Before I get to picking the actual games, I want to throw out a disclaimer: in the NCAA Hockey tournament, anything can and probably will happen. Due to the fact that it is a one game scenario there will be plenty of upsets, and quite frankly I highly doubt the best team will win the championship. I don’t think it happened either of the last two years, and other than BC in 2008, Denver in 2005, and Minnesota in 2003, it probably hasn’t happened this decade (but that is a different topic for a different day). The point is, if you offered me the two teams whom everyone says are the favorites (likely BC and North Dakota) or the field…I would take the field in a heartbeat. All it takes is for a middling goalie to have a hot game, a bad bounce, an unfortunately called penalty, and a #1 seed could be going home early. With that being said, let’s get to the picks:
1. Boston College vs. 4. Colorado College
BC is incredibly hot right now, though CC shouldn’t be overlooked. They have probably the most talented player not only in this game but in the entire region in Freshman Jaden Schwartz. BC overcame a tough pair of games in the regionals last year, so they certainly won’t be fazed if Colorado College jumps on them a bit early. John Muse has been phenomenal, but he did have a .910 and .904 save percentages the past two years. If he reverts to those levels in the tournament, the Eagles will be in trouble.
Still though, they have the offensive firepower to make up for it against CC, and though CC had a great run in the WCHA Final Five, I think it ends here.
2. Michigan v. 3. Nebraska-Omaha
Michigan definitely comes in the hotter team, having won 9 of its last 10, but for some reason I really like this Omaha team coming into the tournament. They have a ton of depth up front, with 8 double digit goal scorers. Michigan certainly has one of the more talented groups in the tournament, but anyone who has watched Minnesota play the last three years will tell you that talent doesn’t equal success. Whether John Merrill, Greg Pateryn and the rest of the Wolverine defensemen can stop Omaha’s talented forwards will obviously be a huge key to this game.
I am going to go with a bit of an upset pick here and take Omaha
1. Boston College v. 3. Nebraska-Omaha
The real key is goalie John Faulkner. Faulkner didn’t have a great year (though he somehow found his way on an all league team), with only a .908 save percentage. But he led the country with 6 shutouts. This obviously suggests that he has the ability to shut a team down, which is a huge deal in the playoffs. If Faulkner has one of his blowup games it won’t really matter: Omaha will just lose 7-3 instead of 4-3. But if he has his A game working, an upset here is very possible. Omaha actually has more 10+ goal scorers than BC, and I have been very wary of BC’s defense all year. If you want to impress your friends with your vast hockey knowledge, feel free to take a chance on Omaha here, but I am going to stick with the favorite and pick the Eagles.