Three of the four NCAA regionals this year pit two WCHA teams against teams from other conferences in the first round.
But the only WCHA teams favored to advance to a regional final are the Gophers and North Dakota, both in the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Here's a look at the regional:
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Friday's first semifinal, 1 p.m.
No. 1 seed Minnesota (26-8-5) vs. No. 4 Yale (18-12-3 ... ESPNU or WatchESPN
Friday's second semifinal, 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 North Dakota (21-12-7) vs. No. 3 Niagara (23-9-5) ... ESPNU or WatchESPN
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m. ... ESPNU or WatchESPN
Gophers at a glance
Record: 26-8-5 overall, 16-7-5 in WCHA ... tied for first place in conference standings with St. Cloud State on last day of regular season, so two shared MacNaughton Cup ... lost in their first game of Final Five, falling 2-0 to Colorado College in semifinals
NCAA history: 52-34 record, never played Yale in postseason
Vs. Yale: 14-6 all-time. ... Gophers have won last seven games. Last meeting was Dec. 27, 2002 in Gophers' holiday tournament. U won 7-2.
Streaks: Had won five in a row -- four over 11th place Bemidji State -- before loss to CC ... 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2) from Dec. 1-Jan 11. ... Had 4-3-2 stretch right after that unbeaten streak
Top scorers: Jr. F Erik Haula, 16-33--49 (same points total as last season, second in nation in points per game, 1.36); so. F Kyle Rau, 15-24-39 (seven game-winners); jr. F Nick Bjugstad, 21-15-36 (11 goals on power play)
Top defensemen: Jr. Nate Schmidt, 8-23-31; so. Ben Marshall, 8-11-19 (plus-9).
Goalie: Adam Wilcox, 1.85 goals-against average, .922 save percentage, 25-7-5 ... started 37 of 39 games ... needs one more victory to set new record for wins by freshman
Coach: Don Lucia, recently named coach of U.S. team for World Juniors in 2014 in Malmo, Sweden ... won back-to-back Frozen Fours at the U in 2002 and '03 ... 14th season at U ... over 600 career victories ...
Minnesotans on active roster: 18
The quote: ESPN analyst Dave Starman on NCAA selection show picked Wilcox as his goalie to watch in tournament. Starman said, "Adam Wilcox allowed Minnesota to play a loosey-goosey, high-octane offense."
Intangibles: Gophers were overwhelming pick to win the WCHA and Bjugstad was picked as preseason player of year. ... But neither the team nor Bjugstad dominated as expected. The Gophers swept only two regular-season conference series, one vs. Alaska Anchorage, other over Bemidji State, two bottom-feeders. ... Now they have to play four strong games in a row to reach their goal. Can they?
Yale Bulldogs at a glance
Record: 18-12-3 overall, 12-9-1 in conference for third place in ECAC behind Quinnipiac (No. 1 overall seed in tournament) and RPI (staying home)
NCAA history: Sixth NCAA tournament, including three in a row from 2009-11. ... 3-5 in those games. ... Lost in region finals to Boston College in 2010 and Minnesota Duluth in 2011 and both those teams went on to win NCAA titles.
Streaks: Shutout in last two games, losing 5-0 to Union in ECAC semifinals and to Quinnipiac 3-0 in the third place game. Before the tournament, Yale had a five-game winning streak, which was preceded by a five-game losing streak. So Yale has had a bit of a yo-yo season.
Top scorers: Jr. F Kenny Agostino, 15-22-37; sr. F Andrew Miller, 16-19-35 (first team all-ECAC, 150 career points in 137 games, best passer); sr. F Antoine Laganiere 14-13-27 (hardest shot).
Top defensemen: So. Tommy Fallen 7-15-22 (fastest skater); sr. Colin Dueck (only senior on blue line).
Goalie: Sr. Jeff Malcom, 2.42 GAA, .914 save percentage.
Coach: Keith Allain, seventh year at Yale, his alma mater; coach of U.S. team in World Juniors in 2001, '02 and '12 ... coached Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau on 2012 U.S. team.
Minnesotans on active roster: 1, Fallen from Plymouth ... played high school hockey for Armstrong
The quote: "I am really happy for the guys," coach Keith Allain said. "They have worked extremely hard for this opportunity and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Intangibles: Last team in NCAA tournament. Had to wait for Notre Dame to beat Michigan 3-1 in CCHA final to get last at-large bid. .. Has beaten two WCHA teams on road Nov. 23-24, Denver 2-1 in OT and Colorado College 6-1 in OT. ... Six seniors have won 83 games, will play in third NCAA tournament, have won three Ivy League and two ECAC titles. ... Yale was No. 1 overall seed in 2011 NCAA field. ... The Bulldogs are wearing a sticker with a ribbon on the back of their helmets in memory of those killed in the Sandy Hook (Newtown) School shootings.
Opponents in other first-round game
North Dakota at a glance
Record: 21-12-7, 14-7-7 for third place in WCHA. Lost 4-3 to Colorado College in Final Five semifinals
NCAA history: Making 28th trip. Has won seven NCAA titles.
Streaks: UND will be playing in its 11th consecutive NCAA tournament, the longest active streak after Michigan lost in CCHA final. Wolverines had made 22 postseason trips in a row.
