WCHA Final Five tickets on sale now

CC Alexander Krushelnyski roadI assume the time announced is Central Time, meaning 9 a.m. Mountain, when the press release arrived.

From the WCHA …

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Xcel Energy Center and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) announced today that all tournament packages for the 2013 Red Baron WCHA Final Five, to be held March 21-23 at Xcel Energy Center, go on sale at 10 a.m. today, Monday, Dec. 10. All tournament packages are $165 and $80 and can be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. To charge by phone using Ticketmaster TDD/TTY, call 800-359-2525. Groups (10+) call 651-312-3486.
Fans can celebrate college hockey with music, interactive games, food, beverages and more at the WCHA Fan Fest Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Bud Light Blue Line Bar and Grill (Xcel Energy Center – Gate 4). Cheerleaders, mascots and WCHA pep bands will also be present at this event with live music from Uncle Chunk on Friday and Playback on Saturday. The WCHA Fan Fest is free and open to the public.
College hockey fans will once again have the opportunity to get in on the tournament action with the return of the “Pick Your Final Five Sweepstakes.” Fans who enter will have a chance to win a prize of four (4) ticket packages to the 2014 WCHA Final Five.
Here’s how the sweepstakes works:
  • Visit www.xcelenergycenter.com/WCHA starting at 12:01 a.m. CT on Monday, Dec. 10.
  • Choose the six (6) WCHA teams you predict will make it to the 2013 Red Baron WCHA Final Five.
  • Choose the two (2) teams you predict will make the Championship game.
  • Choose the 2013 Red Baron WCHA Championship winning team.
  • Guess how many total goals will be scored during the 2013 Red Baron WCHA Final Five.
  • If more than one (1) person correctly answers all four (4) questions, all contestants with correct answers will be entered into a random drawing to determine the prize winner. If no one correctly answers all four (4) questions, those persons that answer the most number of questions correctly will be entered into a random drawing to determine the winner. The contest begins at 12:01 a.m. CT on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, and ends at 11:59 p.m. CT on Friday, March 8, 2013. The winner will be announced by noon CT on Sunday, March 24, 2013.
  • NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  The “Pick Your Final Five Sweepstakes” is subject in all respects to the complete Official Rules available at www.xcelenergycenter.com or by sending a S.A.S.E. to “Pick Your Final Five Sweepstakes – Rules Request”, c/o Saint Paul Arena Company, LLC, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., Ste. 501, St. Paul, Minnesota  55102.  Open only to entrants who, as of the entry date, are permanent legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years old.  Void outside the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, and where prohibited or restricted by law.  Sweepstakes entry period begins at 12:01 a.m. Central Time (“CT”) on Dec. 10, 2012 and ends at 11:59 p.m. CT on March 8, 2013.  LIMIT: One (1) entry per person (regardless of method of entry) or address (physical or email).  Entry methods, limits, restrictions and instructions, and prize information and restrictions are set forth in the Official Rules.  Sponsor: Saint Paul Arena Company, LLC, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., Ste. 501, St. Paul, Minnesota  55102. Click here to view complete Official Rules.

Monday reading: Playoffs, Bachman, Lagrone, Mexico, Eaves

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said the Alaska Plan for the 2014 playoffs may change. It had been reported that Anchorage and Fairbanks would play in the first round every season, but that would change if one is the top seed and gets a bye to the Final Five tournament, wherever that may be held.

The Alaska-Anchorage athletic director was the only one who voted against the Alaska Plan.

Here are more details about the possible Final Five venues from the Mining Gazette in Houghton, Mich.

Here is some more reaction.

It looks like former Tiger Richard Bachman will have some very tough competition for the Stars backup job.

Future Tiger Duggie Lagrone advanced to the Des Moines training camp roster.

A Mexico-born player, pictured, tries to make USHL Sioux City roster.

Here is some analysis on the retiring Minnesota athletic director.

Miami announced its schedule for its final season in the CCHA.

This Canadian hockey writer thinks Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves should get a hard look from the Capitals.

The Gazette weighs in on the Sioux nickname vote.

From the Thunder Bay. Ont. newspaper …

During Thursday’s dinner, Dr. George Gwozdecky was named the recipient of the Chris Ferguson Sr. Memorial Award for his service as a Thunder Bay sports builder. Gwozdecky, the father of University of Denver men’s hockey head coach George Jr., was director and doctor of sports organizations in soccer, tennis, hockey, football, running and water skiing.
Dr. Gwozdecky, who was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, is a member of the Canadian Council of Sports Medicine and was the Chief Medical Officer for Team Canada at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Monday reading: DU, Minnesota updates; Final 5 wrap; R. Schwartz; good eats

Injuries from Saturday’s 4-0 loss to North Dakota will test Denver’s depth in the NCAAs vs. Ferris State.

