No. 1 – Michigan Wolverines
NCAA Tournament History: 35 appearances, 9 titles (most recent, 1998)
How they got here: Michigan received an at-large bid.
Players to watch: Alex Guptill, F, Fr. (16-17-33); David Wohlberg, F, Sr. (16-17-33); A.J. Treals, F, Jr. (15-16-31); Lee Moffie, D, Jr. (7-25-32); Jon Merrill, D, So. (2-9-11); Shawn Hunwick, G, Sr. (24-11-3, 1.98, .933)
Briefly: After losing in last year’s national championship game, the Wolverines started slowly this year. They’ve since turned it on, are playing as well as anyone down the stretch and have the key players in key places. Between Moffie, Merrill and Hunwick, Michigan has arguable the two most important ingredients on championship teams – great defense and rock-solid goaltending.
No. 2 – Ferris State Bulldogs
NCAA Tournament History: 2 appearances, no titles
How they got here: Ferris State received an at-large bid.
Players to watch: Jordie Johnston, F, Sr. (18-15-33); Matthew Kirzinger, F, Jr. (10-22-32); Kyle Bonis, F, Jr. (18-11-29); Chad Billins, D, Sr. (7-22-29); Scott Czarnowczan, D, So. (2-18-20); Taylor Nelson, G, Sr. (18-6-3, 2.18, .920)
Briefly: Ferris State is so boring on offense at times that they could put you to sleep. Actually, that’s the plan for the Bulldogs. They don’t take risks, they are smart with the puck in their own end and they put away the chances they do find. When games get to the back-and-forth, run-and-gun styles are when Ferris State will struggle.
No. 3 – Denver Pioneers
NCAA Tournament History: 22 appearances, 7 titles (most recent, 2005)
How they got here: Denver received an at-large bid.
Players to watch: Drew Shore, F, Jr. (21-31-52); Jason Zucker, F, So. (22-24-46); Nick Shore, F, So. (13-28-41); Joey LaLeggia, D, Fr. (11-27-38); John Lee, D, Sr. (3-11-14); Juho Olkinuora, G, Fr. (9-8-3, 2.18, .924); Sam Brittain, G, So. (8-3-0, 2.39, .931); Adam Murray, G, Jr. (8-2-1, 2.98, .909)
Briefly: Denver will light up the scoreboard with the best of them, but they may be without the high-scoring Zucker for the weekend. He was hurt in the WCHA Final Five title game, and his status for this weekend is unknown. However, the Shore brothers, along with several other big scorers, can bury anyone. Add to it the three-headed rotation in net and you have a dangerous playoff team.
No. 4 – Cornell Big Red
NCAA Tournament History: 19 appearances, 2 titles (most recent, 1970)
How they got here: Cornell received an at-large bid.
Players to watch: Greg Miller, F, Jr. (14-16-30); Sean Collins, F, Sr. (13-11-24); Joel Lowry, F, Fr. (6-16-22); Nick D’Agostino, D, Jr. (8-12-20); Joakim Ryan, D, Fr. (6-10-16); Andy Iles, G, So. (18-8-7, 2.13, .918)
Briefly: A balanced group, Cornell will do pretty much what Ferris State will as far as offense goes. But again, that can work in a team’s favor come playoff time. If the Big Red can manage to limit opponents to few scoring chances, a close game might just go in Cornell’s favor.