Of the four major conference tournaments, the CCHA will probably have the least suspenseful one when action kicks off this weekend. No. 5 Michigan State and No. 6 Michigan have easily distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. (The Wolverines are the top seed in the tourney, the Spartans are No. 2.) If either Michigan or Michigan State lose to Lake Superior or Bowling Green, respectively, this will probably be a pretty cold weekend in hell.
If any upsets do occur in the CCHA, put your money on the series between fourth-seeded Alaska-Fairbanks and ninth-seeded Ferris State. In fact, Ferris State has two of the top three scorers in the conference, and the Bulldogs split a series with Michigan State last weekend.
Fairbanks, on the other hand, was ranked No. 12 in the CCHA preseason poll. By the way, there are only 12 teams in the CCHA. According to our well-placed sources in the conference, Fairbanks has been playing “over its head” this season. Luckily for the Nanooks, though, the series will be in Alaska.
Who We Think Will Advance: No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 N. Michigan, No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 9 Ferris State.
Defending national champion Boston College has been a sleeping giant all year. It’s slipped under the Hockey East radar despite wins over B.U. and Maine, as well as a close loss to UNH last Saturday. The Eagles finally have their chance to break out this weekend when they visit Orono, Me., to play the Black Bears. Had the Bears swept Boston University last weekend, they would have avoided the Eagles, but Maine could only take three points from the Terriers, and hence they will have arguably the toughest first round home matchup in the nation. (Maine is No. 3 in the tournament, B.C. is No. 6.) But the Eagles will have to do without J.D. Forrest — one of their top defenseman, who underwent surgery recently.
No. 4 UMass-Lowell and No. 5 Northeastern should also put on a good show this weekend. The River Hawks have rebounded recently from a huge mid-season skid. They’ve won four in a row, including the first game of their series with the Huskies last night.
Top-ranked UNH and B.U. should have a cakewalk against Merrimack and Providence, respectively.
Who We Think Will Advance: No. 1 UNH, No. 2 B.U., No. 3 Maine and No. 4 UMass-Lowell
The WCHA has been the benchmark for the entire year. It has consistently kept four teams in the top 10. So it makes sense that it probably has some of the best tournament matchups in the country.
The best series in the WCHA is likely to be North Dakota versus Minnesota. While Minnesota has likely locked up an NCAA bid, the Sioux are fighting for one. And the only way they’ll get one is by winning the WCHA. North Dakota has been a smidge fickle this year though. It has defeated Minnesota, Maine, Denver, Michigan, Michigan St. and swept Colorado College — all top 10 teams. But, North Dakota has also managed to lose twice to MSU-Mankato and three times to Wisconsin. Will the real Fighting Sioux please stand up?
Another series of interest will be between Colorado College and Alaska-Anchorage — two teams who split their season series. Also on the WCHA plate is MSU-Mankato at Wisconsin, which features two ridiculously inconsistent teams that finished fifth and sixth in the conference.
Who We Think Will Advance: No. 1 Denver, No. 2 St. Cloud State, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 4 Colorado College and No. 6 MSU-Mankato
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj