WTBU’s NCAA Hockey Tournament Predictions

Bracket Pick

With the NCAA Tournament set to get underway this afternoon, WTBU hockey beat writers Matt Dresens, Jarett Leonard and Dave Souza make their predictions for each of the regionals and who they think will take home the National Championship this season.

Matt Dresens

Northeast Regional, DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.

Regional Semifinals

No. 4 Boston University over No. 1 Cornell, 4-2

No. 3 Northeastern over No. 2 Michigan, 5-3

Regional Final

Northeastern over BU, 3-2

Although the teams played already this year, with Cornell winning 4-3 at Madison Square Garden, I like the Terriers in this one. BU is the best four seed in the tournament and they are playing their best hockey of the season right now. I also think this is a good matchup for BU. Cornell plays a similar defensive-style game like Providence did last weekend. I think BU’s size and skill will eventually wear down the Big Red. BU 4, Cornell 2 (with an empty net goal.)

I’ve been saying NU was going to the Frozen Four since the Beanpot and I guess I can’t back out now. The line of Gaudette-Sikura-Stevens is going to be too much for a young Michigan team that has to fly halfway across the country to play the Huskies in their backyard. Give me NU by two goals, say Northeastern 5, Michigan 3.   

Yes, I know it’s hard to beat a team four times in a year, but honestly, none of the games between BU and NU have been remotely close. The Huskies have the Terriers’ number this year. While I think it will be closer than the previous three meetings, NU is still not the team BU wants face to try and punch their ticket to St. Paul.

East Regional, Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Conn.

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 Notre Dame over No. 4 Michigan Tech, 4-1

No. 3 Clarkson over No. 2 Providence, 3-2

Regional Final

Notre Dame over Clarkson, 3-1

Clarkson used a miracle comeback win against Harvard in the ECAC semis to advance to the championship game but ran out of gas against a torrid Princeton team. That being said, the Golden Knights proved they won’t be an easy out in this year’s tournament. I like them over Providence in a close game (no one is blowing the Friars out), but Notre Dame is too much to handle in this region. They are top to bottom the best team in Bridgeport. I’ll take the Irish to advance to their second consecutive Frozen Four.

Midwest Regional, PPL Center, Allentown, Pa.

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 Ohio State over No. 4 Princeton, 3-1

No. 2 Denver over No. 3 Penn. State, 4-1

Regional Final

Denver over Ohio State, 4-2

I think this is the regional I feel most confident in my picks. Ohio State is a much better team on paper than Princeton, but the just ask the ECAC how relevant that is. I still am not sold on Ohio State either. While I think they could be ripe for an upset, at the end of the day, the Buckeyes will prevail. Princeton is not going to be an easy out, though. Denver has the most experience in the tournament simply because they return so much of their national title-winning team from last year, but they have a tough draw in Penn State, the regional host. Denver is still winning this game and the regional. They are too good and getting hot exactly when they need to.

West Regional, Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 St. Cloud State over No. 4 Air Force, 4-2

No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth over No. 2 Minnesota State, 2-1

Regional Final

St. Cloud State over Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2 (OT)

The West regional (AKA the North Star Cup regional) is going to be an absolute battle. Air Force is always a stingy team when it comes to tournament time and St. Cloud has a history of not playing great in the first round, i.e Ferris State 2016… I think the Huskies make it to the final eight and advance to St. Paul, but it will be closer than people think. Duluth and Mankato is a toss-up. I give the nod to the Bulldogs simply off experience. Mankato is the owner of the single greatest choke job in this tournament (2015 number one overall seed, lost to RIT…) and until the Mavericks prove they can play on the big stage, I’m not picking them. Duluth and St. Cloud will be a battle, but at the end of the day, the skill of St. Cloud will push the Huskies to their first Frozen Four since 2013.

Frozen Four, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN

National Semifinals

Notre Dame over Northeastern, 5-4

Denver over St. Cloud, 3-2

National Championship

Notre Dame over Denver, 3-2

Both NU and Notre Dame can score, but the Irish have the more balanced attack and I think they can find production on their second and third lines, unlike the Huskies. I’ll take the Irish in a one-goal shootout that goes right down to the wire. Denver is just too much to handle in big games. Sorry St. Cloud, you’re just another domino in the way, but I think this one is close. Pios by a goal. That leaves us with Notre Dame and Denver in a rematch of last years national semifinal. As much as it pains me to say, I think this is Notre Dame’s year. Irish by one.

(disclaimer: this year is so wide open, I could honestly see any of the four one seeds losing in the first round. It would not surprise me in the least to see a Frozen Four with BU, Duluth, Denver and Clarkson.)


Jarett Leonard

Northeast

Regional Semifinals

No. 4 Boston University over No. 1 Cornell, 3-2 (OT)

No. 3 Northeastern over No. 2 Michigan, 5-2

Regional Final

Northeastern over Boston University, 5-3

Cornell has had a great season, with only five losses and the best winning percentage in the nation, but they also haven’t beaten a team currently in the top-15 of the RPI, so I think BU squeaks by the Big Red. I think we’ll see the fourth matchup of the year between the Terriers and the Huskies in the Northeast regional final, and I don’t have any reason to believe it will be different than the other three. Northeastern outscored BU 15-4 combined in the regular season, and while Providence demonstrated the formula to beat the Huskies in the Hockey East semifinals, I don’t think BU is built to defend that way, nor can they score at the same pace as NU’s offense.

