I know it’s a cliche when sports announcers say, “It all comes down to THIS!” before a championship game, but it’s a cliche for a reason.
This week’s WCHA championship game features two Upper Peninsula rivals playing on UP soil for the right to advance to the NCAA tournament. What could be better?
Both Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech needed three games and overtime to advance to this point. FWIW, I had NMU in this game but not Tech, but I think I severely underestimated the Huskies’ defense — they beat both Bemidji State and Minnesota State on the road and got good goaltending in both series (from two different goalies).
NMU, on the other hand, needed three games in both series but they played well offensively in both.
I guess what I’m trying to say this wasn’t the matchup I necessarily expected in this game (I figured MSU would have been involved), but it might be the best possible matchup for the purposes the health of the WCHA (the league is guaranteed two teams in the NCAA for the first time in two years) as well as fan interest (NMU-Tech is maybe the best rivalry in the league).
OK, without further ado, here’s my pick:
No. 5 Michigan Tech at No. 2 Northern Michigan
I’ve got myself a dilemma here. I’ve picked against Michigan Tech in each of the last two rounds of the playoffs and they’ve proved me wrong each time. However, I do think Northern Michigan has a slight advantage here simply because they’re at home in front of a rabid, and partisan, crowd. (Sidebar: I’m not sure if I can get into it here, but I do know Tech fans were a little annoyed at how NMU conducted their ticketing practices… I suppose that’s the gamesmanship part of the rivalry coming out. Despite that, I have a feeling Tech fans will be there in force. They always seem to find a way to go on the road and get loud). ANYWAY, I think there’s no way this game doesn’t go to overtime. It just seems like that needs to happen given how these games tend to go. Still, NMU advances in an epic. Wildcats 4, Huskies 3, OT (or 2 OT… or 3…)