NCHC picks: March 22

Well, Matthew and I went 0-2 in our first round picks. Let’s see if we can do better for the consolation and championship games.

North Dakota vs. Western Michigan
Candace: Western Michigan coach Andy Murray made a big deal about playing for a 20-win season and sending his seniors out with a big during the press conference yesterday, but North Dakota is playing for a shot at a 12th straight NCAA tournament appearance, and has demonstrated resiliency and an ability to bounce back from bad losses. North Dakota 3-1
Matthew: For as good as North Dakota had been really ever since right after Thanksgiving, UND really needs to win this third-place game to solidify its chances of nabbing an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. It’s not going to be easy, and their getting shut out by Miami Friday makes me that little bit less confident in picking UND, but I think they’ll pull it out. North Dakota 2-1

Denver vs. Miami
Candace: These two battled in the last weekend of the regular season and split in Denver, with the Pioneers winning the first game and Miami dominating the second. This game comes down to how the best NCHC goaltender of the year, Sam Brittain, holds up against the trio of Blake Coleman, Austin Czarnik, and Riley Barber. The RedHawks have been hot, and I think they take this. Miami 3-1
Matthew: It almost seems absurd to think that anyone could’ve predicted back in October that, once we got to the NCHC playoff championship game, it’d be played by two teams that finished the regular season in the bottom half of the league but now are one win away from going to the NCAA tournament. Here we are, though, and I’m going to make a prediction that’s perhaps almost as surprising: I like Miami in this game. They finished last in the league in the regular season, but they seemed to sort out their offense in their first-round sweep at St. Cloud State and then shored up the defense – which has been a bigger worry for the RedHawks – last night in a 3-0 win over North Dakota. Denver’s a very decent team and has maybe the best college goaltender in the country, but can Miami beat the Pioneers? I’m going to say yes. Miami 3-2