An exciting first round of the WCHA Tournament saw four sweeps as each of the top four seeded teams prevailed.
No. 1 seed Minnesota State handily defeated Alabama Huntsville by a combined score of 7-2. No. 2 Northern Michigan showed resilience in a pair of one-goal games with Alaska.
No. 3 Bowling Green tallied three third-period goals for the victory in game one before surging in game two against defending WCHA champ Michigan Tech. No. 4 Lake Superior State’s go-to guys carried the load over Bemidji State.
The field of four will see a new WCHA champion for the first time in three years when Minnesota State won in 2014 and 2015. Northern Michigan last won in 1992. Bowling Green and Lake Superior State have never won the WCHA Tournament.
Another best-of-three round kicks off Friday, March 15; catch the excitement live, right here on FloHockey this weekend. All games will take place at the home of the higher seed.
And then there were four... Our top four seeds have advanced to the #WCHA Semifinals. On-campus #PlayoffHockey ramps up a notch starting March 15❗️Who ya' got?— WCHA Men's Hockey (@WCHA_MHockey) March 10, 2019
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(1) Minnesota State vs. (4) Lake Superior State
Season matchup: Minnesota State, 3-1
The difference a week can make. The Mavericks came it at No. 2 nationally in Monday’s USCHO Poll after entering the weekend at No. 4. With just a single loss in their past 12 games, imagining a team standing in the Mavericks’ way is difficult.
Linemates Marc Michaelis (3 G) and Parker Tuomie (1 G, 2 A) each came away with a team-leading three points in the sweep of Alabama Huntsville. Freshman netminder Dryden McKay continues to shine as he turned away 28 of 30 shots over the weekend.
The Mavericks will need to stay focused in what should be their toughest matchup since early February.
Coming in at No. 20, the Lakers have maintained a national rank since mid-January, an acknowledgement of their overall ability; however, they haven’t fared well against ranked opponents this season with a 3-5 record, including three losses to the Mavericks.
The recipe for success for the Lakers remains the same since October: get the puck to the seniors. A quartet of seniors have carried the load for the Lakers all season and were prevalent in the team’s first-round sweep of Bemidji State.
They’ll need to step up again and outplay their counterparts every shift. They did it on Jan. 19, when they became just the second team to shutout the Mavericks this season.
Prediction: This one will go the distance, but the Mavericks unmatchable depth will come through on Sunday for the series victory.
(2) Northern Michigan vs. (3) Bowling Green
Season matchup: split, 2-2
The Wildcats have just one regulation loss in their past 11 games and even with a modest 21-14-2 overall record, they haven’t managed a national rank all season long. But they haven’t been wrapped up in themselves, as resilience has been the key in Marquette.
The Wildcats fought back from deficits in each game over the weekend for the series sweep. A double overtime winner capped a long back and forth contest in game one.
With a sweep of then-No. 18 Lake Superior State in late February, the Wildcats have played stiff competition this season with 17 games against nationally recognized teams, going 6-11. The competition will be fierce this weekend and their resilience will be tested.
The No. 15-ranked Falcons played just as impressive in their first-round series against back-to-back defending champions Michigan Tech. The back-to-back wins in the series, combined with a defeat of Alabama Huntsville in the last regular season match, marked the team’s first consecutive wins since January. In the three-game win streak, Bowling Green tallied 16 total goals.
In game one, three third-period goals saw the Falcons score their first, tying, and game-winning goal in 1:46 of game time. It was a vastly different Falcons team in game two, as they took over after the first period with three goals and maintained a high level of play throughout to win 6-1.
A committee of scorers rose to the occasion for the Falcons, including a six-point (3 G, 3 A) weekend from sophomore Max Johnson. When defenseman Alec Rauhauser inevitably adds to the offense versus the Wildcats, the Falcons will be even more dangerous.
Prediction: The first upset of the tournament will belong to Bowling Green, as the Falcons prove to be a difficult defeat when pushed to the edge.
Don’t miss all of the action this weekend. Tune in live, right here on FloHockey to watch the puck drop on the semifinals this Friday.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.