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There are few phrases in the English language as appealing as “playoff hockey.” (“Free food,” “good beer” and “live music” may be the only ones that surpass said phrase.)

Luckily, the WCHA begins its playoffs this weekend with four best-0f three series. The Final Five is back at the Xcel Center next weekend (just like old times!) but first the teams have to get there.

All four series are quite compelling, even if a few of them look like mismatches on paper.

Anyway, Shane and I are changing up the picks this week: Instead of picking individual games we’ll pick the winner of the series and how many games we think it goes.

Shane somehow pulled away to kick my butt during the regular season so there’s no need to shame me even more with some wrong picks. You’ll notice our first-round picks are exactly the same. No reason for that but I guess if that happens we’ll both be in the wrong.

The road to St. Paul begins tomorrow so on with the picks!

No. 1 Minnesota State vs. No. 8 Lake Superior State

Shane: I’ve heard Mavericks coach Mike Hastings say more than once this week that beating a team six times in one season is difficult to do. In other words, no one’s going to be looking past the upset-minded Lakers. LSSU has a goaltender, Gordon Defiel, who’s capable of stealing games. But the Mavericks simply have too much firepower up front, and they don’t give up enough on the other end to make up for that. Hastings will have MSU focused at home. Mavericks in two

Jack: I know it’s hard to beat someone six times in a season. Even so, it’s hard to look past previous results for this one. MSU swept the series in Sault Ste. Marie 10-0 (7-0 and 3-0 games) and won 5-2 and 3-1 in Mankato. That’s just one goal allowed by MSU’s Stephon Williams (and two by backup Cole Huggins). The Lakers missed the playoffs a year ago, and as underdogs they’re going to come into this series playing loose with no pressure and nothing to lose. But I also can’t see them winning in Mankato. Mavericks in two

No. 2 Michigan Tech vs. No. 7 Alabama Huntsville

Shane: I was impressed by the way the Huskies bounced back from their one-point weekend in Mankato and really took care of business against rival Northern Michigan last week. Not only did that give them a shot at the MacNaughton (which they missed by one point) but proved that they’re set for a postseason run. Tech fans are tired of me picking splits for their team every weekend, so this one’s for those folks: Huskies in two

Jack: Shane, as angry as Tech fans are at you for continuing to pick splits, I think Huntsville fans are mad at me that I picked the Chargers as a sleeper for the Final Five. (I mean, I cover Bemidji State so they generally don’t like me anyway.) But year, I did pick the Chargers to make the Final Five at midseason. But I think I may have to renege on that one. UAH has struggled a bit down the stretch and  Tech seems to have their number this season, sweeping the season series (including wins of 5-0 and 11-1 in Houghton in January). I don’t think the games will be quite that lopsided this weekend and obviously we know that Carmine Guerriero can steal a game, but I don’t think Mike Corbett’s squad is quite ready to move on this year (give them another year or two and they’ll be the team). Sorry Charger fans: Huskies in two

No. 3 Bowling Green vs. No. 6 Northern Michigan

Shane: Interesting thing about the Falcons: By the time they started to get some overdue national recognition, they were slipping a bit. After a 10-game unbeaten streak, they had just one three-plus-point weekend until they swept Huntsville at home to close out the year. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have been streaky all season. Nothing about this series says sweep, but I’ll give the home team the slight edge. Falcons in three

Jack: Both of these teams have been tough to figure out lately. BGSU is a good team but started to falter a bit after the new year. Northern Michigan, meanwhile, started off very well behind some solid goaltending but faded after an injury to Mathias Dahlstrom. I still think the Falcons will make the NCAA tournament but NMU won the season series 2-1-1. They’re going to make it tough on them. Falcons in three

No. 4 Bemidji State vs. No. 5 Ferris State

Shane: If there’s one goaltender I’d want on the road this weekend it’s the Bulldogs’ C.J. Motte, who has to be begging his teammates for a little run support, especially early in these games. Unlike Ferris State, Bemidji State, with certain all-rookie goalie Michael Bitzer, has found ways to win the close, low-scoring games, including one at Big Rapids. First team to 2 wins? Beavers in three

Jack: This is the first home playoff series for Bemidji State since joining the WCHA. They’ve been pretty excellent at home this season, too: Just five losses and four of them to top-five teams (Tech twice and one apiece to North Dakota and Minnesota State). Ferris never makes it easy, though, especially with Motte in goal. I think he can steal one but I’ll give the home team the edge behind a fanbase excited to play a home playoff series. Beavers in three

Last week: Shane 6-4-0, Jack 8-2-0

Final regular-season records: Shane 116-74-18, Jack 104-86-18

  • collegehockeyfan

    Congrats Hunwick, you just won the tournament MVP

  • see you on the links

    Karma’s a b-tch Sioux fans. Enjoy the offseason.

