champion Ryan Walters.

In other coverage, College Hockey News has a Hastings feature, as does Minnesota Hockey Magazine, and USCHO and the Western College Hockey Blog makes their WCHA picks.

The other WCHA first-round matchups ...

Alaska Anchorage at St. Cloud State: The top-seeded Huskies received many accolades in Thursday's awards announcement, including the league's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, but they're looking at some unsung heroes, like Nick Oliver, to get them over the top. As for the Seawolves, this could be the end of what's been a very long season in Anchorage.

Bemidji State at Minnesota: The Gophers' Nick Bjugstad was the WCHA's Preseason Player of the Year but ended up as a third-teamer at the end of the regular season. But he's hoping to make his mark in the playoffs. Coach Don Lucia is expecting a couple of close games with Bemidji, while the Beavers want to press the reset button for the postseason.

Michigan Tech at North Dakota: As usual, North Dakota has its sights set on some trophies, starting with the Broadmoor, which it's won three times in a row as WCHA playoff champion. And while it's a No. 3 seed vs. a No. 10, it's believed that Michigan Tech is not the same team it was the last time these two teams met.

Minnesota Duluth at Wisconsin: This is the time of year when every team has bumps and bruises from the grind of a long season. Given that, perhaps Badgers freshman Nic Kerdiles' NCAA suspension to start the season was a blessing in disguise. For the Bulldogs, a winless streak of nine games (0-7-2) has suddenly turned into a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) heading into the playoffs.

Colorado College at Denver: The Pioneers are hoping Ty Loney can bring in some more hardware from postseason success, just like his dad did in the NHL. As for the Tigers, they're hoping their big-time goal scorers, Rylan Schwartz and Alexander Krushelnyski, can come through as they've done all year.

Be sure to come back to the blog later today for updates, tonight for the live blog and postgame for Freddy's three thoughts.

1 comment:

Boomer said...

A little bit of info that's a unique circumstance for a couple players I thought I would mention. Chase Grant and Matt Leitner will both be playing against their last three former head coaches. Blaise (Fargo Force), Johnson (Fargo Force), and Jutting (MNSU).