Picking the regionals: USCHO writers break down the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament

Will Butcher and Denver are in the most competitive regional according to USCHO staff picks (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Some of USCHO’s conference writers pick the teams they think will advance to the Frozen Four in this weekend’s NCAA regionals:

Northeast Regional

Friday and Saturday, Manchester, N.H.

Drew Claussen picks Minnesota: The Gophers are a lethal No. 3 seed. Adam Wilcox is playing well and the Gophers’ seniors should lead the way.

2015 NCAA Northeast Regional

See all of our coverage of the Northeast Regional on our regionals page.

Jim Connelly picks Boston University: The Terriers are loaded top to bottom and are playing their best hockey all season. Concerned that there isn’t a lot of NCAA experience on this club but they make up for that with talent.

Shane Frederick picks Boston University: Terriers superstar Jack Eichel is waiting for his close-up. He won’t be denied.

David H. Hendrickson picks Boston University: The best offense in the country advances to the Gahden.

Jack Hittinger picks Boston University: Not that Jack Eichel needs any more publicity, but his Terriers have been dominant all season. It’s odd that their last tournament appearance was 2012 but a team with this kind of offensive firepower should be able to make a run to the Frozen Four.

Candace Horgan picks Boston University: The two Eastern regionals are both pretty cutthroat. BU is close to home and has two of the top scorers in the country. It won’t be easy, but I think the Terriers come out of it.

Chris Lerch picks Boston University: I think it will be a BU vs. Minnesota regional final, with the Terriers coming out on top. It might take overtime to decide it, though.

Nate Owen picks Boston University: Like Harvard, the attention is on the main star — in this case Jack Eichel — but the Terriers are solid throughout the lineup.

Matthew Semisch picks Boston University: The regional in Manchester could be where Jack Eichel takes his outstanding freshman season for BU up a notch as he and his Terriers teammates try to make it to the Frozen Four in BU’s backyard.

Paula C. Weston picks Minnesota: The Gophers are playing their best hockey of the year and if they can contain Eichel, they will pull off the unlikely upset.

West Regional

Friday and Saturday, Fargo, N.D.

Drew Claussen picks North Dakota: Playing close to home should help North Dakota advance to the Frozen Four. If it beats Quinnipiac, UND’s second-round game will be difficult regardless of opponent.

Jim Connelly picks North Dakota: This is the deepest team in the tournament and playing so close to home in Fargo makes this my easiest of the four selections.

Shane Frederick picks Michigan Tech: Four of the Huskies’ nine losses have been to Minnesota State, which, last time I looked, isn’t in this regional.

David H. Hendrickson picks North Dakota: The North Dakotans are my pre-tournament favorite to win it all.

Jack Hittinger picks North Dakota: It’s tough to pick against UND for this regional. Playing in front of a rabid crowd in a small rink just an hour away from Grand Forks, it’ll have an distinct home-ice advantage. Whichever team wins the Michigan Tech-St. Cloud State battle of the Huskies will give UND fits, but I can’t see it losing this season.

Candace Horgan picks North Dakota: UND looked vulnerable last weekend, but it is 70 miles from campus. and this regional is sold out, with mostly North Dakota fans. I have to think home ice matters. NoDak probably has two close games, but moves on.

Chris Lerch picks North Dakota: I think last weekend’s showing will fire up North Dakota, which I think despite a possible rematch with St. Cloud State has the easiest road to Boston.

Nate Owen picks Michigan Tech: It’s been a long wait for the Huskies. Might as well make it count.

Matthew Semisch picks North Dakota: UND has questions to answer following a pair of losses last weekend at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, but the team was handed a relatively kind regional bracket and will essentially be playing at home just more than an hour south of Grand Forks.

Paula C. Weston picks Michigan Tech: I think it will come down to Michigan Tech and North Dakota and a single goal, and I’m thinking of an another unlikely upset.

East Regional

Saturday and Sunday, Providence, R.I.

Drew Claussen picks Boston College: Home ice will help Providence knock off Miami in the first round, but the Friars will fall to Boston College in a Hockey East regional final. Jerry York should have little trouble motivating this team with the Frozen Four being held in Boston this year.

Jim Connelly picks Boston College: I have bounced back and forth and back and forth between BC and Denver and decided to finally stick to my original choice. Jerry York knows how to win this time of year. That’s my decision-maker.

Shane Frederick picks Providence: Friars goaltender Jon Gilles will carry his team from a hometown regional up the road to Boston.

David H. Hendrickson picks Providence: Jon Gillies puts the Friars on his broad shoulders.

Jack Hittinger picks Miami: This is the region I have the least confidence in. I’m tempted to pick Providence as the hometown Cinderella, but I think a strong Miami squad should be able to overcome the Friars and advance to the Frozen Four.

Candace Horgan picks Denver: DU has a lot of weapons, and while this regional is probably the most difficult of the four, I think the Pioneers will prevail in two close games.

Chris Lerch picks Denver: The Pioneers haven’t been very successful when coming to the East/Northeast regionals in recent years, but this team is better than the version that lost to BC last season.

Nate Owen picks Denver: The Pioneers look like the most complete team in a wide-open regional.

Matthew Semisch picks Miami: The RedHawks are full of confidence after winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff last weekend, and if they can get past Providence in Providence on Saturday, another deep tournament run could be on.

Paula C. Weston picks Boston College: I’d pick Miami but my money is always on a team with “Boston” in its name when there’s a former CCHA affiliate in the bracket.

Midwest Regional

Saturday and Sunday, South Bend, Ind.

Drew Claussen picks Minnesota State: The Mavericks are one of the deepest teams in the country, but I see the top line of Bryce Gervais, Matt Leitner and Jean-Paul Lafontaine coming up big for Minnesota State this weekend.

Jim Connelly picks Harvard: Being healthy is the difference-maker for the Crimson. Felt this was the best team at the break and their falters were entirely injury-related. As this team has gotten healthier, the better it has played.

Shane Frederick picks Minnesota State: A run to the Frozen Four for the Mavericks has been three years in the making for Mike Hastings, Matt Leitner and Zach Palmquist.

David H. Hendrickson picks Harvard: The Crimson are hot at the right time.

Jack Hittinger picks Minnesota State: If any team in the field seems destined to move in, it’s the Mavericks. After two consecutive first-round oustings, this deep, senior-laden team has been here before and will be eager to prove itself to the college hockey world.

Candace Horgan picks Minnesota State: This regional seems the most open to me, with all the teams having question marks. The Mavericks looked good in winning the WCHA last weekend, so I’m going with them.

Chris Lerch picks Harvard: The Crimson are healthy and playing their best hockey of the season right now.

Nate Owen picks Harvard: Jimmy Vesey gets the attention but Harvard is deep — and healthy.

Matthew Semisch picks Minnesota State: Minnesota State arguably has the most to prove of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament, but as the Mavericks finished atop the PairWise Rankings, they were grouped with three teams that they should be able to get past.

Paula C. Weston picks Harvard: The Crimson seem to have found their scoring in the last month and, besides, I can’t imagine the Frozen Four without an ECAC Hockey representative any longer.