It is once again time for the best sporting event of the year: the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Ironically, despite my well-known hockey expertise, my track record at picking the tourney is almost on the level of the Nihilist in Golf Pants’ football handicapping (even more ironic is the fact that I regularly dominate my NCAA basketball pools despite my ignorance of that sport).
The St. Cloud Times has brought back their excellent interactive bracket. If you need an ego boost, fill it out and compare your results to mine. Here is my bracket and analysis.
East Regional (Albany, NY)
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Niagara
Michigan is the number one team in the country right now. Michigan 4, Niagara 1
No. 2 St. Cloud State vs No. 3 Clarkson
One of my favorite NCAA tournament traditions is the yearly first round loss by St. Cloud State. We traditionalists will not be disappointed. Clarkson 2, St. Cloud State 1
The East Regional final will, I predict, pit Michigan against the Clarkson Skating Engineers. Clarkson started the season strong, but has been fading (losing to Colgate in the EZ-AC quarterfinals? You have got to be kidding me). Michigan will make short work of them. Michigan 5, Clarkson 2
West Regional (Colorado Springs)
No. 1 New Hampshire vs No 4 Notre Dame
I was really hoping that Notre Dame wouldn’t make the field because I enjoy the Nihilist’s rants on how NCAA selection committees always screw over Notre Dame. They may have sneaked into the tourney, but their stay will be short. UNH 6, Notre “if you have a lousy hockey team, we would be happy to add you to our schedule” Dame 2
No. 2 Colorado College vs No. 3 Michigan StateUNH will face host Colorado College in the region final. There is a reason that UNH is the University of No Hardware and CoCo will expose it once again. CoCo 3, UNH 1
Colorado College is the host of the west regional, and regional hosts have dominated. Expect Colorado College to knock off the defending champs. CoCo 2, Michigan State 0
Midwest Regional (Madison)
No 1. North Dakota vs No. 4 Princeton
Princeton is making its second ever NCAA tournament appearance, but unfortunately, Hobey Baker is out of eligibility. North Dakota 4, Princeton 0
No. 2 Denver vs No. 3 Wisconsin
This is a tough one. The conventional wisdom would say to go with host team Wisconsin here, but I disagree. Wisconsin backed into the tourney on a fluke in the pairwise rankings. They deserve to be watching on TV. Denver on the other hand is peaking at the right time. They have played in Madison many times and will not be intimidated (not to mention, they won the WCHA tournament in front of a larger, more intimidating, and better looking pro-Gopher crowd at Xcel Arena last weekend). Denver 3, Wisconsin 0
The Midwest regional is definitely the toughest, with two good WCHA teams plus host Wisconsin. The region final match-up between North Dakota and Denver should be a good one. I will reluctantly go with the Fighting Sioux. North Dakota 3, Denver 2
Northeast Regional (Worcester)
No. 1 Miami vs No. 4 Air Force
The Falcons have a scrappy team and would be the patriotic pick, but a number one seed has never lost to a number four seed. Miami 6, Air Force 4
No. 2 Boston College vs No. 3 Minnesota
Needless to say, I would love to pick the Gophers here, but I just can’t justify it. Sure, freshman goalie Alex Kangas has been outstanding down the stretch, but the Gophers just don’t have the scoring punch to make a run to the Frozen Four. Especially since their top scorer, Kyle “I spell team: t-e-I-m” Okposo, abandoned them mid-season for the NHL. Boston College 2, Minnesota 1 in the third overtime
That would make the region final Boston College vs Miami. I know they are located in Ohio, but I can’t bring myself to pick a team named “Miami” to make the Frozen Four (come to think of it, I can’t bring myself to pick a team from Ohio for the Frozen Four). BC 4, Miami 2
Michigan vs Colorado College
Once out of the friendly confines of their home ice, CoCo will find the going harder. Michigan 3, CoCo 1
Boston College vs North Dakota
Boston College will give them a battle, but North Dakota’s superior talent will win out. North Dakota 6, BC 4
Michigan vs North Dakota
North Dakota has the most talented team in the country. Unfortunately for them, their aptly named coach, Dave Hakstol, would rather have them play like a bunch of cheap hacks than win games. This will finally come back to haunt them and they will lose to the better team. Michigan 4, North Dakota 3
UPDATE: One beloved tradition continues, but another is in jeopardy. Final score in the East Regional: Clarkson 2, SCSU 1. Exactly as I predicted -- my NCAA hockey bracket draught may be over.
UPDATE #2: Could the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame be a bracket buster? They absolutely destroyed UNH 7-3!
UPDATE #3: Notre Dame upsets defending champion Michigan State Spartans 3-1 to advance to the Final Four! Congratulations to the Irish Icers and Coach Jackson.
The CCHA will have 2 or 3 of the final four teams this year, Michigan, ND, and possibly Miami (OH), depending on the outcome of their game versus Boston College. The once-dominant but still powerful WCHA, which dominated the Pairwise rankings for no discernable reason will have one team, the winner of North Dakota versus Wisconsin. And as expected, East Coast hockey sucks.