Backs against the wall, underdogs succeeded

Colorado College used a certain mentality that nearly helped the Tigers win the Final Five and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.

We don’t need to win three games in a row. We need to win one game three times.

“That was the mentality we used against North Dakota last night,” said CC goaltender Joe Howe. “All that mattered tonight was leaving it all on the ice against Minnesota.”

The Tigers’ Cinderella run ended Saturday when Wisconsin beat them in the title game. The Badgers were in the same situation, needing to win the Final Five to earn the WCHA’s automatic bid to get in the tourney.

Any matchup involving Wisconsin or Colorado College against a team that was in position for an at-large bid, the Badgers or Tigers won (also of note: the teams that won the shots on goal battle lost each of the first four games).

Wisconsin and CC showed this weekend how dangerous teams playing for their seasons can be.

First-place SCSU sweats out Friday, Saturday

One of the last St. Cloud State players to leave the locker room after the Huskies fell 4-1 to Wisconsin Friday, Nic Dowd was as dejected his teammates that exited before him.

He was unsure whether or not SCSU’s season would continue. Until Saturday night when Massachusetts-Lowell eliminated Boston University, the Huskies season was in Limbo.

“Hopefully we can sneak in there,” Dowd said Friday. “I think we’ve earned a spot in the tournament. We won our conference and that’s hard to do.

“We didn’t compete against some teams we should’ve beaten earlier in the year and hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite us. A lot of teams don’t get a second chance and hopefully we will.”

Friday afternoon was a nightmare for SCSU, considering what was happening out east with underdogs knocking off high seeds and threatening to steal at-large bids. Brown beat Quinnipiac in the ECAC, Canisius beat Niagara in Atlantic Hockey and BU beat Boston College in Hockey East.

That might be the only time a MacNaughton Cup winner left its tournament hopes in the hands of results in other tournaments.

The PairWise Rankings determine the NCAA tournament field and takes into account every game a team plays at any time during a season. Those home losses to Northern Michigan in January almost killed SCSU’s chances to qualify.

Head east: it’s regional week

Six teams from the WCHA qualified for the NCAA tournament and they’ve been placed into three of the four brackets, leaving the East Region without a WCHA team.

When you draw up the brackets by ranking the teams 1 through 16, WCHA teams are spread out over all four brackets, which seems ideal with the high amount of teams from the league that made the tourney.

But the NCAA put travel distance and attendance numbers ahead of bracket integrity and moved North Dakota from the East Regional to the West where it could face Minnesota in the second round.

It’s a good move because it regionalizes the bracket a little more and it provides the potential for a rivalry game with a Frozen Four berth on the line.

In the Northeast, Denver and Wisconsin are the two least fortunate WCHA teams in their regional draws, given their opponent locations.

The Pioneers play the host New Hampshire, which is located 39 miles from the arena in Manchester. Wisconsin faces No. 1 seed Massachusetts-Lowell, which is around 35 from Manchester.

Both low seeds, SCSU and MSU play Notre Dame and Miami, respectively, in Toledo. South Bend, Ind. (Notre Dame) is a 2 1/2-hour drive to the Huntington Center in Toledo and Oxford, Ohio (Miami) is three hours away.

The Xcel Energy Center is really the only arena in the within a short driving distance for fans in the heart of WCHA territory under current rules that require regional sites to be neutral.

The Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis. is stretching it in terms of travel distance and Denver’s Pepsi Center is great for fans in Colorado, but when Minnesota doesn’t host in St. Paul, count on flying.