The restructured WCHA has allowed several programs that have been overshadowed to move into the spotlight this season. Minnesota State Mankato and Michigan Tech have solidified their spots as two of the nation’s best teams. This talent will be on display in St. Paul this weekend as the WCHA Final Five returns to the ‘X’.
(1) Minnesota State Mankato
The Mavericks won the WCHA conference title for the first time in program history and spent several weeks at No. 1 in the polls, another first for the program, this season. They also won for the first time at Xcel Energy Center when they topped in-state rival Minnesota in the first-round of the North Star College Cup. The Mavericks had lost seven straight at the site of this year’s WCHA Final Five leading up to this victory. They need to prove they can win on big stages if they hope to make their first Frozen Four appearance.
(4) Ferris State
The Bulldogs survived three overtimes and the 13th-longest game in NCAA hockey history to finish off Bemidji State in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and advance to the Final Five. Ferris State returns to semifinals for the second straight year after joining the conference last season, and it might be much better than its record indicates. The Bulldogs have lost eight games by one goal and are 7-3-1 in their past 10 games. However, they are 0-4 against top-seeded MSU Mankato, their semifinal opponent, this season.
(2) Michigan Tech
The Huskies have spent most of the season near the top of the polls, briefly at No. 1 after a 10-0 start. They’ve been consistent, even proving they can be successful outside of the WCHA with wins against Minnesota Duluth and Michigan, but they were one of only four teams to lose to Wisconsin. Michigan Tech is 0-3-1 against Minnesota State Mankato this season; that’s a potential showdown of No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed for the Broadmoor Trophy. The Huskies’ defense is giving up just 1.68 goals per game (No. 2 in the country) and could be what separates them in the postseason.
(3) Bowling Green
The Falcons return to the WCHA Final Five for the second straight year and are coming off one of the best seasons in program history. They won 20 games for the first time since 1995-1996 and spent six straight weeks in the USCHO top 10 earlier this season. They enter the WCHA Final Five ranked No. 9 but are at risk of missing the NCAA tournament without a good showing this weekend. A first-round victory against Michigan Tech would do a lot to help their résumé. The Falcons are 1-1 against Michigan Tech this season.