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March 5, 2012
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'Second Season' Gets Underway Friday with Six First Round Men's WCHA Playoff Series; Minnesota Reigns as 2012 WCHA Regular Season and MacNaughton Cup Champion, No. 1 Tourney Seed
It's No. 12 UAA at No. 1 UM, No. 11 MSU at No. 2 UMD, No. 10 UW at No. 3 DU, No. 9 BSU at No. 4 UND, No. 8 MTU at No. 5 CC, No. 7 UNO at No. 6 SCSU; WCHA Individual Awards to be Released March 8 … UMD's Jack Connolly is League Scoring Champ, UM's Kent Patterson Takes WCHA Goaltending Crown; Final Five Media Teleconference with Head Coaches Set for March 13; Five WCHA Teams Ranked in Lastest USCHO.com Div. 1 Men's National Poll … UMD at No. 2, UM at No. 5, DU at No. 9, UND at No. 12, CC at No. 18 … SCSU, UNO Receives Votes; Single Game Tickets for 2012 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five at Xcel Energy Center Now on Sale … Limited Number of Packages Still Available
Minnesota earned the 2011-2012 MacNaughton Cup

MADISON, Wis. – After a five-month long, 168-game schedule that saw the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's 12-member men's teams compete in 28 grueling league games, the University of Minnesota finished atop the conference standings for the 2011-12 season, earning the league's regular season championship and taking possession of the fabled MacNaughton Cup.

Minnesota, claiming it's 13th title overall and first since 2006-07, went 20-8-0 in WCHA play for 40 points, going 11-3-0 at home and 9-5-0 on the road. And now, Coach Don Lucia's Golden Gophers enter the post-season as the No.1 seed for the conference playoffs, which open this Friday, March 9 with six first round, best-of-three series that continue with game two on Saturday, March 10 and any potential game threes on Sunday, March 11.

Minnesota (24-12-1) will play host to No. 12 seed Alaska Anchorage (9-23-2) at Mariucci Arena (10,000), with face-offs at 7:07 pm CT each evening. The No. 4/5-ranked Gophers and Seawolves faced each other twice during the regular season, with Minnesota sweeping UAA at Sullivan Arena on Oct. 2829 by 5-0 and 3-1 scores. But it was one year ago, March 11-12, that Alaska Anchorage went on the road and defeated UM in a first round WCHA playoff match up by 4-3 and 2-0 scores to earn a berth in the 2011 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five.

Earning the No. 2 seed for the league tournament was Minnesota Duluth, with the defending national champion and No. 3-ranked Bulldogs finishing three points behind UM in the race for the league title. UMD (22-8-6) will take on No. 11 seed Minnesota State (12-22-2) this weekend at AMSOIL Arena (6,726). All game times are 7:07 pm CT. In four head-to-head encounters during the regular season, Minnesota Duluth went 3-0-1 vs the Mavericks, winning twice at home on Nov. 18-19 by 5-2 and 7-3 scores and then winning 4-2 and tieing 4-4 (ot) in Mankato on Feb. 17-18.

Out at Magness Arena (6,025) in the Mile High City this weekend, No. 3 seed Denver (21-11-4) will entertain No. 10 seed Wisconsin (16-16-2) in a first round playoff series. Game times are 7:37 pm MT on Friday, 7:07 pm MT on Saturday and 7:07 pm MT Sunday (if necessary). The No. 9-ranked Pioneers went 10-3-1 over their last 14 league contests to finish four points back of UM. DU faced the Badgers only twice during this regular season, splitting a two-game set at the Kohl Center in Madison on Feb. 17-18 with a 3-0 victory and a 5-2 defeat. Wisconsin posted four wins in its last five WCHA games, with four of those games on the road.

In Grand Forks Friday (7:37 pm CT), Saturday (7:07 pm CT) and Sunday (7:07 pm CT, if necessary), No. 4 seed North Dakota (20-12-3) will open defense of it's 2011 WCHA playoff championship and Broadmoor Trophy with a best-of-three match up against No. 9 seed Bemidji State (17-16-3). In their only two meetings this season, No. 12-ranked UND split with BSU on Nov. 19 and 20 at the Beavers' Sanford Center, skating to a 5-2 triumph in game one before falling 1-0 in game two. North Dakota fashioned an 8-2-1 mark over the last 11 league encounters while BSU won twice at UAA to move above the .500 mark overall.

