WCHA Playoff Predictions


The WCHA gets its playoffs underway tonight, and with two extra teams to boot. The six playoff series winners will advance to the Final Five (named Final Five this year because there are five games) in St. Paul next weekend.

(12) Michigan Tech at (1) North Dakota

Michigan Tech won two games in WCHA play. North Dakota had a +50 goal margin. It really should be as simple as that, but to further illustrate: Michigan Tech scored 49 goals in conference play. North Dakota’s top line of Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp and Brad Malone had 44. A UND sweep is all I see here.

(9) St. Cloud State at (4) Minnesota-Duluth

The Huskies are playing well as of late, and just took 3 points against the Bulldogs. Duluth will no doubt want revenge, and while I think they have more talent than the Huskies, they have only been marginally better statistically in conference play, wins and losses be damned. The Huskies seem to have the edge in net with Mike Lee as well. In the end I think this series will turn on how well St. Cloud’s defense matches up with the Connolly-Connolly-Fontaine line, and whether Drew LeBlanc, Garrett Roe and company can score enough to keep up with the Bulldogs. I picked the Huskies to finish third in the conference for a reason, and I trust their talent. I’m taking an upset.

(8) Alaska-Anchorage at (5) Minnesota

This series looks like it will turn on special teams. The Seawolves actually had the best penalty kill in conference play, while the Gophers were 10th. Fortunately for Minnesota, Anchorage was 10th in power play, converting only 15.7% of the time. Key to the Gophers will be the emergence of Nick Bjugstad, who has 5 goals in his last 4 games, though those were against Michigan Tech and Bemidji State. The Gophers’ star has faded in the past couple of years, but the 2011 version still has enough to get past the Seawolves at home.

(7) Wisconsin at (6) Colorado College

The Badgers were perhaps the most confusing team in the conference (although I suppose one could argue that beating who you are supposed to beat and losing to whom you are supposed to lose isn’t terribly confusing). Meanwhile, Scott Owens should get a ton of credit for getting a fairly young CC team into a home ice playoff spot. The big key for the Tigers is the play of Freshman Jaden Schwartz. Since coming back from the injury he suffered at World Juniors he has 2 goals and 7 points in 6 games, though he only has one point against the Badgers this year. Wisconsin meanwhile has two of the best three defensemen in the conference, but their key is Scott Gudmanson re-discovering the magic that had him on track to be a Hobey finalist at the start of the year. This series seems the closest, which makes sense given it is the 6/7 series, but I am going to take CC at home.

(10) Bemidji State at (3) Nebraska-Omaha

Normally the Mavs would be happy to see a 10 seed strolling into Omaha, but they might not be so pleased with their first opponent this year. The Beavers own an undefeated record against Omaha, and they have allowed only 5 goals in the 4 games between the two teams. An interesting matchup takes place in net, where WCHA 3rd team goalie John Faulkner takes on one of the handful of guys who should have been All-WCHA before him, Dan Bakala. Though he didn’t have much defensive talent in front of him, and the Beavers had a horrible penalty kill, Bakala still managed a better save percentage than his counterpart. Still, Omaha has much more talent up and down their lineup, and I like them to get over the hump against the Beavers.

(11) Minnesota State at (2) Denver

Seems mostly straightforward here. The Pioneers have Jason Zucker and Drew Shore, both whom made appearances on all league teams, and Sam Brittain, who I think was a slam dunk WCHA 2nd teamer and really could have pushed for a first team spot. The Mavericks only scored 2.39 goals per conference game as it is, and will have a tough time getting the puck past one of the best goalies in the conference. Defensively the Mavs appear to be in trouble as well, as they allowed 3.21 goals per game, and will have to keep the league’s 3rd best scoring offense out of the net. I doubt it will happen, and Denver will sweep.