Picking the regionals: USCHO writers dig into the opening weekend of the 2016 NCAA tournament

Charlie Lindgren and St. Cloud State are the biggest favorite to advance to the Frozen Four, according to USCHO staff predictions (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 regionals:

Midwest Regional

Friday and Saturday, Cincinnati

Drew Claussen picks North Dakota: A strong argument could be made for all four of the teams at this regional. I predict the Fighting Hawks beat Michigan in a high-scoring game to advance.

NCAA Midwest Regional

See complete coverage at Regional Central.

Jim Connelly picks Northeastern: This might be my one off-the-wall pick, but the Huskies are the best team in the nation in 2016 and proved they can navigate a tough Hockey East tournament a week ago.

Shane Frederick picks Michigan: Here’s to scoring a few goals! The high-flying Wolverines simply have too much firepower even for this tough regional.

David H. Hendrickson picks North Dakota: North Dakota emerges from the toughest bracket after almost getting toppled in the first round by Northeastern.

Jack Hittinger picks Michigan: Sure, their defense has been suspect all season, but that offense is tough to pick against. They can outscore anyone in the region field even if they give up a few.

Candace Horgan picks North Dakota: This is the first bracket of death. To me, it comes down to 1 versus 4. I think North Dakota will find some way to scrape by Northeastern, which is red hot, but might have used up its energy to win Hockey East. Once the Fighting Hawks win that game, they’ll win the regional.

Chris Lerch picks Northeastern: It seems like every year at least one four seed makes it through, and Northeastern is by far the best of the No. 4s. Despite this being, in my opinion, the toughest bracket, I’m picking the Huskies to move on to Tampa.

Dan Rubin picks North Dakota: I would love to pick Northeastern here because the Huskies have been so pistol hot, but North Dakota is still North Dakota. Whoever wins that game is winning the regional.

Matthew Semisch picks Michigan: North Dakota’s going to have a tough time getting out of the first round against a Northeastern team with one loss in its last 23 games, and Michigan has something to prove after missing the past three NCAA tournaments.

Josh Weinreb picks North Dakota: No matter what the nickname, North Dakota finds a way to Tampa, led by freshman phenom Brock Boeser.

Paula C. Weston picks Michigan: It may defy logic to pick against Northeastern in this bracket, but I think the Wolverines finally have every aspect of their game working and I’m counting on that offense.

Northeast Regional

Friday and Saturday, Worcester, Mass.

Drew Claussen picks Boston College: While disappointing, missing the Hockey East championship game means that the Eagles go into the NCAA tournament with an extra day of rest. Providence and Minnesota-Duluth will be a hard-fought game and I like Boston College to defeat the drained winner of that game.

2016 NCAA Northeast Regional

See complete coverage at Regional Central.

Jim Connelly picks Boston College: Although the Eagles had some troubles down the stretch, BC is built for this time of year and has won in Worcester the last five times the tournament was played there.

Shane Frederick picks Boston College: The Eagles playing a regional in Worcester practically makes them a lock for the Frozen Four. They’ve won the last five regionals there.

David H. Hendrickson picks Providence: Providence’s complete game gives it a shot at back-to-back titles.

Jack Hittinger

picks Harvard: We haven’t had a repeat champion in 10 years. There’s too much parity. I don’t think it’s happening this year, either. I think Harvard gets out of this regional. The Jimmy Vesey, Alexander Kerfoot and Kyle Criscuolo line is legit.

Candace Horgan picks Boston College: BC hardly ever loses at the DCU in Worcester, so I think the Eagles advance again.

Chris Lerch picks Boston College: The Eagles faltered down the stretch, but I think it will be BC vs. Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday, with Boston College moving on.

Dan Rubin picks Providence: Duluth won its way in with a seven-game winning streak until the NCHC championship game, but that’s a long way to travel to take on three local teams. The Friars will beat Harvard, which takes care of a trending downward BC team.

Matthew Semisch picks Boston College: I’m taking Minnesota-Duluth to upset Providence in the first round, but if the Friars go out early, BC’s the best remaining team.

Josh Weinreb picks Providence: Defending champions have shown nothing but poise one year later. That should be enough to get the Friars to Tampa. Plus, they’re virtually playing at home in Worcester, Mass.

