No. 12 seed at Alaska-Anchorage at No. 1 St. Cloud State:
Matthew: Alaska-Anchorage took a pair of poundings last Friday and Sunday at Denver, losing the teams’ two games by a combined 13-2, and this weekend doesn’t look any brighter for the Seawolves. UAA head coach Dave Shyiak is in the final season of his current contract, and he might be reaching the end of the line in this series. Huskies sweep.
Tyler: These teams split earlier in the season in Anchorage and if it weren’t for the disparity in depth and talent, it could’ve easily been a Seawolves sweep. The Huskies had to rally the first night and was as flat as can be in the Saturday game. SCSU doesn’t let that happen this time and sweeps in convincing fashion.
No. 11 seed Bemidji State at No. 2 Minnesota:
Matthew: This is a series that’s very similar to UAA-SCSU in that it’s a mismatch which the home team should have no major issues dealing with if it’s on its game. BSU could give Minnesota fits – remember, the Beavers picked up a tie in one game at North Dakota two weeks ago and held their own in the other – but the Gophers are the better team by far in this series. I don’t see a blowout in either game, but I have Minnesota sweeping its way to its final Final Five.
Tyler: I think the fact that these teams played each other last week helps Minnesota. Bemidji State hangs back in a defensive style that takes time for some teams, even the most skilled teams, to get used to. The Gophers have seen it now and though I don’t expect blowouts, the Gophers should control both games and move on to the Final Five in a sweep.
No. 10 Michigan Tech at No. 3 North Dakota:
Matthew: Surprisingly, this is a matchup of teams with the nation’s two best power play units over the course of the 2013 portion of this season (MTU’s first at 28.6 percent, and UND’s at 27.7). I’m a little concerned by the fact that UND has dropped at least one point in each of the last three weeks, but while I think this could be a close series in the end, and maybe I’m being a little charitable towards the Huskies, but I don’t see Tech advancing. UND in three.
Tyler: To find North Dakota’s last loss in the WCHA Playoffs, you’d have to go back 13 games to Game 2 of the 2010 first round against Minnesota. Though it hasn’t always translated to success in the NCAA tournament, UND seems to play at its highest level in the league playoffs. You never know which version of Michigan Tech goaltending shows up and I think UND will expose that inconsistency. UND sweeps
No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth at No. 4 Wisconsin:
Matthew: UMD scored a ridiculous five power play goals last time out in a 6-0 win over Nebraska-Omaha, but the Bulldogs are on the road this weekend against a much better team than UNO has been lately. Duluth has been playing much better in recent weeks, but it’s hard to be too impressed by sweeps at home over Alabama-Huntsville and a UNO team that’s had serious difficulties on the ice lately. Wisconsin’s a better team on the road this season than it is in Madison, so that could be a plus for the Bulldogs, but I still see UW winning this series in three games.
Tyler: The last two weekends probably gave the Bulldogs confidence, offensively, outscoring their opponents 19-6 in four games. Like Matthew said, that isn’t all that impressive given the opponents. Wisconsin’s defense has carried the team all season and will get the Badgers to the Final Five with a series win in three games against UMD.
No. 8 Colorado College at No. 5 Denver:
Matthew: Obviously I can’t speak for you, Tyler, but this looks to me like our best chance at seeing an upset in the first round. CC took three points from the Pioneers early last month in the teams’ second home-and-home series of the season, and I have a gut feeling that CC will turn DU over again this weekend at Magness. I’m taking the Tigers in three.
Tyler: I agree this is the best chance for an upset because the Pioneers are so unpredictable. Denver has proven it can tighten up and contain good offensive teams but turn around and allow five goals the next night. CC has the ability to pour it on in the offensive zone but I think the Pioneers outlast the Tigers. Denver in three
No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 6 Minnesota State:
Matthew: Although Minnesota State’s ninth in the current PairWise Rankings, MSU is a more ideal matchup for UNO than everyone else in the WCHA’s top six. UNO has lost each of its final four regular season games for the second year running – and the red Mavericks have lost six of their last eight games this time around – and though I see this series going to three games, I think MSU will prevail.
Tyler: Something has to give in a series between two teams that have had constant struggles in this round of the playoffs. Though MSU got the short end of the three-way tie for fourth place, ending up with the sixth seed, I think it got the best draw of those three teams. Nothing’s going right for UNO and its penalty kill is terrible, lately, which MSU’s efficient power play should take advantage of. MSU sweep