Vs. Niagara: 4-0 all-time. Beat Niagara 3-1 in last meeting on Jan. 2, 2010 in Notre Dame tournament.
Top scorers: Sr. RW Danny Kristo, 25-26-51 (third in nation in goals, tied for third in points, also third in points per game at 1.34); sr. C Corban Knight, 15-33-48; fr. LW Rocco Grimaldi, 13-22-3 (points in 12 of last 13 games).
Top defensemen: Sr. Andrew MacWilliam, 1-10-11 (plus-14, 41 penalties); jr. Dillon Simpson, 5-19-24; sr. Joe Gleason, 5-13-18. ... UND has six NHL draft picks on the blue line.
Goalie: Jr. Clarke Saunders, transfer from Alabama Huntsville, 2.36 GAA, .915 save percentage, 13-8-4, and fr. Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls, 2.55 GAA, .918, 8-4-3.
Coach: Dave Hakstol has had nine 20-win seasons in a row since becoming UND's coach and his teams have made NCAA tournament every year.
Minnesotans on active roster: 6
The quote: "It’s a four-game tournament and you only get one shot at the first game,” UND coach Dave Hakstol is quoted as saying in the Grand Forks Herald. “That’s what we’re focusing on and preparing ourselves for. It’s exciting to be in."
Intangibles: Hakstol has taken UND to five Frozen Fours in past eight years but his teams have not been able to win one. His teams are 12-8 overall in NCAA games. Last national title for UND was in 2000. That's a burning desire. UND has one of the best, if not the best fan following of any college hockey team. ... The team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux needs to get power play going, it's 2 for 22 in last six games.
Niagara at a glance
Record: 23-9-5, won Atlantic Hockey regular-season title with 20-5-2 record, but lost in Atlantic Hockey semifinals 5-3 to Canisius ... 15-0-2 at home -- only Division I team not to lose a game on home ice
NCAA history: This is program's fourth NCAA appearance and second as an at-large bid in program's 17-year history. ... This is the first time the Atlantic Hockey Conference has two teams in national field. ... Lost to UND 4-1 in regional in 2000.
Streaks: Upset by Canisius in Atlantic Hockey semifinals. Started season 2-2-3. Won eight in row early. Only 2-3-0 in last five games.
Top scorers: Jr. F Ryan Murphy, 15-21-36; sr. F Giancarlo Ivorio 21-13-34 (21 goals in only 26 games played, first-team all-conference, recently reached 100-points milestone for career)
Top defensemen: Jr. Kevin Ryan, 1-23-24; sr. C.J. Chartrain, 2-11-13.
Goalie: Jr. Carsen Chubak, 1.90 GAA, .938, 23-6-5 (named player of year in Atlantic Hockey).
Coach: Dave Burkholder named coach of year in Atlantic Hockey.
Minnesotans on active roster: 1, sophomore forward Isaac Kohls from Forest Lake, 4-7-11 in 23 games
The quote: "To be playing a program like North Dakota that has so much history is going to be a huge challenge that I know our players, and our entire university community will embrace," coach Dave Burkholder said, according to a Niagara news release.
Intangibles: Hot goalies can carry a team in the playoffs and Niagara has one of the top netminders in the country. Only two goalies were named among the 10 candidates for the Hobey Baker Award last week and Chubak was one.
Three Hobey Baker Award finalists will play in the UND-Niagara game. Here are the bios on all three, provided at the same time the 10 candidates were named last week:
Corban Knight – North Dakota, Senior, Forward, High River, Alberta
The assistant captain was the top vote getter in the Vote for Hobey fan ballot and at one point this season, had a 19-game point streak, the longest North Dakota streak in 25 years. He currently ranks second in the nation in assists with 33 and was named to the all-WCHA second team. Knight is dynamite on face-offs averaging over 58% the past three seasons.
· Has 15 goals, 33 assists for 48 points in 38 games – seventh in the nation in scoring
· Recorded points in 29 games, second most in nation – Florida draft pick (5th round)
· Physical Education, Exercise Science & Wellness major – active volunteer with multiple organizations
Danny Kristo – North Dakota, Senior, Forward, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
With linemate Corban Knight setting him up, Kristo is the finisher with 24 goals to rank third in the nation in goal scoring, giving North Dakota a powerful one-two punch. An assistant captain, Kristo was named to the all-WCHA first team, finishing second in the conference in goals and points. Kristo leads all active Division I college players in career points with 159.
· Has 24 goals, 26 assists for 50 points in 38 games – third in the nation in scoring
· Recreation and Tourism Studies major and is very active in community volunteering
· Montreal draft pick (2nd round) – has 14 multiple point games
Carsen Chubak – Niagara University, Junior, Goalie, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
After playing nine games as a freshman and just one last year due to injury, Chubak has rebounded with a fantastic year. He led the Atlantic Hockey Association in virtually all goalie statistics and was named to all-conference first team and player of the year. He has played in 33 of the Purple Eagles 36 games and leads the nation with six shutouts, including a run of three straight.
· Currently 23-6-5 overall with a 1.81 goals against average, for fifth in the nation
· His .941 save percentage is fourth in the nation – AHA Goalie of the Week seven times
· Is a Sport Management major – helps a local youth hockey team several days a month