The Gophers have lost in the first-round of the WCHA playoffs the past two season. In 2010, they fell on the road at North Dakota in three games. Last year, they were swept by Alaska Anchorage at Mariucci Arena.
But it's hard to imagine that happening again, even though the Seawolves are back at Mariucci. The Gophers (24-12-1) are the top seed, Alaska Anchorage (9-23-2) the 12th seed.
The Gophers finished the season on a 5-1 run and have the WCHA's best goalie in Kent Patterson, who had a league-best 2.06 goals-against average. UAA's two goalies, Chris Kamal and Rob Gunderson of UAA had the two lowest save percentages in the league and goals-against averages over 3.50.
So if they bring their 'A' game the first two nights of the series, it should be a GOPHERS SWEEP
The other series:
Minnesota State Mankato (12-22-2, 11th seed) at Minnesota Duluth (22-8-6, second): UMD had a lot of fun in the playoffs last season. The Bulldogs, of course, won the NCAA championship and this weekend they can take a step toward a repeat. They are 3-0-1 vs. the Mavericks this season, and 11-1-2 in the past 14 meetings. That's dominance.
The Bulldogs are averaging an NCAA-best 3.67 goals per game and have a lot of firepower. Seniors Jack Connolly and Travis Oleksuk, and sophomore J.T. Brown are all capable of big games.
The Mavericks have won only two WCHA first-round series since joining the conference in 1997-98. That was in 2000 and 2003. Freshmen forwards Jean-Paul Lafontaine and Matt Leitner lead the Mavericks in scoring with 28 points apiece. Lafontaine has 13 goals, Leitner has 10. ... UMD SWEEPS
Wisconsin (16-16-2, 10th) at Denver (21-11-4, third): These teams split a series in Madison, Wis., last month. DU won the first game 3-0, the Badgers won the second 5-2. Wisconsin then won three road games in a row, two at Bemidji State and one at Mariucci to put together a four-game winning streak. The Gophers ended it by beating Wisconsin 2-1 last Saturday but had to rally for two third-period goals.
Another interesting number: Wisconsin is 9-1 against the Pioneers in the WCHA playoffs. The Pioneers have two 40-point forwards in Drew Shore, who has 21 goals and 47 points, and Wild prospect Jason Zucker, who has 20 goals and 42 points.
The Badgers have two of the best players in college hockey in defenseman Justin Schultz who has a team-high 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points forward Mark Zengerle who has 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 points. ... BADGERS IN THREE
Bemidji State (17-16-3, ninth) at North Dakota (20-12-3, fourth): As usual, the Fighting Sioux finished the regular-season on a roll. They are 11-4-2 since the holiday break. Against Bemidji State all-time, they are 22-2-1, but one of those losses was 1-0 in Bemidji on Nov. 20.
Junior forward Danny Kristo led UND in scoring with 17 goals and a career-high 40 points. Teammate Brock Nelson was a point back with 23 goals and 16 assists.
The Beavers have the conference’s top penalty kill of .844 in league games. Jordan George lead the team in goals with 18 and points with 30. Goalie Dan Bakala has 44 career victories, one shy of the program record in the Division I era. ... SIOUX IN THREE
Michigan Tech (14-18-4, eighth) at Colorado College (18-14-2, fifth): CC swept the visiting Huskies 5-2 and 2-0 last weekend and is an amazing 22-0 against the Huskies in regular-season games at World Arena, but 2-6 all-time in playoff games.
Tigers coach Scott Owens needs one victory for 300 in his career. He has had 12 winning seasons in a row at CC.
Seven Tech players have scored between nine and 11 goals. The Schwartz brothers are 1-2 for the Tigers in scoring. Jaden has 15 goals and 40 points, Raylan 22 goals and 39 points. ... CC IN THREE
Nebraska Omaha (14-16-4, seventh) at St. Cloud State (15-16-5, sixth): The Mavericks limped into the playoffs, going 1-5 in their last six games. UNO has scored 10 shorthanded goals. Matt White leads the Mavericks in scoring with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points.
UNO beat St. Cloud State 4-3 and tied the Huskies 2-2 in late November in Omaha and are 4-0-2 against SCSU since joining the WCHA.
SCSU defensemen Nick Jensen has an eight-game points streak. He has six goals and 24 assists for 30 points. Ben Hanowski leads the Huskies in scoring with 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points. ... UNO IN THREE