Gophers turn attention to the WCHA Final Five
- March 12, 2012 - 12:27 AM
After a two-year absence, the Gophers return to the Final Five this week at the Xcel Energy Center as the top seed.
The regular-season WCHA champions received a bye in Thursday's quarterfinals as did second-seeded Minnesota Duluth.
The Gophers have won 14 conference playoff titles, six since the WCHA went to a Final Five format in 1993. The format was adjusted slightly last season when the conference expanded to 12 teams. Now six teams advance to St. Paul but still play only five games because the third-place game was dropped.
The Gophers' most recent Final Five title was in 2007. Their last appearance was in 2009 when the present seniors were freshmen. Minnesota Duluth beat the Gophers 2-1 in the quarterfinal game that year, ending their season.
This time the Gophers, whatever their Final Five fate is, are assured of getting one of the 11 at-large bids for the NCAA tournament if they don't win the conference tournament for an automatic spot.
After their sweep of Alaska Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Gophers are No. 8 in the latest PairWise Rankings, which mimic how the NCAA fills out its field. The top 14 or 15 PairWise teams normally advance to the national tournament so the Gophers, who at most can lose one game this week, are safely in. They will be in the West Regional on March 24-25 at Xcel.
ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZPioneers advance
Denver 3, Wisconsin 2 (OT): Luke Salazar scored 1:40 into overtime, giving the third-seeded Pioneers a victory over the 10th-seeded Badgers in the decisive third game of the WCHA first-round series in Denver. The Pioneers (23-12-4) will face Michigan Tech at 2 p.m. Thursday in a Final Five quarterfinal. North Dakota plays St. Cloud State in the 7 p.m. quarterfinal.
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