Out at the Colorado Springs World Arena (7,380), the first round WCHA playoff series between No. 5 seed Colorado College (18-14-2) and No. 8 seed Michigan Tech (14-18-4) this Friday (7:37 pm MT), Saturday (7:07 pm MT) and Sunday (7:07 pm MT, if necessary) will see the two rivals play for the second consecutive weekend, this time with a berth in the 2012 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five at stake. The No. 18-ranked Tigers prevailed over the Huskies on March 2-3 by 5-2 and 2-0 margins, giving them the season series, 2-0.

And up at the National Hockey Center (5,371) in St. Cloud, another intriguing first round playoff season will pit No. 6 seed St. Cloud State (15-16-5) against No. 7 seed Nebraska Omaha (14-16-6). Face-off times are 7:37 pm CT on Friday, 7:07 pm CT on Saturday, and 7:07 pm CT on Sunday, if necessary. The Huskies, who went 5-2-1 in their last eight league games, surpassed the Mavericks for the final home playoff berth last weekend, winning and tying at home against Minnesota Duluth while UNO fell twice to visiting Denver. Nebraska Omaha, however, went 1-0-1 vs St. Cloud State this season, winning 4-3 and tying 2-2 (ot) on Nov. 26-27 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Both teams received votes in this week's USCHO.com Div. 1 poll.

Following this weekend's six first round playoff series, the six winning teams will earn berths in the 2012 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five, set for March 15-17 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. At the Final Five, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams will receive a first-day bye. There will be two games played on Thursday – No. 6 seed vs No. 3 seed at 2:07 pm and No. 5 seed vs No. 4 seed at 7:07 pm CT. On Friday, there will be two semi-final matchups – the No. 6 or No. 3 seed vs the No. 2 seed at 2:07 pm and the No. 5 or No. 4 seed vs the No. 1 seed at 7:07 pm CT. On Saturday, the Broadmoor Trophy championship game will be played at 7:07 pm CT. The winner of the Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five receives the WCHA's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

In a full slate of six Western Collegiate Hockey Association series contested over the final weekend of the regular season – March 2-3 – Bemidji State, Colorado College, Denver and North Dakota all rolled to two-game sweeps, St. Cloud State earned three points and one ended in a split.

At Sullivan Arena, Bemidji State won a pair of one-goal games over host Alaska Anchorage, 2-1 and 5-4, to move into ninth place. Last Friday, right winger Jordan George scored a pair of first period goals, including the winner, and the Beavers held UAA to 15 shots on goal. Then last Saturday, BSU left winger Brance Orban (2g, 1a) and center Shea Walters each scored two goals, with Orban netting the winner at 2:56 of the third period, as the Beavers overcame a 3-1 second period deficit. For the Seawolves, left winger Jade Portwood (1g, 1a) and defenseman Corbin Karl (1g, 1a) each had two points.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado College skated past visiting Michigan Tech by 5-2 and 2-0 margins to lock up home ice and the No. 5 playoff seed. On March 2, center Tim Hall and left winger Jaden Schwartz both tallied twice for the Tigers, with Hall getting the winner at 11:08 of period two. For MTU, defensemen Daniel Sova and Brad Stebner both scored shorthanders. On March 3, CC completed the sweep behind a 34-save shutout effort from goaltender Josh Thorimbert and second period tallies from defenseman Gabe Guentzel (GWG) and Schwartz.

Denver went on the road and won twice at Nebraska Omaha last weekend, sweeping the Mavericks 3-0 and 3-2 (ot). In the series opener, goaltender Juho Olkinuora stopped all 26 shots while center Shawn Ostrow's first period goal the 6:07 mark held up as the winner. Adding two assists for DU was defenseman Scott Mayfield. In game two, right winger Daniel Doremus notched the game-winner for Denver at 2:35 of overtime, after right winger Luke Salazar had tied the game at 2-2 with a power-play, extra attacker marker at 19:22 of the third. In nets, Sam Brittain had 38 saves for DU.

At Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks on March 2-3, North Dakota prevailed in back-to-back games against Minnesota State, winning the opener 4-2 and game two 3-0. Right winger Danny Kristo scored twice for UND last Friday, center Corban Knight had two assists, and left winger Stephane Pattyn netted the game-winner at 15:04 of the first. Then last Saturday evening, Brad Eidsness stopped all 29 shots on goal to earn the shutout, with left winger Mark MacMillan scoring the winner at 11:01 of the first.

