With a 2-1 win last Saturday against Wisconsin, the Gophers claimed sole possession of their 13th MacNaughton Cup, clinching the WCHA regular-season title with a 20-8-0 record in conference play. The Gophers won the title for the first time since 2006-07. Minnesota has now won three of the last seven MacNaughton Cups, as they also won the Cup in 2005-06 (20-5-3 WCHA record) and in 2006-07 (18-7-3 WCHA record).
After finishing eighth in the WCHA for the second consecutive year and advancing to its second-ever Final Five last season, Alaska Anchorage was unable to recover from an 0-6-0 start in the conference in 2011-12 and finished in last place with a 5-22-1 league record. Four of the Seawolves’ nine overall wins on the season have come against teams from Minnesota. Alaska Anchorage has a 2-3-1 record in road games played in the State of Hockey on the year and upset then-No. 1 Minnesota Duluth at home with a 3-2 victory on Feb. 4. Alaska Anchorage, who has 11 players in double digits in points on its roster, is led in scoring by senior Curtis Leinweber (9g-7a) and junior Mitch Bruijsten (8g-8a), who each have 16 points. Sophomore forward Matt Bailey (8g-7a) and senior defenseman Scott Warner (2g-13a) have 15 apiece while rookie Eric Scheid of Blaine, Minn. has 14 (6g-8a). Aside from Warner, Alaska Anchorage is led defensively by freshmen Austin Coldwell (2g-10a) and Derek Docken (1g-8a) and sophomore Quinn Sproule (3g-7a). Senior Brad Gorham (1g-8a) also has nine points. Sophomores Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal have split time in goal for the Seawolves. Gunderson is 5-10-2 in 20 games with a 3.61 goals-against average and an .869 save percentage while Kamal is 4-11-0 with a 3.32 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage.
This series on paper is all Minnesota as they have a big advantage in all major categories including goaltending, defense, offense and special teams. Teams can’t survive in this league when a goaltender’s save percentage is under 90% and with Minnesota’s propensity to score, Anchorage will be challenged to find a way to win one this weekend. Although Anchorage stunned Minnesota last year in the first round, there is not much of a chance of that happening this time around as this series is probably the easiest to call of the six being played this weekend.
The Call: Minnesota sweep
(11) Minnesota State at (2) Minnesota-Duluth
If Mankato can stay out of the penalty box they have a chance. The Mavericks are young but they can skate and have some offense.
The Call: UMD Sweep
(10) Wisconsin at (3) Denver
Look for Wisconsin to win a game in this series as they have been playing better of late. This is a matchup of freshmen goalies so it may come down to who is ‘on’ between the pipes.
The Call: Denver in 3
(9) Bemidji State at (4) North Dakota
Bemidji hasn’t shown much lately to show any signs that they could steal this series. The Beavers will play hard and stay out of the box, but UND is a much deeper team with more talent.
The Call: UND Sweep
(8) Michigan Tech at (5) Colorado College
Tech has scored goals this year and made an impact. Look for them to win one and maybe, maybe an upset?
The Call: Tech in 3
(7) Nebraska-Omaha at (6) St. Cloud State
These are two pretty evenly matched teams in most categories, with the exception of goaltending, which favors St. Cloud at home.
The Call: St. Cloud in 3
Class A: Hermantown
Class AA: East over Eagan in the championship.