Face Off: Week 8

Welcome to U.S. College Hockey Online’s roundtable discussion. We’ll be debating a college hockey topic every other week in this space, where various members of our staff meet to argue. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly — but either way, watch the feathers fly: no punches will be pulled, and no quarter given, when these people face off.

In Milwaukee, Who Will Win the Thursday Semifinals; then, on Saturday, Who Emerges From the Wreckage as NCAA Champion?

Mike Machnik, Special Projects: The old adage is, “Defense wins championships.” Both Colorado College and Boston University will try to ride strong goaltending and good team defense to upset wins in the semifinals — but it won’t be enough. North Dakota 5, Colorado College 2; Michigan 6, Boston University 2.

In any other year, North Dakota looks to be the strongest and most balanced team around. But in their first tournament appearance since 1987, the Sioux have the misfortune of running into a Michigan juggernaut that may have the most talented senior class the NCAA has ever seen. The Wolverines have their sights set on becoming the first repeat champion since BU in 1971-72, and repeat they will, 5-3.

Frank Mazzocco, Game of the Week: Michigan, Michigan, Michigan — if they don’t win it all, investigate. The Wolverines will dismantle BU 5-2, and then CC 6-2 after CC beats North Dakota 4-3, mainly because the Fighting Sioux are new to this level of play.

Jayson Moy, ECAC Correspondent: Does anyone have a chance at stopping Michigan? A hot goalie might be able to, and enough firepower, maybe, but BU can’t. Michigan 6, Boston University 3. In the other semifinal, North Dakota and Colorado College meet again. ND has the edge, and the Sioux buzz, but CC is playing well. Tough call, but ND goes to the championship game. North Dakota 4, Colorado College 3.

The final should feature Michigan and North Dakota, where the firepower of Michigan is just too much. Michigan repeats, 5-3.

Deron Treadwell, News Editor: In the first semifinal we have two WCHA rivals in Colorado College and North Dakota. On paper, North Dakota shouldn’t have much trouble with the Tigers since they did win the WCHA.

But you can’t measure what “being there before” gives a team. Don Lucia took his group to the title game last year and almost beat a talented Michigan team, while North Dakota has been on an NCAA drought in recent years. So throw the records out — these teams know too much about each other. CC wins in an upset, 5-4.

Next, we have a rematch of last year’s semifinal, in which Michigan blanked BU 4-0 en route to the title. If anyone will give Michigan a game, it will be BU — maybe.

Unlike Terrier teams of the past, this one is built from the goal outward. Michel Larocque was probably the best goalie in Hockey East, despite being robbed of all-conference honors. BU also boasts one of the most talented defensive corps in the league, anchored by senior Jon Coleman.

If Larocque and the defense come to play, this might be a game. Otherwise, BU doesn’t have the scoring punch to keep up with the high-flying Wolverines. Michigan wins it comfortably, 6-3.

Michigan will then win the national title, in probably one of the least-contested title games in recent times. Colorado College has had a great run, but they aren’t experienced or talented enough to beat a Michigan team that will go down as one of the greatest college hockey teams ever. Michigan storms CC, 7-2, to repeat as NCAA champions.

Tim Brule, USCHO Coordinator: The Final Four Faceoff, huh? Well, I’m afraid this may not be much of a final four. The matchups seem lopsided, and I’m just praying for one good game out of the three.

Tim’s predictions: North Dakota 4, Colorado College 1 Michigan 6, Boston University 2 Michigan 5, North Dakota 2

Dave Hendrickson, Hockey East Correspondent: The moon, planets, and stars will need to be in some bizarre alignment to prevent a second straight Michigan national championship. There’s the Wolverines, the team without an Achilles’ heel, and then there’s the rest of the field.

Boston University will go down first, 5-2. Their strong defense, occasionally stellar goaltending from Michel Larocque, and scoring from Chris Drury and Shawn Bates could give them a chance. Stranger things have happened. Like assistant coach Mike Eruzione beating the Russians in 1980. But all logic points to the wave after wave of Michigan scorers, and its woefully unrecognized defense should rule the day.

Colorado College has done a great job getting back to The Dance, but it’s midnight for Cinderella, even with Judd Lambert standing tall in the nets. That is, unless Jason Blake’s injury keeps him out of the North Dakota lineup. Without Blake, the stagecoach may stay a stagecoach until Saturday afternoon. That said, Blake should return, and North Dakota will take a 4-3 game.

In the finals, North Dakota will make it tough for the Wolverines, but it’ll be deja vu all over again. Michigan 5-3.

Scott Brown, Features Editor: The first semi is a rematch of a WCHA Final Five game which North Dakota won by four goals. Colorado College head man Don Lucia will make this one more competitive, but the Sioux still win, 4-3. Then the Wolverines show outgunned Boston University why they’re the favorites, 6-3.

Now, I’m not as pessimistic as Tim, but I also don’t think anyone is going to stop this Michigan team — not the way they mangled Minnesota last Sunday. Let’s give it to ’em, but in an actual contest: Michigan 5, North Dakota 3. Everyone ready for “Hail to the Victors” 326 times?