St. Cloud State (17-16-5, 12-12-4 WCHA) vs. No. 9 Denver (23-12-4, 16-8-4 WCHA)
Tyler: Mike Lee’s past against UND, which includes zero wins in six starts, is going to rattle him Thursday. He never had a shot against UND this year (out with injury in four games vs. UND) and he’s red hot since he returned 10 games ago. But it’s so hard to pick against UND in the Final Five. UND is 7-2 after the WCHA first round since 2010. This team isn’t as strong or deep as the last two UND playoff teams but if the 2010 championship game was any indication of what the crowd will be like Thursday night, expect a lot of loud fans dressed in green. This game is do-or-die for the Huskies, who likely need to win the Final Five to get a regional bid, and they will bring the intensity but I always love UND’s odds this time of year. UND wins.
Brian: Both teams come in having identical 7-2-1 records in their last 10 games but North Dakota did it against competition with a higher overall winning percentage (.531) than St. Cloud’s (.481). Furthermore, UND is 5-1 when playing SCSU at the Final Five with the Huskies’ last win over UND in St. Paul being a 6-5 overtime win over the Sioux in the 2001 title game. Although Huskies G Mike Lee is 1-5-0 against North Dakota, he hasn’t faced them this season and is enjoying a good run since his return with goals against average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .945 in his last six starts. As Tyler indicated, though, betting against North Dakota this time of year is risky. Lee stands on his head but the Sioux prevail in a nail-biter.
Michigan Tech (16-18-4, 11-13-4 WCHA) at No. 12 North Dakota (22-12-3, 16-11-1 WCHA)
Tyler: Denver had trouble breaking Wisconsin’s thick defense in the first round last weekend, scoring six goals in three games. That’s the way the Badgers slowed down Minnesota a week earlier. Michigan Tech is similar to the Badgers in terms of their defensive style and can slow the Pioneers down, as the Huskies did earlier in the season when they held Denver to four goals in two games. Michigan Tech wins a low-scoring game.
Brian: Denver is making its fifth consecutive, and 11th overall, appearance at the Final Five and will be meeting Michigan Tech in the tournament for the first time. Overall in the postseason, however, the Pioneers are 14-3-1 when facing the Huskies. Michigan Tech, on the other hand, visits St. Paul for the first time since 2007, and the fifth time overall, bringing with it a 3-5 record in Final Five games. I hate to come off as a front-runner but I think Denver’s advantages in overall skill and experience in what DU coach George Gwozdecky referred to Tuesday as “a spectacle” and a “a Mardis Gras” of college hockey leads me to pick the Pioneers in this one.