Paula C. Weston picks Providence: The Friars were playing their best hockey of the season down the stretch with tight defense in front of the underrated Nick Ellis. If they didn’t expend too much in the Hockey East title game, they should advance to Tampa.

West Regional

Saturday and Sunday, St. Paul, Minn.

Drew Claussen picks St. Cloud State: The Huskies’ power play will help them dispatch Ferris State in their first game. St. Cloud State’s second game will be difficult, regardless of opponent, but I like the team playing close to home to advance.

NCAA West Regional

See complete coverage at Regional Central.

Jim Connelly picks St. Cloud State: I’ve been sold on this Huskies team all year and an NCHC postseason title sewed things up for me.

Shane Frederick picks St. Cloud State: The Huskies might be the most balanced team in the entire tournament. So good in so many different areas.

David H. Hendrickson picks St. Cloud State: St. Cloud’s offense roars unscathed into the Frozen Four.

Jack Hittinger picks St. Cloud State: The Huskies have no top line. Instead, they have lines 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d. That’s not exactly an exaggeration. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, too.

Candace Horgan picks St. Cloud State: In 2013, both Lowell and St. Cloud advanced to the Frozen Four. The Huskies will have a hard time getting out of this regional, particularly if they play Denver, whom they’d have to beat a for a fourth time, but I think they are too deep not to advance.

Chris Lerch picks St. Cloud State: Fresh off an NCHC title and on a six-game winning streak, I like the Huskies to take care of business, although either Denver or Boston University will present a huge hurdle on Sunday.

Dan Rubin picks Denver: I love St. Cloud, but it’s going to be very hard to beat the Pioneers a fourth time.

Matthew Semisch picks St. Cloud State: Denver against St. Cloud State would be a very entertaining regional final, but I like the Huskies to get through what looks like the second-kindest regional draw after the East.

Josh Weinreb picks Boston University: My curveball pick. The Terriers fly west and surprise everyone.

Paula C. Weston picks St. Cloud State: St. Cloud has offense, defense, goaltending and decent special teams … and the NCHC may have been the toughest conference this season.

East Regional

Saturday and Sunday, Albany, N.Y.

Drew Claussen picks UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks were on a roll, sweeping Boston University in the Hockey East quarterfinals and winning a thrilling triple-overtime game against Providence at the Hockey East tournament before dropping a close game to Northeastern in the championship game. I think UML rebounds and edges Quinnipiac to take the East Regional.

2016 NCAA East Regional

See complete coverage at Regional Central.

Jim Connelly picks Quinnipiac: I have been impressed by this team’s ability to bend at times but never break. And even last Saturday, when the Bobcats played much of the game without their best player, Sam Anas, they found a way to win.

Shane Frederick picks UMass-Lowell: There is some quality goaltending in this regional, but I’m giving the edge to the River Hawks and Kevin Boyle this weekend.

David H. Hendrickson picks UMass-Lowell: Lowell’s whole is greater than the sum of its very deep parts. As rock-solid as Gibraltar.

Jack Hittinger picks Quinnipiac: I suppose if Sam Anas is back, this is a slam-dunk. But even without him, they look like the deepest team in the region.

Candace Horgan picks UMass-Lowell: I have a hard time picking this one. Quinnipiac is a deserved top seed, but I like the way Lowell played down the stretch, and Quinnipiac has been vulnerable to ties, which could translate to losses, so I’m going with the River Hawks.

Chris Lerch picks Quinnipiac: Winning their first ECAC Hockey tournament was an important step for the Bobcats, and I think they’ll be confident coming into this regional.

Dan Rubin picks UMass-Lowell: This might be the most competitive regional in the lot. I don’t think there’s anything that’s a safe pick coming out of Albany.

Matthew Semisch picks Quinnipiac: Rochester Institute of Technology is 2-0 in NCAA tournament games against No. 1 seeds, but should Quinnipiac get past the Tigers, I like the Bobcats to beat either Lowell or Yale, too.

Josh Weinreb picks Quinnipiac: The Bobcats are battle- tested heading into the tournament. Even in games in which they’re down-and-out, Rand Pecknold’s team seems to find a way to win. That’s the sign of a good team.

Paula C. Weston picks Yale: Until they stumbled in their last three games, the Bulldogs had won eight in a row and were scoring a lot of goals. Yale’s had two weeks off to rest and figure out how to get past Quinnipiac.