WCHA picks: March 15 (Final Five edition-part one)

St. Cloud State (17-16-5, 12-12-4 WCHA) vs. No. 9 Denver (23-12-4, 16-8-4 WCHA)

Tyler: Mike Lee’s past against UND, which includes zero wins in six starts, is going to rattle him Thursday. He never had a shot against UND this year (out with injury in four games vs. UND) and he’s red hot since he returned 10 games ago. But it’s so hard to pick against UND in the Final Five. UND is 7-2 after the WCHA first round since 2010. This team isn’t as strong or deep as the last two UND playoff teams but if the 2010 championship game was any indication of what the crowd will be like Thursday night, expect a lot of loud fans dressed in green. This game is do-or-die for the Huskies, who likely need to win the Final Five to get a regional bid, and they will bring the intensity but I always love UND’s odds this time of year. UND wins.

Brian: Both teams come in having identical 7-2-1 records in their last 10 games but North Dakota did it against competition with a higher overall winning percentage (.531) than St. Cloud’s (.481). Furthermore, UND is 5-1 when playing SCSU at the Final Five with the Huskies’ last win over UND in St. Paul being a 6-5 overtime win over the Sioux in the 2001 title game. Although Huskies G Mike Lee is 1-5-0 against North Dakota, he hasn’t faced them this season and is enjoying a good run since his return with goals against average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .945 in his last six starts. As Tyler indicated, though, betting against North Dakota this time of year is risky. Lee stands on his head but the Sioux prevail in a nail-biter.

Michigan Tech (16-18-4, 11-13-4 WCHA) at No. 12 North Dakota (22-12-3, 16-11-1 WCHA)

Tyler: Denver had trouble breaking Wisconsin’s thick defense in the first round last weekend, scoring six goals in three games. That’s the way the Badgers slowed down Minnesota a week earlier. Michigan Tech is similar to the Badgers in terms of their defensive style and can slow the Pioneers down, as the Huskies did earlier in the season when they held Denver to four goals in two games. Michigan Tech wins a low-scoring game.

Brian: Denver is making its fifth consecutive, and 11th overall, appearance at the Final Five and will be meeting Michigan Tech in the tournament for the first time. Overall in the postseason, however, the Pioneers are 14-3-1 when facing the Huskies. Michigan Tech, on the other hand, visits St. Paul for the first time since 2007, and the fifth time overall, bringing with it a 3-5 record in Final Five games. I hate to come off as a front-runner but I think Denver’s advantages in overall skill and experience in what DU coach George Gwozdecky referred to Tuesday as “a spectacle” and a “a Mardis Gras” of college hockey leads me to pick the Pioneers in this one.

59 COMMENTS

  1. Also Mike Lee was 0-5-1 against UND not 1-5-0. After tonight’s loss to UND his record against the Sioux is 0-6-1. =)

  2. Gonna be Minnesota VS UMD anyways. These are simply ticket fillers at OUR tourney. Figure it out. UND is simply a source of revenue in our city. University of Minnesota Grand Forks. Now there is good new name for thier team.

    • Swing and a miss…  DU verses UND and you’ll see real hockey played by men, not this mn man/boy-wish-I-could-grow-a-beard crap you call ice hockey…                The X should be renamed Ralph East.  Even when you have a good team and we are supposedly down we still own you…

  3. Minnesota vs North Dakota,best rivalry in college hockey. After the last game look for fireworks. There will be Blood, and I hope somebody takes #24’s head off.

  4. I do recall with much clarity the road trip BC took to Maine last year. What an embarrassing trip that was, and they knew it. No one could have predicted what happened next, and no one should expect a similar outcome this year. BC can’t, like it did last year, meander through the season and expect to ‘flip the switch’ in mid-January. Historically, BC has been rather pedestrian following a banner year. Outside of an exception here and there, NCAA hockey seems to be that way. It will be a heroic piece of coaching if York can steer clear of that ‘jinx.’

    • I’ll disagree. There have been down years following championships that were quite predictable because of a mass exodus of talent turning pro. But I see this year as closer to 2011 when, sandwiched between the 2010 and 2012 titles, BC finished first in Hockey East during the regular season, won the Hockey East tournament, and felt like a prohibitive favorite to win it all until the stunning loss in the NCAAs.
      BC’s talent level should be right there with the rest of the favorites.

  5. “it evidently considers the winning percentage versus each COP separately.”

    (Besides being an *insane* thing to do, as the example given over in the men’s Pairwise explanation shows…)

    Am I safe in assuming that you guys will be fixing your computer by next year? You obviously ‘know how’ to do this, as this is the way the men’s Pairwise shows now. Either you guys didn’t think the new and not-improved method didn’t apply to the women, or you simply forgot to implement it.

    • Oh, and once again, it’s this stuff written down somewhere? I remember seeing here a reference to a ‘NCAA tournament manual’ or some such (though I don’t remember exactly where). Is there such a manual, and if so where can I get a look at it? pdf, web link, etc.

    • Right now, the Wisconsin men are losing their Pairwise comparison with Alaska because Wisconsin’s ‘common opponent’ record of 5-4-1 is losing to Alaska’s 5-5-1. It could easily end up costing them an NCAA bid.

  6. Every year there will be someone not happy with the bracket.
    I do agree the selection rules manual should be easier to find. I’m pretty sure
    RPI showed UND was the last of 8 so I don’t see why travel would be a part of
    the decision. I’ve found RPI on the USCHO to show pretty much what the bracket
    would be like. UND and Mercyhurst luck came out of auto bids being awarded to
    teams that were ranked higher than them already. It just so happens that the 1st
    and the 8th are WCHA teams in the bracket while everyone else is on
    the Eastern side. Harvard couldn’t have asked for a closer opponent (besides
    BU), is almost as if they are playing home. I’m certainly happy the CHA was able to get
    representation on the playoffs.

    Hockey east follows the same pattern once again. BC is strong
    most of the season, right around the Beanpot time the defense goes on vacation
    and doesn’t come back. NU spends most of the season struggling to get by and
    when they hear beans they somehow find the perfect recipe to cook them, sadly
    not enough sauce to last all the way. BU gets a strong 1st half,
    struggles on the 2nd but somehow manages to come together for
    conference playoffs.

    Bracket talk: Cornell seems to have the highest probability
    to make it all the way to the final if BU doesn’t find a way to bring back the
    team that opened the season this year. If they do plus Sperry playing as hot as
    she is right now, the Big Red will see blood in the way and who knows who will
    come out on the winning side of that battle.

    If UM beats UMD, I don’t see anyone else being on their way
    to the final match. Would this be the year the East makes history? Probably
    not, but all is possible.

    • Just to be clear (assuming that was directed at me), I’m not unhappy with the bracket. I’m unhappy with USCHO and their mis-programmed computer.

      By looking at ‘social media’, it is obvious that the ‘sports information’ folks at Wisconsin were aware that USCHO was showing Wisconsin as the #8 in the pairwise. I can only assume that the team members were, as well (not to mention the ND players.

      So USCHO makes a mistake, and the girls on the two teams endure a 48-hour roller-coaster of ‘being out. being in, being out again’.

      • I tend to look at RPI after the last game which is usually Hockey East
        championship. USCHO showed pretty much what came out. Sunday morning I usually
        know what the scenario would be depending on who’s playing. Granted matches
        might change due to travel preferences but the teams that make it are pretty
        dead on. That has been my experience. The bottom 2 teams are usually the ones
        that drift quiet drastically. Last year both teams that won ECAC and HEA were
        ones that needed auto bid which if that would have been the case this year
        Mercyhurst wouldn’t have made it. This year all the winners didn’t need an auto
        bid to enter the playoffs which made even more critical spots 7 & 8th that
        tend to shift quite a bit during conference playoffs. If you looked at RPI
        before entering conference tourney, the points in between the bottom 5 were
        pretty close. This is why you don’t assume if you are at the bottom until all
        games are finish and the RPI reflects it. Again, USCHO RPI has been pretty dead
        on for me.

  7. There is a manual. Do we have access to it? Apparently, not the current version. A search on Google of “ncaa women’s ice hockey championship handbook” finds the 2011 handbook, but nothing later that I’ve seen. On page 10 of the 2011 handbook, the selection criteria are listed. They are bit vague, and nothing as detailed as a programing specification. I’m sure that the committee uses some process that is more detailed than the handbook’s “evaluate”, but it isn’t obvious. This is why the USCHO PairWise Rankings page says that it “attempts to mimic” the process.

