The semifinal round is done and the WCHA championship is all set for next week. Either Michigan Tech or Bowling Green will be heading to the NCAA tournament. They will face off at 7 p.m. EDT on Saturday, March 18, in Houghton, Mich. Here’s three things from the semifinal round:
1. Preseason favorites Tech, BG to battle for league title
Well, this is the matchup people though we might get at the start of the season. But it took each team a circuitous route to get here. Fourth-seeded Bowling Green was the overwhelming favorite to win the MacNaughton Cup in the preseason by both coaches and media. Instead, the Falcons stumbled out of the gate and didn’t find their stride until the season’s second half — hence their No. 4 seed. Second-seed Michigan Tech was picked to finish second by both coaches and media. They started the season with just one win in eight games but rebounded a bit earlier than BG to give eventual regular-season champs Bemidji State a run for their money.
2. Hats off to Dufour, Gould
Both BG and Tech got four-goal weekends by key players — each with a hat trick one night — to help win their series. Bowling Green earned the road sweep of top-seeded Bemidji State thanks to Kevin Dufour’s four goals. The senior had a hat trick in game one Friday — including the game-winning goal in overtime — to fuel BG’s 4-3 win. He added the game-tying goal in their gutty 2-1 game two win on Saturday. Up in Houghton for the other semifinal series, Michigan Tech’s Gavin Gould scored once in the Huskies’ 5-1 win in game one Friday. The Mavericks rallied to win game two 1-0 on Saturday. Gould stepped up for the Huskies in game three Sunday, netting the first three goals of Tech’s 4-1 victory.
3. Two teams enter, one team leaves
Because the WCHA is a one-bid league this season, the winner of Saturday’s winner-take-all game will be the conference’s lone representative in the NCAA tournament. The programs have a combined one NCAA appearance in the past 27 years, and that was the Huskies two years ago, when they went to the West Regional in Fargo and lost to St. Cloud State in overtime in the first round. Before that, Tech’s last NCAA appearance was 1981. Bowling Green, meanwhile, hasn’t made an NCAA appearance since 1990. This will be BG’s first appearance in the WCHA title game — the Falcons have made it to the semifinal round in each of the three seasons since joining the WCHA but lost each time. (In fact, this will be BG’s first league championship game appearance since the 1988 Central Collegiate Hockey Association title game, when they beat Lake Superior State).