The NCHC Frozen Faceoff has arrived, beginning later today in Minneapolis at the Target Center. For the second year in tournaments existence the Bulldogs did not earn the right to play in the house of Da Kid. This year though, the season is not over for UMD like last year since the Bulldogs will be in the NCAA playoffs.
The Bulldogs this year have been up and down. The first half of the season the team played quite well and scored at will. The second half of the season the team struggled at times and was shutout in three games. In fact since Christmas their record is 8-9-3. Thankfully before Christmas the team played so well which kept their pairwise ranking high.
Now for this year's Frozen Faceoff any of the four teams have a chance to win as this is a very balanced field. North Dakota is again the favorite, but the neutral ice will be a different environment then they are used to playing in. I expect to see Saint Cloud jazzed up for their two games knowing that their NCAA playoffs are on the line. Whereas the other three teams truly do have less at stake.
An interesting byline in these conference tournaments will be attendance. My guess is there will be nowhere close to a sell out at Target Center, Xcel Energy or Joe Lewis Arena this weekend for any game. The Thursday night games at the Joe saw announced attendance of about 3,500 people.
Saint Cloud State vs. North Dakota: It is hard to pick against North Dakota but I think the Huskies really want this. This game should have pretty good attendance even though it is the afternoon game and will mostly feel like a home crowd for North Dakota. I will pick an upset with the Huskies winning.
Miami vs. Denver: This is a rematch of last year’s championship game. Denver has played really good hockey recently, but my gut says Redhawks. This year I think the Redhawks will get revenge and earn the right to play in the Championship game.
Third Place: If my picks are right this will be two uninterested teams as both Denver and North Dakota have nothing to play for. I will say this ends in a tie.