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WCHA crunch time/Red Line Web Special

March 2, 2012
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

Just one week left to go in the WCHA regular season. Unfortunately, there's far too much going on for me to push aside for my deathless prose. So, it's off to the Web for this week's selections.

Michigan Tech at Colorado College

This is it, the final test to determine if the Huskies will host a playoff round for the first time since the early 90s or hit the road. Obviously, the bad news is that Tech has never won a regular season game in the World Arena. The good news? Tech has two wins there in the WCHA playoffs, both in 2007, propelling the Huskies to the WCHA Final Five. Also, Tech closed the Tigers' previous home, Broadmoor Arena, by winning 3-2 in overtime of Game 3 of a playoff series on March 13, a result so critical to CC's postseason chances that the NCAA had to institute a rule guaranteeing regular season champs a place in the tournament after losing to Tech put the Tigers on the outside of the NCAA Tournament field with the MacNaughton Cup.

In short? Good things happen in the Springs. This weekend's going to be tough, but the Huskies will do just enough and catch a break or two to get into sixth.

The Verdict: Tech 5-3 Friday, CC 3-1 Saturday

Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State

UMD is also chasing 1993, the last time it won the MacNaughton Cup. The Bulldogs are going to need to make up three points on Minnesota (though UMD is only two points behind, it has more ties and thus would be co-champs at best) to lift the trophy. Can it be done? Probably not, but all that matters for the purposes of this column is that St. Cloud can't pass Tech.

The Verdict: UMD 6-4 Friday, SCSU 5-4 Saturday

Wisconsin at Minnesota

Big 10 rivals at Mariucci Arena and the MacNaughton Cup in the house. It's WCHA hockey at its finest, at least for the present day. In what I'm sure will delight many Gopher fans, Wisconsin is just waiting for its assignment for a road trip in the first round of the playoffs. Minnesota isn't going to sleepwalk through this one. The Gophers seize the day and the MacNaughton Cup for the first time since 2007.

The Verdict: UMn sweep 4-1, 6-2

Minnesota State at North Dakota

North Dakota's basically got a tap-in put for fourth here, as though its lead is only two points over Colorado College and Nebraska Omaha and three over Tech, it has the tiebreaker on any team that could potentially tie it this weekend. Also, they're hosting a Minnesota State team that while improved in the second half, has little or nothing to play for. The Sioux are playing well and they'll take all four here.

The Verdict: UND sweeps 3-1, 5-4

Denver at Nebraska-Omaha

This is where the magic's going to have to happen. Tonight's DU-UNO game is on NBC Sports Network (previously Versus and OLN). Tech's rooting for the Pioneers, since if they sweep, the only way Tech doesn't finish in the top half is if it takes less than two points and SCSU takes three or more off UMD. Of course, I already said that won't happen. Denver took three of four points when the teams met in Colorado in November - good sign. The following weekend, a three-point series at home against St. Cloud, is the last time the Mavericks have won more than a split in a home WCHA series. Better sign. Do you believe in Mavericks? No!

The Verdict: DU sweeps 5-2, 6-5

Bemidji State at Alaska-Anchorage

The only thing this remarkably irrelevant series does is guarantee Bemidji State a much shorter trip for the first round. Instead of Denver, the Beavers get the relatively short haul to Grand Forks. They'll need it after coming home from the Last Frontier.

The Verdict: UAA 3-2 Friday, BSU 4-2 Saturday

So, if I'm right, the first round of the WCHA Playoffs will look like this next week:

12. Alaska-Anchorage at 1. Minnesota

11. Minnesota State at 2. Minnesota Duluth

10. Wisconsin at 3. Denver

9. Bemidji State at 4. North Dakota

8. St. Cloud State at 5. Colorado College

7. Nebraska Omaha at 6. Michigan Tech

Last Week: 7-5

For the Season: 111-78-20 (57.9 percent)



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