Picking the men’s Division I playoff games: March 13-17

 (Melissa Wade)
Michael Kim and Boston College play Providence this weekend in the Hockey East quarterfinals (photo: Melissa Wade).

Each week, USCHO.com columnists will pick the winners of the upcoming games in their respective conferences.

Atlantic Hockey

Wednesday-Thursday, Friday (if necessary)

No. 5 Rochester Institute of Technology No. 4 at Sacred Heart

This series will get an early jump on the rest because Webster Bank Arena is booked on Saturday.

The Pioneers knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs last season and hold a 3-1 advantage in head-to-head play this season, with two of the three wins coming in overtime.

Like last year, I think this series will go three games. And like last year, I think SHU will come out on top. Sacred Heart in three.

Friday-Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

No. 10 Army West Point at No. 1 American International

The Yellow Jackets look to advance to the semifinals for the first time in school history, but must first contend with the Black Knights, who upset Mercyhurst last week.

No top seed has won this tournament since Air Force in 2012, but I think AIC will get over this first hurdle. AIC sweeps.

No. 8 Robert Morris at No. 2 Bentley

Despite the disparity in seedings, this is a tough call. Robert Morris is gunning for a sixth consecutive trip to the semifinals, while Bentley is looking to advance that far for the first time since 2009.

Despite its overall youth, RMU has plenty of guys with extensive postseason experience, and the Colonials are playing their best hockey of the season at the right time. I’m picking an upset. Robert Morris is three.

No. 6 Niagara at No. 3 Air Force

I’ve learned over the course of covering this league for 13 seasons that you don’t pick against Air Force in the postseason. The Falcons have won this tournament seven times, including the last two seasons.

Niagara is a team on the rise, but I have to look at the history, especially the recent history, of Air Force’s success in the postseason. Air Force sweeps.

— Chris Lerch

Big Ten


Penn State at Ohio State

It will be interesting to see how the conference champions handle the week off. The Buckeyes went 3-1 against Penn State this season, including a split at home and a sweep on the road. The Nittany Lions’ win in Columbus was one of only five road wins that they picked up this season. For that reason I say that Ohio State will use the friendly confines to its advantage on Saturday. Ohio State wins.

Minnesota at Notre Dame

Jeff Jackson called Minnesota one of the hottest teams in college hockey this week, and he’s right. After sweeping Michigan at home last weekend, the Gophers have now won seven of their last eight games. If Notre Dame is able to replicate their defensive-effort from last weekend, the first team to two goals could walk away victorious in this game. Low or high scoring, I see a close game that possibly goes to overtime. Minnesota wins.

— Drew Claussen

ECAC Hockey

Friday-Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

No. 1 Quinnipiac vs. No. 8 Brown

Season series: 1-1

Quinnipiac will be thin defensively in this series, as senior Chase Priskie is suspended for two games after kicking Yale’s Tyler Welsh in the regular season finale two seasons ago. Priskie was given an automatic one-game suspension after getting a game disqualification penalty for his actions, and then had another game added on by the league. The Bobcats will also be without senior defenseman Luke Shiplo for Game 1, putting their defensive depth to the test. Shiplo received a game disqualification penalty against the Bulldogs as well.

But Quinnipiac still has Andrew Shortridge in goal, which should help compensate for any defensive issues. Still, the loss of Priskie will hurt the Bobcats’ ability to move the puck out of the zone, as well as on the power play.

Brown beat defending champion Princeton in the first round of the playoffs thanks to a triple-overtime win Saturday and heads into this series with some momentum after ending the regular season by getting swept at home.

Both teams have plenty of depth through their respective lineups, but Quinnipiac has more game changers in their lineup. The Bears should steal a game, but Quinnipiac will ultimately win the series. Quinnipiac in three.

No. 2 Cornell vs. No. 7 Union

Season series: 2-0 Cornell

Despite a rash of injuries this season, the Big Red are in a familiar position: competing for an league championship. Cornell has used 19 different lineup combinations this season and has only had its top six defensemen in the lineup for two games this season.

Union comes into the weekend on a four-game winning streak, its longest of the season. It was a bit of an inconsistent season for the Dutchmen, but they seem to be getting hot at the right time.

This should be a close series, but Cornell has been strong defensively despite all the injuries. If the Big Red can slow the game down and make the Dutchmen work for their ice, they should be headed back to Lake Placid next weekend. Cornell in three.

No. 3 Clarkson vs. No. 6 Yale

Season series: 1-1

Yale staggered down the stretch of the regular season but swept Rensselaer in the opening round of the playoffs, scoring four goals each night. The Bulldogs entered the postseason with only three goals in their last four games. But Clarkson presented a tougher challenge. The Golden Knights might not be able to match Yale’s speed, but they are a heavy team that can play with skill and are strong in net with junior Jake Kielly.

The Bulldogs beat Clarkson at home in December, but Yale has been inconsistent much of the second half, while the Golden Knights closed the regular season with one loss in their last seven games. I’m sticking with the consistency in this series. Clarkson in two.

