No. 9 Denver (24-12-4) vs. No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (24-8-6)
Tyler: UMD is going to reverse its fortune from last season’s early exit in the Final Five. Denver has let a lot of games go down to the wire lately against team’s they should put away and that’s not going to work today. UMD wins.
Brian: Michigan Tech made the Pioneers earn everything they got in Denver’s 3-2 overtime win over the Huskies yesterday afternoon. Denver can’t afford to succumb to long periods of dominance against the Bulldogs the way they did for much of the third period against MTU in the quarterfinals. Then again, periods of dominance for UMD have been few and far between in recent weeks. Ultimately, however, I do believe Minnesota-Duluth will find a way to do enough to advance to Saturday’s St. Patty’s Day final.
No. 12 North Dakota (23-12-3) vs. No. 4 Minnesota (26-12-1)
Tyler: No matter what team you cheer for, this one’s worth tuning in. UND has claimed the Xcel Energy Center as its territory the past two seasons but the building is going to be packed and it’s going to be loud with fans of both sides, as it always is when these teams get together. The Gophers are 3-1 against UND this year and the difference is that Minnesota finally matches UND’s physical intensity in the rivalry. The Sioux is going for its seventh straight Final Five win going back to the 2010 play-in game, but I think Minnesota pulls it out in its return to the Final Five.
Brian: North Dakota’s 4-1 win over St. Cloud State last night was far from a thing of beauty, but it was the grind-it-out sort of game the Sioux will need to repeat if they want to beat Minnesota. Although UND’s top line of Brock Nelson (2), Danny Kristo (1), and Corban Knight (1) combined for all of the goal scoring against SCSU, the stingy Gopher defense has thus far held the trio to a total of four points (3-1—4) in winning three of four this season from the Sioux. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s top line of Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, and Zach Budish have combined for 14 points (7-7—14) in the same four games. Although taking four of five in the same season is a tall order, I’m giving the Gophers the slight edge here.