Every week, we get mail about USCHO.com’s Division I conference columns. A lot of it has to do with our game predictions — who will beat whom, and by how much?
Suffice to say, the content of those emails makes two things clear: (1) our readers care deeply about these picks, and (2) a lot of college hockey fans aren’t real impressed with our prognosticating abilities.
Well, there’s nothing like a little rivalry to keep it interesting around the USCHO offices, so in the spirit of good competition, our crack D-I writing staff has agreed to settle the title of “Best Prognosticator,” or perhaps “Least Fradulent,” with a winner-take-all battle royale.
The rules are simple. The correspondent(s) from each of the six D-I conferences have picked the results of five games this weekend — one game from each of the five conference championships, selected for maximum degree of difficulty by USCHO’s editorial staff.
This week’s games are Quinnipiac-Iona (MAAC); St. Cloud-Minnesota (WCHA); Maine-Providence (Hockey East); Michigan-UNO (CCHA); and Harvard-Cornell (ECAC).
The top four finishers (most correct picks, with the tiebreaker being total goals in all games) advance to next week’s semifinals, in which they will attempt to pick the winners of each of the four first-round NCAA matchups.
Finally, the top two semifinal finishers move on to pick the three games at the Frozen Four for the big prize … continued employment with USCHO.
We’re kidding, of course.
And there’s an added bonus. Beginning next week with the semifinals, you, the readers, can join the fray and attempt to “Beat the Frauds.”
But for now, our contestants and their picks:
Dave Hendrickson (Hockey East)
Quinnipiac 4, Iona 2: Quinnipiac is on a roll with six straight wins. Iona has also shown a greater dependency on home ice, so a neutral site favors the Braves.
Minnesota 3, St. Cloud 2: Minnesota swept a home-and-home series with St. Cloud in November. The Huskies returned the favor in April. That means it’s Minnesota’s turn. Hey, that logic makes as much sense as the typical Jayson Moy pick.
Maine 3, Providence 2: Maine closed out its quarterfinal series sweep last Friday. Providence had to go to a double-overtime third game on Sunday. The Black Bears are just a little better, more playoff tested and a lot more rested.
Michigan 4, Nebraska-Omaha 2: Nebraska-Omaha stunned Michigan in this same game last year. The Wolverines won’t get surprised a second time, plus UNO must also combat the USCHO jinx. Paula C. Weston’s exceptional feature on Maverick Mania comes at a very bad time.
Harvard 2, Cornell 1: Both Harvard and Cornell endured late-season losing streaks, before recovering for the playoffs. With minimal confidence in both clubs, the pick goes to the second-best school in Cambridge.
Todd D. Milewski (WCHA)
Quinnipiac 6, Iona 3: With a second life after an OT win last weekend, the Braves prove they’re the better team.
St. Cloud 4, Minnesota 2: Last time against the Huskies, the Gophers choked on a chance to share the MacNaughton Cup. It’ll be an even tougher task here.
Maine 2, Providence 1: From the outside (I mean the way outside of the Midwest), these teams look evenly matched. A hunch tells me to pick the Black Bears.
Michigan 5, Nebraska-Omaha 4: UNO proved its mettle last weekend at home, but it’ll be tough to duplicate last year’s run.
Harvard 5, Cornell 3: I work in Green Bay, Wis., home of Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni. Gotta go with the hometown guy.
Jim Connelly (MAAC)
Iona 4, Quinnipiac 3: The rematch from last year’s semis doesn’t change much.
St. Cloud 4, Minnesota 2: St. Cloud has had a season of destiny. The Huskies should handle the Gophers despite the crowd disadvantage.
Maine 5, Providence 3: Along with Lowell, Maine is the hottest team in this tournament.
Michigan 4, Nebraska-Omaha 1: It’s been a nice run for the Mavericks, but the Wolverines end it close to home.
Harvard 4, Cornell 3: A classic Ivy League matchup goes to a well-recovered Harvard club.
Paula C. Weston (CCHA)
Quinnipiac 4, Iona 2: With losses to Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst, and Canisius to end February, the Gaels hardly finished up strong.
St. Cloud 5, Minnesota 2: What are they feeding these guys in St. Cloud? The Huskies have scored 94 goals since the start of the year — that’s the calendar year, not the season. In a two-game series just two weeks ago, the Huskies outscored the Golden Gophers 11-3. Hard to argue with that.
Providence 4, Maine 3: In spite of the Friars’ two recent losses to Maine, I’m calling an upset in this one. Why? Pure homerism.
Michigan 4, Nebraska-Omaha 2: These teams split earlier in Omaha, and the Wolverines remember what happened last year in the CCHA Semifinals. This year, the Mavericks won’t be a surprise, and don’t think that three-game series against Ohio State didn’t burn up some fuel.
Cornell 2, Harvard 1: This is almost like calling a CCHA game, with Schafer at the helm of Cornell and Mazzoleni guiding Harvard. Low-scoring, defensive hockey.
Jayson Moy/Becky Blaeser (ECAC)
Quinnipiac 4, Iona 2: Quinnipiac has gone down in the semis for two years running. The third year is the charm.
Minnesota 4, St. Cloud 2: The revenge factor. ‘Nuff said.
Maine 3, Providence 2: Maine is on fire, PC just got by BU. On paper, it makes sense.
Michigan 5, Nebraska-Omaha 2: The Mavericks don’t repeat last year’s success at the Joe.
Harvard 3, Cornell 2: So long as the Crimson can stay out of the box, the big ice surface will play to their favor.
Natasha J. Parker (CHA)
Iona 3, Quinnipiac 1
St. Cloud 4, Minnesota 1
Maine 5, Providence 3
Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2
Harvard 2, Cornell 1