Minnesota Duluth’s unexpected run to the WCHA Final Five title and appearance in the NCAA Tournament continues my distraction from the ever-frustrating NHL team I usually ramble on about. I will continue this impromptu coverage of the 2009 college hockey season with predictions for the NCAA tournament.
Verizon Wireless Arena – Manchester, New Hampshire
Pretty much a no-brainer, but I’ve got #1 overall Boston University coming out of this region. I am going with a slight upset in the #2/#3 game, with the host New Hampshire Wildcats beating the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. This will not make my wife, a few friends, and some relatives very happy, but after the standard start-slow, finish strong to win the WCHA regular season, North Dakota hasn’t quite been the same since the playoffs started. They less-than overwhelmed Michigan Tech in the first round, then lost to UMD and Wisconsin in the Final Five. They’re headed into an arena 38 miles from UNH, and I think the Wildcats will ride the wave to one W. They will be overmatched in the next round v. Boston U, and BU will be in the Frozen Four.
Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard – Bridgeport, Connecticut
Yale is the host school for this regional…only 16 miles from the arena. I think Yale beats Vermont, Michigan beats Air Force, and Yale upsets Michigan to get to the Frozen Four.
Mariucci Arena – Minneapolis, Minnesota
First one to comment who I think will win this region gets the Atta Boy prize. I gotta believe UMD’s run continues for a few more games. Bulldog G Alex Stalock let in one goal last weekend in the Final Five and he’s playing like the best goalie in the nation. That said, I’ve heard rumblings that Princeton has the ACTUAL best goalie in the nation. I’m looking for Stalock and MacGregor Sharp to stay hot, for some other Bulldog scorers to join the party, and for the Dogs to beat Princeton in a low-scoring affair. Then it’s UMD v. Denver to get to the Frozen Four. All sorts of history here…UMD just beat Denver in the Final Five championship game this past weekend. Denver ended UMD’s last NCAA run in the national semifinal in 2004. I think UMD has the tie-breaker here because they’re the hot team and it’s their turn to win on the big stage.
Van Andel Arena – Grand Rapids, Michigan
I know next to nothing about most of these teams. I know Bemidji State wants to get into the WCHA, and I know that UMD swept them in Duluth this season. When BSU gets into the WCHA they’ll play against better competition, but for now they’re overmatched. Notre Dame wins that game, and I’ve got Northeastern beating Cornell, and the Fighting Irish advancing to the Frozen Four.
Verizon Center – Washington D.C.
Boston U will end Yale’s cinderella run and advance to the championship game. In the other semifinal…you guessed it, I have UMD over Notre Dame. That sets up a Bulldog v. Boston Terrier final. Naturally the Bulldogs will win that matchup, and UMD will win it’s first-ever NCAA hockey championship!
While I was able to apply at least a little logic to the regional games, I’m clearly looking at the Frozen Four through Bulldog-colored glasses. But when your team has only been to the hockey dance 5 times previously, you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity!
Here’s proof of my prognostication, courtesy of the poor low-light picture-taking abilities of my iPhone…
Check back later for recaps of this weekend’s games.