Gophers coach Don Lucia said he expects this Final Five to be as "great a tournament as we have ever had."

This, of course, is the last year many of the longtime members of the WCHA will play in it. The Gophers and Wisconsin, who reached the Final Five in first-round sweeps, will play in the new Big Ten Conference next season.

North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Colorado College, who are also in the field, will play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. As will Denver, Minnesota Duluth and Nebraska Omaha, who didn't reach it.

Only Minnesota State Mankato, the sixth team in the Final Five, will remain in the WCHA.

So it's fair to say this is the last Final Five of its kind.

The Gophers tied St. Cloud State for the regular-season title, so they will share the MacNaughton Cup for the next year.

And this week, the Gophers also have the luxury of knowing that they are in the NCAA tournament next week for sure. .

"We are pretty much locked into second overall seed," Lucia said on his weekly radio show on Monday. "... That is not going to change, so we are play for pride [in the Final Five] and to get to championship game."

Lucia said the Gophers like the venue and the big stage in St. Paul. "And we have not had the Broadmoor Trophy since '07. We'd like to get our hands back on that," he said.

More all-game packages for the Final Five were sold before the field was determined, Lucia said, that ever before.

"You would thing we will have the best attendance we have ever had," he said. "We're playing Friday night, and there will be a great crowd whoever we play."

St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko agrees with Lucia, on whose staff he worked on at Minnesota before taking the Huskies job. "This coule be a special weekend," Motzko said on his radio show which partially overlaps Lucia's on a different station. "Tickets are going off the shelves. ... People can't find tickets."

Lower-level tickets for Saturday's championship game are selling for as much as $146 apiece on the lower level, and $107 on the upper level on Stub Hub and it's only Monday.

Sadly, Motzko said,  the teams in the Final Five this year will be in three leagues next season.

Coaches who have been around for long time, Lucia said, will miss the tournament more than players and fans. "That why getting piece of the MacNaughton Cup was so important. ... And this is our last chance at the Broadmoor Trophy."


* The Center Ice Club, all fans of St. Cloud State hockey, has an official designated gathering spot before Huskies games in the Final Five. It's Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub at 258 7th St., two blocks west of the X.

A pregame social will start there at noon Friday. The Huskies will play either Minnesota State Mankato of Wisconsin at 2:07 p.m.

* Colorado College and North Dakota, the opponents in Thursday's second quarterfinal at 7 p.m. at the X are dead even this season. They have played four times and split series at Colorado College on Nov. 30 and Dec 1 and in Grand Forks on Jan. 11-12. The scores at the Colorado Springs World Arena: CC 5-3, UND 3-2 OT. The scores at the Ralph: CC 4-3, UND 5-3. ... In those four games, the Tigers scored 14 goals, UND scored 14 goals.

North Dakota is the third seed in the Final Five, CC the sixth seed. But before the the teams were re-seeded, the Tigers were the eighth seed in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

UND has won three Broadmoor Trophies in a row and would like a fourth for its collection. The Tigers, who come into this tournament with an under .500 record, have to win the Final Five to advance to the NCAA tournament. So CC has desperation on its side. UND is in, no matter what.