Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Morning Skate

The Final Five is here, back in its traditional home of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Should be a couple of good games, with Michigan Tech and Bowling Green playing at 4:07 p.m. today and Minnesota State and Ferris State following at 7:37 p.m.

Three of the starting goaltenders playing this weekend have received all sorts of praise: Ferris' C.J. Motte, Tech's Jamie Phillips and MSU's Stephon Williams (I wouldn't discount BGSU's Tommy Burke, either). Williams says he's learned to ignore "outside noise" in this rebound season, although he can't get away from one particular critic. (You'll have to click on the link to find out who.)

Williams is a junior, but the four participants really have gotten to St. Paul on the backs of their senior classes.

After seeing disturbing pictures of an empty Joe Louis Arena tweeted out from the first day of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday, there has to be some nervousness by those running the WCHA about how many people will be at the X this weekend (same goes for the NCHC's Frozen Faceoff at Target Center). WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson says 6,000-7,000 each day would be considered a success, and he believes, with three top-10 teams, the even has the field to pull that off.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press took a look at hometown boy (or at least close-to-hometown boy), Zach Palmquist of South St. Paul. The Star Tribune also previewed the Final Five.

Looking at the other teams skating in St. Paul this weekend: Bowling Green is back in the Final Five for the second year in a row and on the verge of making the NCAA tournament, setting a new standard for the program. Michigan Tech has also raised its bar, although it missed last year's tournament after getting eliminated by the Falcons. Revenge is not on the Huskies minds, though.

More previews and columns from USCHO and College Hockey News. Plus, Jack Hittinger and I give our weekend picks.

In other college hockey news, the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were announced on Thursday, and there's only one WCHA representative: Tanner Kero of Michigan Tech. Tech was also represented among the five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, which goes to the year's top goaltender, with Jamie Phillips is on the list, while MSU's Williams, who was an initial nominee, was passed over.

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