No. 1 – North Dakota Fighting Sioux
Record: 28-8-3 overall (21-6-1 WCHA, first)
How they got here: Swept Michigan Tech in Grand Forks (8-0, 3-1)
WCHA Playoff Championships: 9 (most recent, 2010)
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol
Key Players: Matt Frattin, F, Sr. (39 GP, 33-21—54); Corban Knight, F, So. (39 GP, 13-29—42); Jason Gregoire, F, Jr. (32 GP, 24-17—41); Chay Genoway, D, Sr. (31 GP, 6-24—30); Derek Forbort, D, Fr. (33 GP, 0-15—15); Aaron Dell, G, So. (26-6-2, 1.86 GAA, .921 save percentage)
Why the Sioux win: It’s pretty simple – the Sioux are the best team. North Dakota scored 19 more goals than the next-closest Final Five opponent, has given up 11 less than anyone in the tournament and has only lost three times since November (20-3-2 during that stretch). UND is deep all over the rink, rolls all of their lines and buries teams late in games.
Why the Sioux lose: The best way to get past North Dakota is to get them behind early. Although they are still successful when giving up the first goal (10-6), they are only 6-4 when trailing after the first period and 2-6 when behind after the second.
No. 2 – Denver Pioneers
Record: 23-10-5 overall (17-8-3 WCHA, second)
How they got here: Swept Minnesota State in Denver (4-2, 3-2 in OT)
WCHA Playoff Championships: 15 (most recent, 2008)
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky
Key Players: Drew Shore, F, Sr. (36 GP, 22-21—43); Jason Zucker, F, Fr. (36 GP, 21-19—40); Anthony Maiani, F, Sr. (37 GP, 7-25—32); Matt Donovan, D, So. (38 GP, 8-20—28); David Makowski, D, Fr. (37 GP, 6-21—27); Sam Brittain, G, Fr. (17-7-5, 2.25 GAA, .922 save percentage)
Why the Pioneers win: Unlike last year, when the Pioneers came into the playoffs with several well-known stars, including goalie Marc Cheverie, this year’s DU squad has kind of flown under the radar. Playing with a target on your back is a lot different than sneaking up from behind, and the Pioneers have the talent and coaching to go far.
Why the Pioneers lose: Denver has struggled with consistency lately. Over its last 11 games, they have accumulated five of their ten total losses. The Pioneers need to sure things up if they want to bring home their 16th Broadmoor Trophy.
No. 3 – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Record: 22-9-6 overall (15-8-5 WCHA, fourth)
How they got here: Swept St. Cloud State in Duluth (4-2, 3-2 in triple OT)
WCHA Playoff Championships: 3 (most recent, 2009)
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin
Key Players: Jack Connolly, F, Jr. (37 GP, 15-39—54); Justin Fontaine, F, Sr. (37 GP, 20-31—51); Mike Connolly, F, Jr. (37 GP, 25-23—48); Justin Faulk, D, Fr. (34 GP, 8-18—26); Wade Bergman, D, So. (35 GP, 2-7—9); Kenny Reiter, G, Sr. (12-6-5, 2.34 GAA, .912 save percentage)
Why the Bulldogs win: Not only has the Connolly line put up good numbers this year, but the Bulldogs have also gotten production out of the trio of Travis Oleksuk, JT Brown and Kyle Schmidt for the majority of the season. If UMD’s top-six can play their game, the Bulldogs can play with – and beat – anyone in the country.
Why the Bulldogs lose: Much like Denver, Minnesota-Duluth has struggled with consistency lately. The biggest issue for UMD seems to be breakdowns in their own end and spotty play between the pipes. If the Bulldogs get out of position in the D-zone, things could spiral out of control quickly.
No. 4 – Colorado College Tigers
Record: 21-17-3 overall (13-13-2 WCHA, sixth)
How they got here: Won their best-of-three series against Wisconsin (1-3, 4-3 OT, 2-1)
WCHA Playoff Championships: 1 (1978)
Head Coach: Scott Owens
Key Players: Stephen Schultz, F, Sr. (39 GP, 15-25—40); Tyler Johnson, F, Sr. (39 GP, 20-17—37); Jaden Schwartz, F, Fr. (26 GP, 15-22—37); Gabe Guentzel, D, Jr. (41 GP, 6-20—26); Ryan Lowery, D, Sr. (41 GP, 1-14—15); Joe Howe, G, So. (16-13-2, 2.93 GAA, .901 save percentage)
Why the Tigers win: Colorado College is small and quick with an effective offense, and play their best when they can dictate the pace. The Tigers can win the tournament if they play on their toes, keep the pressure up in their opponents’ zone and play with a lead.
Why the Tigers lose: CC had given up more goals than anyone else in the Final Five (84), and with some of the offensive talent and depth on the other squads bidding for the WCHA’s playoff title, the Tigers could be in trouble if they are forced off their gameplan.
No. 5 – Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves
Record: 16-17-3 overall (12-14-2 WCHA, eighth)
How they got here: Swept Minnesota in Minneapolis (4-3, 2-0)
WCHA Playoff Championships: None
Head Coach: Dave Shyiak
Key Players: Tommy Grant, F, Sr. (36 GP, 16-16—32); Jordan Kwas, F, Fr. (35 GP, 4-20—24); Craig Parkinson, F, Sr. (36 GP, 8-13—21); Curtis Leinweber, D, Jr. (34 GP, 4-6—10); Scott Warner, D, Jr. (36 GP, 3-7—10); Chris Kamal, G, Fr. (9-4-1, 2.48 GAA, .901 save percentage)
Why the Seawolves win: Anchorage is a big, physical team that definitely won’t wow anyone with their offensive output. The Seawolves can only win if they keep the puck deep in the zone, slow down their opponent on the breakout and in the neutral zone and get a break or two.
Why the Seawolves lose: Anchorage hasn’t faired well against the Final Five field, going 4-9-1 (three of those wins were against Colorado College). If the Seawolves don’t play their very best, it could be a quick trip to St. Paul.
No. 6 – Bemidji State Beavers
Record: 14-17-5 overall (8-15-5 WCHA, tenth)
How they got here: Swept Nebraska-Omaha in Omaha (4-2, 3-2)
WCHA Playoff Championships: None
Head Coach: Tom Serratore
Key Players: Matt Read, F, Sr. (35 GP, 21-13—34); Jordan George, F, So. (36 GP, 16-18—34); Ian Lowe, F, Sr. (36 GP, 12-15—27); Brad Hunt, D, Jr. (36 GP, 2-17—19); Sam Rendle, D, Fr. (32 GP, 3-8—11); Dan Bakala, G, Jr. (13-12-4, 2.41 GAA, .922 save percentage)
Why the Beavers win: This team will go only as far as Dan Bakala can carry it. Bakala’s save percentage was tied for first in the league, he stopped 87 shots last weekend to get the Beavers to the Final Five and if Bemidji State ends up hoisting the Broadmoor Trophy on Saturday, chances are good Bakala will be tournament MVP.
Why the Beavers lose: Much like Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State has struggled against their Final Five foes. The Beavers have only two wins in 12 games against the other teams in the tournament. Bakala better bring his brick wall to the crease with him if he and his teammates want to keep playing.