At St. Cloud onMarch 2-3, the host SCSU Huskies came up with a huge weekend, winning 2-1 and tying 3-3 (ot) against defending national champion Minnesota Duluth to bank three points and secure the final home playoff berth. Last Friday, center Travis Novak scored the game-winner on a second period power-play and Mike Lee came up with 35 stops between the pipes for St. Cloud State. Last Saturday night, right winger Jarrod Rabey netted a game-tying, power-play goal at 18:17 of the second period as the Huskies overcame a 3-2 deficit to earn the tie. Scoring two goals for SCSU in game two was left winger Ben Hanowski while linemates J.T. Brown and Caleb Herbert each had a goal and assist for the Bulldogs.

And at Mariucci Arena last weekend, host Minnesota split with Wisconsin, coming back from a 4-1 defeat on Friday to win 2-1 on Saturday and clinch the WCHA regular season championship outright. In game one, center Mark Zengerle factored in on all four UW goals with a goal and three assists, left winger Ryan Little had the game-winner and one assist, and Joel Rumpel stopped 26 of 27 shots on goal between the pipes. In game two, the Badgers owned a 1-0 lead in the third period after right winger Tyler Barnes' second period tally, but the Gophers stormed back with a shorthanded goal from center Erik Haula at 4:47 of period three and an unassisted game-winner on a power-play from defenseman Nate Schmidt at 7:40.

In this week's (March 5) USCHO.com Div. 1 Men's College Hockey Poll, Minnesota Duluth is ranked No. 3 nationally, Minnesota is at No. 5, Denver is at No. 9, North Dakota is at No. 12 and Colorado College is at No. 18. Also receiving votes from the WCHA were St. Cloud State and Nebraska Omaha.

And in the latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll for March 5, Minnesota Duluth is No. 3, Minnesota is No. 4, Denver is No. 9 and North Dakota is No. 12. Also receiving votes was Colorado College.

Through 86 games overall this season, WCHA-member teams stand a combined 48-30-8 (.605) in non-conference play. League-member teams stand 13-1-0 (.929) vs the Atlantic Hockey Association, 8-2-0 (.800) vs Independents, 11-5-4 (.650) vs ECAC Hockey, 5-7-3 vs the Hockey East Association (.433) and 11-15-1 (.426) vs the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

This Week in the WCHA - WCHA Playoffs, First Round - Best-of-Three

Games for Friday, March 9: (12) Alaska Anchorage at (1) Minnesota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (11) Minnesota State at (2) Minnesota Duluth (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (10) Wisconsin at (3) Denver (NC), 7:37 pm MT; (9) Bemidji State at (4) North Dakota (NC), 7:37 pm CT; (8) Michigan Tech at (5) Colorado College (NC), 7:37 pm MT; (7) Nebraska Omaha at (6) St. Cloud State (NC), 7:37 pm CT.

Games for Saturday, March 10: (12) Alaska Anchorage at (1) Minnesota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (11) Minnesota State at (2) Minnesota Duluth (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (10) Wisconsin at (3) Denver (NC), 7:07 pm MT; (9) Bemidji State at (4) North Dakota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (8) Michigan Tech at (5) Colorado College (NC), 7:07 pm MT; (7) Nebraska Omaha at (6) St. Cloud State (NC), 7:07 pm CT.

Games for Sunday, March 11 (if necessary): (12) Alaska Anchorage at (1) Minnesota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (11) Minnesota State at (2) Minnesota Duluth (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (10) Wisconsin at (3) Denver (NC), 7:07 pm MT; (9) Bemidji State at (4) North Dakota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; (8) Michigan Tech at (5) Colorado College (NC), 7:07 pm MT; (7) Nebraska Omaha at (6) St. Cloud State (NC), 7:07 pm CT.

Last Week in the WCHA

Results of Friday, March 2: Denver 3 at Nebraska Omaha 0 (WCHA); Wisconsin 4 at Minnesota 1 (WCHA); Minnesota Duluth 1 at St. Cloud State 2 (WCHA); Minnesota State 2 at North Dakota 4 (WCHA); Michigan Tech 2 at Colorado College 5 (WCHA); Bemidji State 2 at Alaska Anchorage 1 (WCHA).

Results of Saturday, March 3: Denver 3 at Nebraska Omaha 2 ot (WCHA); Minnesota Duluth 3 at St. Cloud State 3 ot (WCHA); Minnesota State 0 at North Dakota 3 (WCHA); Wisconsin 1 at Minnesota 2 (WCHA); Michigan Tech 0 at Colorado College 2 (WCHA); Bemidji State 5 at Alaska Anchorage 4 (WCHA).