East

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 Notre Dame over No. 4 Michigan Tech, 7-1

No. 3 Clarkson over No. 2 Providence, 2-1

Regional Final

Notre Dame over Clarkson, 5-2

Clarkson has already beaten Providence twice this year, once in shutout fashion and another to win the Friendship Four in Belfast. The Golden Knights’ defense ranks second in the nation, and I’m not sure the Friars’ have enough offensively to overcome that. But either way, Notre Dame has been one of the best teams in the country from start to finish, thanks in large part to the NCAA’s leader in save percentage Cale Morris, so I think the Irish will cruise in this region.

Midwest

Regional Semifinals

No. 4 Princeton over No. 1 Ohio State, 4-3 (OT)

No. 2 Denver over No. 3 Penn. State, 6-4

Regional Final

Denver over Princeton, 7-1

There’s always an unexpected four-seed over one-seed upset somewhere (BU-Cornell doesn’t feel like a true 1-4 to me), and I’ll pick it here with Princeton over Ohio State, only because the Tigers are coming in hot after a run to the ECAC title. But Denver has the best roster in this region in my opinion, and I think they win a track meet with Penn State before rolling past Princeton.

West

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 St. Cloud State over No. 4 Air Force, 5-2

No. 2 Minnesota State over No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, 4-3

Regional Final

Minnesota State over St. Cloud State, 5-3

If it wasn’t for some odd losses, including an early exit in the WCHA tournament, you could make a case that Minnesota State had the best year of any team in the tournament. They’re an experienced group that’s gotten a ton of scoring (3.87 goals per game, most in the nation) and great goaltending from an unexpected source in Connor LaCouvee. We could easily see St. Cloud or Duluth win the region, but I think the Mavericks get it done here.

Frozen Four

National Semifinals

Notre Dame over Northeastern, 4-2

Denver over Minnesota State, 5-3

National Championship

Denver over Notre Dame, 4-3

The defending national champions obviously know how to win this time of year, bringing back a core group of scorers in Troy Terry, Henrik Borgstrom and Dylan Gambrell. But more importantly, I think Tanner Jaillet and the Pioneers’ third-ranked defense will put them over the top in St. Paul. The other goalies Connor LaCouvee, Cayden Primeau and Cale Morris are all entering their first NCAA Tournament as starters, so I think the experience factor plays a big role here. They haven’t been the strongest team from start to finish, but I like the Pioneers to repeat as National Champions.  


Dave Souza

Northeast

Regional Semifinals

No. 4 Boston University over No. 1 Cornell, 5-2

No. 3 Northeastern over No. 2 Michigan, 4-1

Regional Final

Boston University over Northeastern, 4-3 (OT)

Terriers get the win over Cornell, but use a pair of empty netters to make it look more in control than it really was. The Big Red have a great defense that will keep this one a grind, but BU’s first line is firing on all cylinders, while their second line is home to the Terriers’ top two scorers. So with BU’s two-headed monster on offense, and Cornell’s inability to score often – and who can forget Jake Oettinger in net – the Terriers earn the upset in game one. Michigan hasn’t played in two weeks and Northeastern is going into this one determined after a slip-up in the conference tournament; that spells trouble for Michigan. In the final it’s the Huskies who are the better team…by far. But it’s hard to beat a team four times in a season, and I think BU finally gets one – the most important – as their Cinderella run takes them to St. Paul.

East

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 Notre Dame over No. 4 Michigan Tech, 6-1

No. 3 Clarkson over No. 2 Providence, 3-1

Regional Final

Notre Dame over Clarkson, 4-2

It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season as well, but I think the Golden Knights are up for it. While Providence’s defense keeps this low scoring, Clarkson notches another win after an empty netter. Notre Dame is going to roll Michigan Tech, no further analysis needed. In the final, the skill of the Irish is too much for Clarkson, who has to change from a defensively stout opponent to one with a lethal offense. The Golden Knights don’t adjust, and the Irish roll into the Frozen Four.

Midwest

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 Ohio State over No. 4 Princeton, 3-2

No. 2 Denver over No. 3 Penn. State, 3-2 OT

Regional Final

Denver over Ohio State, 4-1

The Buckeyes are the weakest one seed in my opinion, and Princeton is rolling after a stellar run to the ECAC crown. But Ohio State still gets its act together and wins an ugly one in Allentown. Host Penn State will have the crowd on their side, and that’s enough to keep them with the Pioneers, but Denver’s skill wins out in the extra frame. In the regional final, Ohio State is spent after a grind against the Tigers, and the Pioneers take advantage in an easy win. Back to the Frozen Four for the defending champs.

West

Regional Semifinals

No. 1 St. Cloud State over No. 4 Air Force, 5-1

No. 2 Minnesota State over No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, 4-3

Regional Final

Minnesota State over St. Cloud State, 3-1

St. Cloud State and Minnesota State have a history of bad losses in the NCAA Tournament. Both avoid doing so in the first round, though the Huskies have an easier job of it than the Mavericks. Nevertheless, Minnesota State’s size and age match up well against the No. 1 overall team, and are enough for them to win a physical game in the regional final. The Mavericks get the monkey off their back and ride into the Frozen Four in their home state.  

Frozen Four

National Semifinals

Notre Dame over Boston University, 5-2

Denver over Minnesota State, 4-1

National Championship

Notre Dame over Denver, 4-2

It isn’t luck, but the Irish find themselves standing alone at the end of tourney time. Notre Dame will start off their weekend by dispatching the Cinderellas from their former conference – BU – in a relatively easy win for the Irish. Then they’ll watch the highlights of Denver’s dominating performance over the Mavericks, much to the dismay of the Minnesota crowd in attendance. But in the final, the Irish hold off a late rally by Denver and add an empty netter to deliver South Bend the National Championship. Top O’ The Mornin’ to Ya.

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