The WCHA Final Five is upon us with an entirely different look compared to year’s past. In essence, it’s become almost a cross between the CCHA’s old Super 6/championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and the Final Five we all came to love and cherish at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
This year’s Final Five is being played at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. — home of the Detroit Red Wing’s AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
The teams: two from the old CCHA in Bowling Green and Ferris State and two holdovers from the old WCHA in Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State.
Who is going to come out on top? Here are our picks.
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota State
2 p.m. EDT Friday
Based on the comments of Falcons’ head coach Chris Bergeron on Tuesday, it appears the Falcons enter the Final Five with a huge chip on their shoulder after getting snubbed by the rest of the league at the end of the regular season. Despite finishing fourth, BGSU landed no one on the All-WCHA first, second, third or rookie teams. Not a single Falcon landed an award outside of all-academic team honors. In Bergeron’s own words: “We’re not trying to embrace the underdog role or under appreciated role, that’s just the one we’ve been painted with.” Falcons 4-3
Shane: Bergeron definitely talked the talk when it comes to the all-league snubs, but there’s no doubt the Falcons have some bulletin-board material. The Mavericks, meanwhile, had more all-league picks than anyone else in the conference. Is that why Minnesota State will win? I won’t say that, but I like that MSU has shown some resiliency over the course of their 11-game unbeaten streak. The Mavs were down four times last Saturday against Northern Michigan and came back to win in overtime. And they’ve trailed in four other games over the streak. Mavericks 4-3
Alaska-Anchorage vs. Ferris State
7 p.m. EDT Friday
Matt: Grand Rapids is just 60 miles south of the Bulldogs home in Big Rapids, and since Ferris finished off a double overtime win over Bemidji State late Saturday night, the university has been on a mission to get as many Bulldogs fans to Van Andel Arena as possible. Both @FerrisHockey and @ferrisathletics have taken over my timeline on Twitter with deals and packages even I felt may be too good to pass up. Those fans could prove to be the difference for a team that has been unbeatable at home in conference play this year. Bulldogs 3-1
Shane: The Seawolves are a great story, going from four wins a year ago to winning 18 and making the Final Five this year. They’re starting to play better away from Anchorage, too, which could be scary for the Bulldogs. They’re not to be taken lightly. Ferris State’s season won’t end with a loss, but I think the team will be motivated by being the de facto home team this weekend. Just how many fans will they put in the Van Andel? Enough to make the tournament look respectable on TV? Bulldogs 3-2
Broadmoor Trophy Championship
7 p.m. EDT Saturday
Matt (Bowling Green vs. Ferris State): No team this season has been more focused than Ferris State. The Bulldogs have their eye on the ultimate prize it seems: a national championship. It’s a lofty goal, but one the program believes it can shoot for after falling short in the NCAA title game two years ago. I don’t think it will matter who Ferris State plays in the WCHA title game, whether its Minnesota State or Bowling Green, I like the Bulldogs to win the Broadmoor Trophy this weekend. It’s not the program’s ultimate prize, but it is a key piece to their national championship puzzle. Bulldogs 3-2
Shane (Minnesota State vs. Ferris State): This will be the rematch everybody’s been waiting for since mid-January when the Mavericks swept the Bulldogs in Mankato and brewed up some bad blood as the weekend went on. It’s also the rivalry the WCHA needs as it tries to rebuild its brand. This could be a game MSU needs to get a berth into the NCAA tournament. Ferris State will have some revenge on its mind. Minnesota State, meanwhile, fell on point short of catching the Bulldogs for a share of the MacNaughton Cup but could have a chance to take the Broadmoor. Mavericks 3-2