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Woog's Wisdom: WCHA Final Five

03/14/2012, 2:40pm CDT
By Greg Anzelc

Six teams converge at Xcel Energy Center on St. Patrick's Day weekend

Chase for the Broadmoor Trophy

The year ended up a bit different for some teams. Minnesota was picked to finish in the middle of the pack and ended up on top. CC was a team that everyone thought had a chance, and they collapsed down the stretch. Michigan Tech was the surprise of the season, earning a spot to the Final Five.

This should be a good tournament, and here are some predictions:

Tech vs. Denver
Denver has a good two-line combination and that firepower will test Tech’s defense. Denver’s offensive attack is led by Drew Shore, Jason Zucker, Joey LaLeggia and Nick Shore. Drew Shore is tied for second in the WCHA with a career-high 50 points (21g, 29a) and tied for first in the nation with 11 power-play goals and second with seven game-winning goals. This is the first trip to the Final Five for Tech since 2007. They stay out of the box and play hard and this should be a good game to kick off the weekend. Look for Denver’s offense to be the difference in this one.
The Call: Denver

St. Cloud vs. UND
St. Cloud is playing better since their goaltender Mike Lee has returned to the lineup, going 7-2-1 since they played Minnesota. The Huskies lack some depth, but they have good defense that they activate into the play. This is the 10th-straight trip to the Final Five for UND, who has been hot lately. As always, the Sioux defense stands tall, and their offense boasts one of the top lines in the conference.
The Call: UND

UMD vs. Denver
This is the fourth-consecutive trip to the Final Five for the Bulldogs. Jack Connolly earned All-WCHA First Team honors for a third season – a Minnesota-Duluth program first. The two-time All-American wrapped up the 2011-12 regular season as the WCHA scoring champion (after finishing second in that race one year ago), racking up 43 points (16g, 27a) in league play. The difference in this game might come down to UMD’s power play and also that they will have the crowd behind them.
The Call: UMD

Minnesota vs. UND
The Gophers have the advantage in depth as well as having the crowd in their corner. Sophomore Erik Haula had six points (4g, 2a) last weekend and now leads Minnesota with 44 points in 39 games. Nick Bjugstad had one goal and one assist against Alaska Anchorage last Saturday and now has 40 points this season (24g, 16a).
The Call: Minnesota

Final Five Championship on St. Patrick’s Day!
Gophers vs. UMD
A key to this game will be the power play of UMD, so the manner in which the officials call the game will be critical. With all of the TV timeouts, teams only need a couple of lines so if UMD brings good goaltending and special teams things could go in their favor. Minnesota will need to play hard every shift and limit their mistakes which often result in penalties. Staying out of the box will be key in what should be a great hockey game.
The Call: Minnesota

WCHA Awards

Player of the Year Jack Connolly UMD
Defensive POY Justin Schultz Wisconsin
Rookie of the Year Joey LaLeggia Denver
Coach of the Year Mel Pearson Tech
Scoring Champ. Jack Connolly UMD
Goaltending Champ. Kent Patterson Minnesota

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