No. 1 Ferris State
22-5-1 CCHA, 27-8-1 overall (1st place)
USCHO poll: 4
Pairwise Ranking: 5
Watch out for: All three of the Bulldogs first liners finished in the top seven in the CCHA in scoring.
Why the Bulldogs can win:
Picked to finish ninth in the CCHA preseason poll, Ferris State won its first seven conference games and never looked back. Bulldogs forward Chris Kunitz was recognized on Wednesday with the CCHA Player of the Year award and is the most potent threat the conference has to offer with 30-40-70 totals on the year. Ferris State goalie Mike Brown is no slouch either, as he was second in the conference with a 2.21 goals-against average.
No. 5 Northern Michigan
14-13-1 CCHA, 18-16-2 overall (5th place)
USCHO poll: NR
Pairwise Ranking: 17
Watch out for: Senior Chris Gobert is listed at just 5-foot-9, but he plays much bigger than that, leading his team with 44 points.
Why the Wildcats can win:
They may be the lowest-seeded team left in the field, but the Wildcats have had their share of wins against those above them this year. Northern Michigan sports a 5-4 record against the other teams in the semis. The Wildcats do a lot of their damage on the powerplay, where they rank second in the conference. Senior Mike Stutzel leads that attack with 13 powerplay goals on the year. Junior goalie Craig Kowalski is tied for fourth in the conference with three shutouts.
No. 2 Michigan
19-7-3 CCHA, 26-9-3 overall (2nd place)
USCHO poll: 8
Pairwise Ranking: 9
Watch out for: Michigan always seems to step up in the playoffs. Look for a big weekend from the unsung heroes.
Why the Wolverines can win:
History. Michigan always takes it up a notch come March and April. The Wolverines won the tournament last year. They’ve won it five times in the last nine years. Plus, they’re healthy. After battling injuries all season, Michigan heads to the Joe relatively healthy for the first time this year. Jeff Tambellini led the Wolverines in scoring this year, becoming the first freshman to do so since the 1988-89 season. He also took home CCHA Freshman of the Year honors on Wednesday.
No. 3 Ohio State
16-8-4 CCHA, 22-10-5 overall (3rd place)
USCHO poll: 13
Pairwise Ranking: 11
Watch out for: 2001 NHL first-round draft pick R.J. Umberger was the conference’s third-leading scorer with 25-27-52 totals.
Why the Buckeyes can win:
As Dickie V would say, they can flat-out defend. On the season, Ohio State allowed just 2.18 goals per game – tops in the conference. Buckeyes goalie Mike Betz is sixth in the nation with a 2.21 goals-against average. They’re deep too. Aside from Umberger, Ohio State has 12 players with 10 or more goals. The Buckeyes go into tonight’s game with Michigan with some confidence, too. The Wolverines needed a miracle last-second goal to tie Ohio State two weeks ago.