    • collegehockeyfan

      can’t say Michigan was the better team… that’s for sure. I’ve said it more than a hundred times, one player can win a game…

      • see you on the links

        North Dakota was the better team. And I actually feel for them. But I don’t have any sympathy for the Sioux fans that trash talked all season.

        • collegehockeyfan

          agreed, even though I’m a Sioux fan. Hard to win a game when you put up a 0 on the scoreboard, dissappointing. Hunwick played out of his mind.

          • UMH

            I have seen maybe one example of a goalie playing that well in a tournament game, and that is Knapp from miami last year against Michigan. Hunwick played like a man possessed tonight and it paid off for michigan in a BIG way. Fantastic game to all the players, and I’m sad to see a goalie as good as Dell be overshadowed in such a way.

        • HRGuy

          Notes from the FF, their trash talk continued right up to Winnett’s goal in the 1st. Not much heard from them after that. And one last comment to the obnoxius siouxage girl and her troll brother, I hope you got a least 5 bucks for your championship ticket, have a nice ride back to great forks.

          • Aircorps41

            Hey HRGuy, agreed! I am a Sioux fan, being from North Dakota, but you will never hear me trash talk. Trash talking is for the young/immature idiots and they DO deserve to be slammed when our team loses and they were mouthing off about it. I wish they would show some class and have true sportsmanship. I would much rather here people say sorry to the Sioux and their fans rather than give it to us, but we deserve it when mouths are opened! Am I bumbed, yes, but this is hockey and Michigan did what they needed to do to win, oh yeah, Hunwick played great!

          • After Further Review

            Great post, Aircorps… every team does have their share of trash talkers. It just seems that UND has more, maybe because hockey is so important to them. I used to cheer for them, even though I am a Hockey East fan (I know, where are the HE teams now?), til more of them seemed to come out of the woodwork and act like jerks.
            I do feel badly because they had a great season, but doesn’t break my heart to see them lose. I will say all of the Sioux fans around me last night, although very loud, ONLY cheered for their team, no trash talk, I appreciate that.
            The refs pretty much let them play which is always what UND claims it wants and they did dominate after the 1st period, but great game for Hunwick.
            What is really kind of sad is all the bashing going on in this blog… which was about a potentially serious injury. I hope Nelson is OK and has a very speedy recovery.

          • Aircorps41

            Hi After Further Review, thanks. I have nothing but respect for all of the other teams out there. It’s all about the players, schools and fans, once being a player myself. But sometimes we can get carried away. Personally I’m not much of a Hockey East Fan, and for good reason, we haven’t been doing too well against you lately. LOL But anyone who rips on the other conferences is just being plain stupid, because in my opinion all of the conferences have power house teams. So to those out there that don’t think so, they don’t understand the idea of sportsmanship and respect.

          • After Further Review

            Well, hopefully HE will be back because I enjoy seeing HE/WCHA and their best teams match up. But you are right, all conferences have their share of top, powerhouse teams.
            I have that same respect for all teams, but many others, from all conferences don’t. All in all, it was a fun FF to watch and it doesn’t sound like Nelson’s injury is too serious, although serious enough.
            See you all next year.

        • B.D.

          Soooo, stating an opinion is trash talking?
          Interesting…..

      • Duh!

        Scoreboard.

  • HockyFan

    Sioux lose and Miele wins the Hobey. Yay!

  • typical Sioux troll

    If only we had the number one seed! We were screwed by the Pairwise! Something something Yale.

    • B.D.

      Please specify.

  • Austin Linebaugh

    go blue baby what excuses do u have sioux fans i sat back and took your posts and just waited to let you see that defense wins championships not offense not superior talent a good system and defense wins 4 to 1 pp advantage and 4 shots on goal on the pp that lossed you guys the game. enjoy your empty 15000 person stadium. GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • collegehockeyfan

      If Hunwick doesn’t show up tomorrow, it will end up the same for the Michigan, trust me, if Hunwick can play like that on Saturday, he will lock up the best performance in NCAA hockey history. Can’t agree on them being the better team though, they got worked all game, as my other post says, one player won this game, but if he doesn’t show up again, its gonna be a light show. Good game Hunwick.

    • Blisteriii

      Host is a dump

      • Josh

        Where is Host?

  • Stonecoldwolv

    Sioux fans we have been there a ton of times. The better team out played the other team in every way and lost. You guys had an awesome team. A walk-on goalie just is playing lights out.

