The WCHA will get at least three teams into the NCAA Tournament: Here’s why

The WCHA, in its final season in its current form, and most likely its final season on the men’s side of things, is having themselves a superb year. Alabama Huntsville is playing the underdog role with 13 freshmen and dramatically improved results from returning players. Ferris State has a World Juniors Champion . Bowling Green is one of the most complete teams in the country with multiple stars on it. Lake Superior State has one of of the top goalies in the country in Mareks Mitens leading a veteran team. Also, Michigan Tech has one of the best goalies in the country, a really tough system to scheme against, and is in a good spot as well. Minnesota State still is in pole position for the McNaughton Cup with its sterling start to its WCHA season despite losing a lot of scoring up front.

All of the top six teams in this league are playing good enough hockey, that the “eye test” should actually benefit this league this year without normal factors of consideration being used. In its final year, the WCHA may have more influence over the final field than realized.

Why write about this?

Well, the WCHA is being looked on by some as an after thought. Every year, like Atlantic Hockey, it seems like the leagues is talked about as an afterthought. Given that the ECAC only has four teams participating this year, and both independents do not look to be candidates for an at large bids, the other five conferences will get to compete for some extra at-large spots.

In addition, defensively, the WCHA is a league built on being able to play close games, like those which are commonplace in postseason hockey. Six teams are within the top 22 of fewest goals allowed, and all of those teams, arguably are fighting for a postseason spot in the league. Given the non-use of the pairwise, all of these teams still have some claim to being under consideration, as long as they finish at .500 or better of course. That style plays better in the postseason when games are typically tight checking, low scoring affairs throughout.

Not many leagues play consistently defensive hockey as well as the WCHA has. Given its top goaltenders, and opportunistic offense, they, like Atlantic Hockey, will have more teams representing them in the NCAA Tournament this year, and deservedly so.

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NCAA Tournament-Quick Regional Picks

The NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey tournament gets underway in a few hours. Here are some quick picks. One thing to keep in mind, half or more of these will end up wrong sense this tournament is known for low seeds winning and favorites falling.

On to the picks.

Midwest Regional 

Denver vs Michigan Tech

The Huskies have had a great season but will come up short against the all-world Pioneers.

Denver wins 5-2

Penn State vs. Union 

Mike Vechione and Spencer Foo are two of the most dynamic players in this tournament. They can singlehandedly change the course of a game and will have an upstart Penn State team on its heels.

Union wins 3-1

Regional Final 

Union has strong scoring and forward depth, but Denver is more battle-tested and plays a more physical brand of hockey. The Pioneers will win this game in a physical, dominating fashion.

Denver wins 5-2

Northeast Regional

Minnesota vs. Notre Dame

Irish goalie Cal Petersen is a game-changer for the Irish. The Sabres prospect has a 92.8 save percentage this season for Notre Dame. I expect Petersen to have a stellar day for the Irish.

Notre Dame wins 4-1

Cornell-Umass Lowell

Both teams have had a strong season, this game is a toss up, however based on Lowell’s regular season, and the fact that they play in the second best conference in the NCAA, I think Lowell will win.

Lowell wins 2-1

Regional Final

Notre Dame will be lead by Petersen on to Chicago.

Irish Win 4-2

East Regional 

Harvard-Providence

Harvard is one of the few teams that will challenge Denver for the title this season. Providence will benefit from playing in its home city. Harvard has the better team, lead by Bruins prospect Ryan Donato.

Harvard wins 5-4

Air Force-Western Michigan

Air Force is a fast team, the Broncos are a more physical team that will knock the Falcons off the puck.

Broncos win 2-1

Final

Harvard wins 4-2

West Regional

Duluth-Ohio State

This will be a high scoring game if NCHC-like officiating doles out the power plays. Duluth’s physical and penalty kill prowess will propel them to the final over the power play reliant Buckeyes.

Duluth wins 3-1

North Dakota-Boston

North Dakota has been plagued by inconsistency throughout the year just as they look to roll off a long streak. Boston has had similar issues, however, the Terriers have more offensive weapons than the Fighting Hawks, and better goal tending.

Boston wins 4-1

Regional Final 

Duluth will overpower the Terriers thanks to their strong physical play, and key contributions from players like Riley Tufte.

Duluth wins 4-1