Picking the first round of the WCHA Playoffs

It’s the best time of the year.

It’s playoff time in the WCHA and we’ve got four series this weekend. Let’s get pickin’

No. 8 Northern Michigan at No. 1 Bemidji State
Sean: I don’t want to overlook Northern Michigan, and neither should Bemidji State, but this series feels like a launching pad for the Beavers into the rest of the postseason. Northern Michigan has a strong goalie in Atte Tolvanen, and he would be the key to an upset. But I don’t see that happening. Beavers in two. 
Jack: The Beavers swept the Wildcats in all four games they played this season. That, however, was in the first two moths of the season. NMU is a much better team now than they were then, and they’re fully healthy. I think this is going to be a much better series than a typical 1/8 matchup — but mostly because I think NMU is much better than an eight seed. I think Atte Tolvanan should be able to steal one from the Beavers, but they will slip by thanks to Michael Bitzer and his defensive corps. Beavers in three.
No. 7 Lake Superior State at No. 2 Michigan Tech
Sean: At one points this season Lake Superior State looked like it was the most explosive offense in the WCHA. But that was a long time ago and the Michigan Tech has been running through opponents in the second half of the season. This one could be a laugher. Huskies in two.
Jack: The Lakers won just three games in 2017. Tech was arguably the hottest team in the WCHA in the second half. If the Lakers can find some of their scoring magic from early in the season, I think they can make this interesting. If not, it could be quick for them. I’m leaning toward the latter. Huskies in two.
 
No. 6 Alaska at No. 3 Minnesota State
Sean: Minnesota State has a couple questions marks, particularly in goal where we aren’t sure who will grab the go-to role. Alaska is riding high after an emotionally-charged weekend against in-state rival Anchorage, and I think they make it more interesting than some of the other series. Mavericks in three. 
Jack: Much like BSU and NMU, these two teams met early in the season, so it might not be indicative of where they’re at now. MSU did, however, score 21 goals in four games against the Nanooks; the Mavs ended up with a 2-1-1 record. The Mavs can score, but their have a huge question mark in goal, with three different players starting their last three games. At the very least, we might expect a lot of goals in this series. I think the Mavs will sweep, but it will be interesting — especially if their goalie situation doesn’t get worked out. Mavericks in two.
 
No. 5 Ferris State at No. 4 Bowling Green
Sean: This is the series to watch this weekend. The teams were separated by a thing margin in the final standings, and both have something to prove after failing to live up to preseason expectations. The Falcons and Bulldogs also split the season series, so Game 3 should be thriller. Don’t be surprised if overtime is the deciding factor. Falcons in three.
Jack: The hardest series to pick, because neither team has been great this season but both have rebounded after very poor starts — BG went 0-6-1 to start the season while Ferris was 0-7-1 in their first eight games. Both are now essentially .500 teams in conference play, and fittingly they went 2-2 against one another this season. I’m going to pick BG in this series simply because goalie Chris Nell has been outstanding after struggling to start the season. Still, this one will go three games. Falcons in three.

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