No. 4 Harvard vs. No. 5 Dartmouth

Season series: 1-1

These teams meet in the quarterfinals for the second straight season. Last year, Harvard beat the Big Green in three games to advance to Lake Placid.

This series is a matchup of some of the top young talent in the league, as Dartmouth freshman Drew O’Connor has 16 goals, while Harvard has a group of talented underclassmen led by sophomore defenseman Riley Walsh and freshman forward Casey Dornbach. An injury to starting goalie Michael Lackey last month could have derailed Harvard’s season, but the Crimson haven’t missed a beat with backup Cameron Gornet in goal.

I think this series will come down to special teams. The Big Green don’t take a lot of penalties but have little room for error against Harvard’s power play, which is second best in the country.

In the end, I like Harvard’s power play a little more than Dartmouth’s penalty kill, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see this series go either way. Harvard in three.

— Nate Owen

Hockey East

Friday-Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

Massachusetts vs. New Hampshire

I believe UNH is considerably better than your standard eighth-seed, which is most often just cannon fodder for the number one. Even so, UMass is just too strong. UMass sweeps.

Providence vs. Boston College

In past years, it would be picks suicide to go against the Eagles in the playoffs. Not this year. Providence has won seven of its last eight, while BC has lost seven of eight. No other series looks so clearly like an easy sweep. Providence sweeps.

Northeastern vs. Maine

While PC and BC were a study in hot vs. cold contrasts, this matchup is a clash of two hot teams. Northeastern has won seven of its last eight while Maine has gone 5-1-1 in its last seven. Northeastern is the better team and it will win, but it’ll take all three games.

UMass Lowell vs. Boston University

Lowell has only won one of its last seven (1-3-3); BU, on the other hand, finished 4-1-1, but its loss came in an embarrassing final game, 6-0, loss to Maine that could have clinched home ice. This series definitely goes three games with Lowell squeaking out the win.

— David H. Hendrickson


Friday-Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

Miami at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud is looking like a juggernaut. Miami, meanwhile, only won two games in 2019. Josh Melnick leads the RedHawks with 26 points, while Ryan Larkin is in net, posting a .910 save percentage and 2.89 goals-against average. St. Cloud counters with a potent offense that includes seven players who have more points than Melnick, paced by Patrick Newell, who leads the team with 41. The goaltending stats are similar, but St. Cloud smothers teams. The Huskies will sweep at home, where they haven’t lost all year. St. Cloud State 4-1, 4-1.

Omaha at Minnesota Duluth

The Bulldogs got swept last weekend by St. Cloud, while Omaha was swept by North Dakota. The Bulldogs have one of the best defenses in the country, giving up just over two goals per game. They also have very good special teams. Omaha has one of the worst defenses in the country, giving up on average 3.71 goals per game. Minnesota Duluth swept Omaha back in January, and I think they will again. Minnesota Duluth 4-2, 4-1.

Colorado College at Western Michigan

Western Michigan is at home, and the venue will be extra loud, especially since coach Andy Murray but tickets for the Lawson Lunatics for Saturday’s game. The crowd will be extra intense as a reward for Murray’s love. Colorado College is coming off an emotional weekend sweep of arch-rival Denver, the first time the Tigers have managed that since 2014. In doing so, CC also claimed the Gold Pan for the first time in five years. The questions is whether CC emptied its emotional reserves in getting such a big win. CC is one of two teams in the conference to never make it to the Frozen Faceoff (Omaha is the other). I think this goes three games, with Western moving on. Colorado College 3-2, Western Michigan 4-2, 3-2.

North Dakota at Denver

This series is interesting in many ways. These are the only two teams in the conference to have made it to the Frozen Faceoff in every year of the tournament. Obviously, that streak ends for one team. Denver earned a win and three-on-three OT win at home against North Dakota in February, while the two split a series in Grand Forks in December. North Dakota has won three in a row, while Denver was just swept by Colorado College and only managed to score one goal in two games on the weekend. DU’s offense has been struggling, but North Dakota’s isn’t much better. This will be a tough, physical series that goes the distance. Denver 2-1, North Dakota 2-1, Denver 2-1.

— Candace Horgan


Friday-Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

Bowling Green at Northern Michigan

I think this is the best matchup of the weekend. Northern Michigan edged Bowling Green by one point (1!) in the final regular season conference standings, meaning the Wildcats got the No. 2 seed and the Falcons got No. 3. Ouch! I think the Falcons feed into that, knowing they were just one point away from being the team to host this matchup this weekend. They’ll want to make good on not getting the job done in the regular season. I like BG over NMU two games to one.

Lake Superior State at Minnesota State

You don’t want to pick against the Mavs right now. I know I certainly don’t want to pick against them. I think they could win the NCAA tournament, not just the WCHA tournament. The Lakers have had a great season – better than anyone could have predicted – but, unfortunately, I like Mankato to advance to the conference finals, especially after going 3-1 against LSSU during the regular season, by winning both Friday and Saturday nights.

— Brandon Folsom