  • Sad to see anyone get hurt. Hope he recovers well and returns for next season.

    Awesome game. Can’t say Michigan would have won if they opened up on offense but they were the better disciplined team. They pretty much played the same game vs. CC but had the puck for 90% of that game, maybe 40% of this one. They played the role of the underdog well.

    Hope they can make it 4-0 vs. WCHA

  • Where was Frattin?

    Question: Where was Frattin?

    Answer: Showing why I’ve been saying all along he’s over rated and racks up huge numbers against inferior opponents. Again – I refer you all to Exhibit A:

    http://insidecollegehockey.com/inch/2011/03/10/trackler_podcast/

    GO BULLDOGS!

  • Flaca

    LETS GO SCSU…. SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT OWLS WIN THEIR DIVISION….

  • SueeeSue

    Hey college hockey fan. Enjoy the summer. Looking forward to your manifestos using lame statistics to prove UND is better. I hear Dell is already applying for an oil rig job

    • B.D.

      Doubtful since he has plenty of years left.

  • irish

    When do the Sioux play next??? You’re the number 1 team in the nation-do you have a bye?? Please enlighten me!! Maybe we can get the CCHL crew that officiated the Yale-Minnesota-Duluth game to officiate your next game. They’ll provide the incompetence you need in order to win!! Please get the linesman that looks like the Pillsbury doughboy (Tony something) on the game. He’ll make sure he ejects the opposing team’s best player-you’ll certainly have your chance to win. Good luck!!

    • Anonymous

      Really? We’re going to post this stuff on stories about a guy going to the hospital during the game with a back injury? Does anyone on any of these boards have any conscience at all? Pray for this kid, and if you’re not the praying type, just respect what he, and the other players on both teams do on the ice. We’re hockey fans. We have nothing to do with our team winning or losing. Don’t live vicariously. Enjoy the game, and respect the players. If fans of some team have annoyed you, realize they aren’t all like that, and don’t tear the whole team and their fanbase down, because a few idiots left a bad taste in your mouth. Get well, Brock. Hope to see you healthy and playing strong next year.

    • Karl Largen

      Classy guy Irish. Classy guy.

      Hope Brock has a swift and easy recovery, and that he signs pro so the rest of the WCHA doesn’t have to deal with the monster that soon will be Brock Nelson.

  • UM in the SW

    As a Michigan fan, want to wish the young man who was hurt all the best. Our prayers are with him and a safe recovery!

  • Billymbrew

    Hunwick was good. Thats it. All other sioux fan commentary is probably useless.

    • BlueSkies

      No Billy, Hunwick was not good, he was awesome.

      • B.D.

        Concur, he was the number one reason for Michigan victory.
        THe other was that Michigan controlled the slot fairly well, not perfectly (Nor as good as UND did theirs) but adequate to the purpose.

  • Bob

    Hunwick was fantastic…I hope the injured player is ok…Happens all the time in NCAA hockey games… One team out shots the other team but a goalie steals the game… as a matter of fact it has happened a lot to michigan in the past… Today was our day… i hope Hunwick has plays great on sunday because i am sure the refs will give more PP’s to MD…

  • ddddangles

    Our prayers are with you Nels! Thank you for your hard work all season!

  • Been There

    First I hope the Nelson kid is ok then we can talk hockey. UND was by far the best team on the ice, but Michigan had a game plan and carried it out well. They forced UND to shoot the puck in and then beat them to the puck. UND had to put more pressure on Michigan’s D. Can’t understand why UND didn’t take advantage of Hunwick coming so far out of the net instead of shooting right on giving him a clean look at most pucks. Why UND didn’t set up the PP off to the side, fake the shot and use it as a pass to the guy on side and then tip or shoot behind the goalie as he is moving across the net. Give UMD this chance on the PP and its in the net.

  • Jon

    Is there any further word on Nelson?

    • DannyKristo

      They found out that he’s actually a chick. Otherwise, no.

      • B.D.

        The troll is back.

  • BlueSkies

    First, prayers for Nelson’s full recovery. A reminder that in the big picture, it’s just a game.

    At the 2008 Frozen Four in Denver, Michigan and Notre Dame played the second semifinal game. Michigan was the overall #1 seed with 33 wins to that point. It had beaten ND twice in the regular season, and was far and away the more talented team. But Michigan’s goalie (Billy Sauer) had an awful game, and Notre Dame stuck to its defensive game plan and won. So last night was Michigan’s karma. Hunwick (who was a freshman in Denver) played lights out, Michigan stuck to its defensive game plan, and may win its 10th national championship Saturday night. Go Blue!