WCHA Final Five Preview

The teams are set.

The brackets are finalized.

Minnesota State and Wisconsin will kick off the action on Thursday afternoon at 2:07 followed by North Dakota and Colorado College at 7:07.

The winner of the Minnesota State/Wisconsin game will play against St. Cloud State on Friday afternoon at 2:07 followed by the winner of the North Dakota/Colorado College game taking on Minnesota at 7:07 later that night.

The WCHA Final Five championship will take place on Saturday night.


Final Five (Season) Scoring Leaders:
Name
Team
GP
G
A
Pts
Pts/G
Erik Haula (MIN)
Minnesota
35
16
33
49
1.40
Danny Kristo (MTL)
North Dakota
39
22
30
52
1.33
Drew LeBlanc
St. Cloud State
38
13
37
50
1.32
Rylan Schwartz
Colorado College
38
17
31
48
1.26
Corban Knight (FLA)
North Dakota
38
15
33
48
1.26
Matt Leitner
Minnesota State
39
17
28
45
1.15
Kyle Rau (FLA)
Minnesota
38
15
24
39
1.03
Alex Krushelnyski
Colorado College
39
14
26
40
1.03
Nic Dowd (LOS)
St. Cloud State
38
14
24
38
1.00
Nick Bjugstad (FLA)
Minnesota
38
21
15
36
0.95

Final Five (Season) Goaltenders:
Name
Team
GP
Mins
Saves
GAA
SV%
Joel Rumpel
Wisconsin
25
1478
626
1.87
93.2%
Stephon Williams
Minnesota State
33
1954
790
1.84
92.9%
Adam Wilcox
Minnesota
37
2214
814
1.84
92.3%
Clarke Saunders
North Dakota
24
1420
595
2.20
92.0%
Ryan Faragher
St. Cloud State
36
2062
847
2.27
91.6%
Joe Howe
Colorado College
28
1570
839
3.09
91.2%


St. Cloud State Huskies

Although the Huskies share the MacNaughton Cup with the Gophers, they took the #1 seed in this year's Final Five.  The Husky offensive force is headed by WCHA play of the year Drew LeBlanc, who's 50 points so far this season speak for itself.  Freshman help from Jonny Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila, who've tallied 32 points each this season, has allowed the team to 130 goals in 38 games so far, averaging the WCHA's 2nd best, 3.42 goals per game.

In order to get on the board when playing St. Cloud State, you've got to earn it.  First step is getting by Nick Jensen, a 6-1 Detroit Redwing prospect, or Kevin Gravel, a 6-4 Los Angeles Kings prospect.  Both whom have shown to have some offensive talent as well, as Jensen has posted 29 assists this season.

Next step in scoring would be to get by Ryan Faragher.  The Fort Frances native stands over six feet tall and finds enjoyment in denying top talent from all over the nation.  The sophomore has 14 games where he's given up no more than a single goal, allowing him to establish the 2.27 GAA he's published so far this year.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Gophers earned their share of the MacNaughton with St. Cloud State and took the #2 seed for the tourney.  Minnesota Wild prospect Erik Haula leads not only his team, but the conference as well in points per game.  Haula has the ability to make plays happen with teammates Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, both Florida Panthers prospects.

The talented blue-liners have allowed the Gophers to eliminate the amount of scoring chances most other teams have to deal with, and have the league's best scoring defense, averaging only 1.97 goals per game.  Junior Nate Schmidt who leads all defensemen in the WCHA this year, isn't afraid to showoff his ability to rocket the puck from up top and put one by goaltenders who never knew what happened.

Going into the year, the biggest question mark for the Gophers was goaltending.  When freshman Adam Wilcox took net for the during the beginning of the season, he took that question mark, crumpled it up and threw back an astonishing 1.84 goals against average so far this season, something head-coach Don Lucia has to be pleased with.

North Dakota

Proudly back in the Final Five for the 11th season in a row, North Dakota looks to hang another banner and push their Broadmoor-Trophy-Streak to four consecutive years in a row.  Habs prospect Danny Kristo and Panter prospect Corban Knight have paved the way for the offensive unit with a combined 98 points.  North Dakota has proven to have depth as well, with six players above the 20 point mark and five forwards in double-digits for goals.

The blue-line is represented by six, SIX, NHL prospects.  Dillon Simpson (EDM), Joe Gleason (CHI), Derek Forbort (LOS), Nick Mattson (CHI), Jordan Schmaltz (STL), and Andrew MacWilliam (TOR) have all added to the success North Dakota has had this season.  Simpson leads defenseman with 19 assists and 24 points.

To protect the net, junior Clarke Saunders, the former Alabama-Huntsville Charger, has kept UND alive and has a 92% save percentage to show for it.  Saunders earned the starting role over freshman and Boston Bruins prospect Zane Gothberg, although Gothberg has seen eight starts throughout the last 13 games.

Wisconsin Badgers

After missing the Final Five in recent years, the Badgers are headed to St. Paul with more momentum now than at any other point this season.  Although Wisconsin doesn't exactly have the same high powered offense that some of the other Final Five teams have, they do work together to play some of the best defense in the nation.

Michael Mersch and Mark Zengerle have put together a successful junior season, both with 30+ points. Jake McCabe, who left the ice in the second period of the final game against UMD, leads defensemen with 18 points.  Captain John Ramage has put together quite the successful senior season with seven goals and a plus 14 rating.

The anchor and foundation for much of the success Wisconsin is having defensively has to be awarded to goalie Joel Rumpel.  The sophomore has started in 25 games this season, recording four shutouts and an impressive 1.87 GAA.  With seven wins in the last eight games, don't expect Joel Rumpel to fall easily, especially in his first Final Five appearance.

Minnesota State Mavericks

The Purple Mavericks are St. Paul bound for the first time in 10 years.  First-year head coach Mike Hastings has kept his track-record on the right track and adding yet another winning season under his belt, still coaching without a single losing season (My CHN Hastings Profile).

Matt Leitner, a California native, has put together a very successful sophomore season producing 15 points in the last 10 games and 45 points total.  On the defensive side, 5-11 sophomore Zach Palmquist has record six goals and 24 points from the blue-line.

As for goaltending, freshman Stephon Williams has done about everything Minnesota State could expect from the Alaskan native.  After splitting time with senior Phil Cook, Williams has been labeled the starting goalie since mid-November, racking up 4 shutouts and 21 wins since.

Colorado College Tigers

The Tigers will make the trip up to St. Paul after upsetting #13 Denver in the first round of playoffs.  Looking for their first-ever Broadmoor Trophy in their last chance at winning, expect the Tigers to be hungrier than ever, bringing with them an immense amount of momentum.  With seven players with more than 20 points, CC's offense is high-calibered and very talented.

Mike Boivin leads the blue-line gang with 14 impressive goals and 28 total points, but Boivin isn't the only offensive mind among the d-men.  Junior Eamonn McDermott has put together 22 points this season, adding to the productive offense.

Although goaltender Joe Howe's season numbers aren't on top of charts, he's performed excellent in his last few starts.  The senior from Plymouth, Minnesota has won 3 of his last 4 starts, with two coming against the talented Denver scorers to get the Tigers where they are now.



Fox Sports North will air the games.

College Hockey News will have the inside features after the games.

Nate Wells (First Round Bust) and myself will be covering the games.


Enjoy.

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