    Fans of the sport form theories about how the committee handles these criteria based on previous decisions. USCHO could change the logic it uses for COP for the women to match what is used for the men. Perhaps that is what will be done in the future. However, that does not mean that the USCHO Rankings will then be able to exactly mirror the committee, given the handbook contains wording such as, “the committee reserves the right to weight criteria differently.”

  8. If North Dakota had been 7th in PWR they would have been swapped with #8 and sent to Minnesota. If UND had been 6th in PWR they would have been swapped with either #7 or #8 and sent to Minnesota. And so on and so on. Remember #1 Wisconsin getting #4 or #5 UMD? This committee has proven itself void of integrity in the past and proven their true ultimate goal of doing all they can to maximize the chances of a champion from a conference other than the WCHA. Those handful of close, one goal losses and multiple OT losses in championship games must have convinced someone it can’t be done by traditional methods. Like recruiting and coaching a team that can beat the WCHA’s best. Don’t have the money to fly teams? Sure thing.

    • You guys all realize that I was just trolling Tipsy. He was emphatic in that a few weeks back, and if I’m not mistaken that weekend Denver actually did sweep.

      That being said, I really won’t be surprised if CC steals one here. After last weekend against Miami I would say there are some question marks about Denver, so their level of play against CC this weekend will probably affect their whole mindset going into the rest of postseason play.

        • You get awfully butt hurt pretty easy. If you can’t handle a little good-natured ribbing, maybe the internet isn’t for you.

          • Butt hurt? You were “trolling” me, and obviously wanted a response, loser. I gave you one. What about my response was “butt hurt”?
            I was “emphatic”? I posted my opinion that Denver will not sweep. Not emphatically. Just as you typed it. Plainly stated. It’s great that you and DU_fan thought it was so hilarious that you keep beating it into the ground after two months. Keep posting it, it gets funnier with every Denver loss.
            Stick to making unfunny comments and not telling me what to do. You aren’t the boss of the internet, or this comment section, d-bag.

          • Thank you for proving my point.

            And for the record, I’m not a Denver fan, and I even commented that I wouldn’t be surprised if CC took a game this weekend.

  9. It’s so refreshing to see things like “DU in two”, rather than these arbitrary scores we see every week. I would think typing “3-2” or “4-2” gets old after a long season.

    • Agree, to a point.

      Omaha has the nation’s 6th ranked offense and the 5th ranked power play.

      On the other side of that ledger, Omaha has the 60th (last) ranked defense in the NCAA and, of 72 goalies ranked in the NCAA stats, their goalie, who is arguably the worst in the history of their program of any guy that has ever seen significant playing time, is 66th.

      For all of Omaha’s scoring proclivity this season, they have been shut out an astounding 6 times. Once by CC, once by SCSU, twice by Denver, and, more importantly, twice by North Dakota. CC aside, all of those other teams are ranked #13 or higher in team defense.

      Omaha, oddly enough, had exactly 5 power play opportunities in each and every game they were shut out this season.

      I would submit that the way to beat them is to simply be a good defensive club and play good defense.

      Since North Dakota is one of those teams that does that, I really can’t see any way that Omaha comes out on top in their series with them this weekend, short of North Dakota taking a ton of stupid penalties or something fluky occurring. I’d like North Dakota here even if this was being played in Omaha, and, its not.

        • One other thing, while it isn’t impossible Omaha would win this series, the big difference is also mindset.

          Omaha wants to win this series, North Dakota expects to.

          If Omaha could find a way to get this done, it would be a big step forward for their program. They have not won a conference tourney opening series since the ’07-’08 season. In fact, since that last opening round series win, they have only won 3 conference tourney games, period, in the nine 1st round conference series they have played in, since.

          They didn’t even manage one of those 3 wins in ’14-’15, the year they went to the Frozen Four. They got swept out of the NCHC first round that season by SCSU. And, they still managed to be a #2 seed in the NCAA tourney after that series loss.

          So, to get this decade-old monkey off their back, and to do it against the likes of North Dakota, would be a big step in the right direction, particularly under a first year head coach.

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