It’s going to be difficult for Minnesota not to look past Boston University to a possible West region final against North Dakota. If they do, it could be the second embarrassing loss in a row for a team that looked to have all the pieces for an NCAA title.

Here’s Puckato’s wrap-up of the WCHA Final Five.

Rylan Schwartz is rightfully garnering the attention of some NHL teams looking for college free agents according to the Toronto Sun’s Calgary reporter: “After vowing to put more resources and energy into trying to sign U.S. college free agents, word is the Flames are indeed in hot pursuit of a couple players right now. Problem is, so are 30 other teams. One of the more interesting players available out there is centre Rylan Schwartz, who left Colorado College last week with brother Jaden, who captained Canada at the world juniors. Jaden, who scored his first NHL goal Saturday with the St. Louis Blues, had 15 goals in 30 NCAA hockey outings this year, while his older brother had 23. Another name on the Flames radar is diminutive forward J.T. Brown from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.”

Five future National Collegiate Hockey Conference members made the 2012 NCAAs: Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota and Western Michigan. With the Broncos and Sioux playing, at least one will make a regional final. Judging from the pairings, attendance should be good at all four regions.

West region, St. Paul, March 24-25
No. 1. North Dakota vs. 4. Western Michigan
2. Minnesota vs. 3. Boston University

Midwest region, Green Bay, March 23-24
No. 1 Michigan vs. 4. Cornell
2. Ferris State vs. 3. Denver

East region, Bridgeport, Conn., March 23-24
No. 1. Union vs.   4. Michigan State
2. Miami vs. 3. UMass-Lowell

Northeast region,  Worcester, Mass., March 24-25
No. 1 Boston College vs. 4. Air Force
2. Minnesota Duluth vs. 3. Maine

And finally, an all-star team we can all feel strong about — the all-WCHA dining team.

First collegiate goal a big one for DU’s Larraza

From WCHA.com …

Denver 4, Minnesota Duluth 3 (2OT)

SAINT PAUL — Zac Larraza is a Denver freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., whose most prominent role in Friday’s first semifinal at the WCHA Final Five was to serve a major penalty for Denver teammate Larkin Jacobson.

Until the second 20-minute overtime, that is. Then, after both teams had played to exhaustion in the longest game in WCHA playoff history, Larraza got on the Xcel Energy Center ice and scored his first collegiate goal to send the Pioneers into the playoff final with a 4-3 victory over Minnesota-Duluth.

The play started as a rush by Denver’s fourth line, and freshman center Matt Tabrum fired a shot from the right side that glanced off the right pipe and out toward the blue line. Defenseman John Ryder shot again.

“Ryder threw it at the net and it hit me in the chest,” said Larraza, who let the puck drop in front of him, pulled it to his right as goaltender Kenny Reiter went down, and then flicked a backhander into the open goal. He did it with the poise and certainty that a veteran scorer might have shown. Instead, Larraza was dressed as Denver’s 13th forward — a spare after the four regular lines.

“That was the biggest goal I’ve scored,” said Larraza. To say nothing of the only one. “I got about 10 shifts in the game, so I was still fresh at the end.”

Officially, the goal came at 8:14 of the second 20-minute overtime, which means it was after 38:14 of sudden-death play, making the game’s duration 98 minutes, 14 seconds, breaking the league playoff record, and leaving 12,804 fans nearly as drained as the players. Another record set in the game was the 67 saves by Denver goaltender Sam Brittain, who withstood UMD’s determined comeback from a 3-0 deficit, which featured the Bulldogs outshooting Denver 70-49.

The victory sends Denver (25-12-4) into Saturday’s championship game against the winner of Friday night’s Minnesota-North Dakota second semifinal. UMD goes home 24-9-6, but certain to have a high seed in next week’s NCAA tournament field.

“We dug ourselves a hole at the start, but we did a lot of good things in the second half of the game, and it became a helluva hockey game,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Both teams had a lot of chances and both goalies made some tremendous saves.”

North Dakota 6, Minnesota 3

Minnesota out shot North Dakota 12-2 in the first period and took a 3-0 and was in complete control.

But from then on, it was all North Dakota.

Derek Forbort, a sophomore defenseman for North Dakota, flung a deflected shot from the right point that eluded Gopher goaltender Kent Patterson at 14:51, but at 3-1, the third period started with no illusions for the Sioux.

But at 5:31 of the third, Michael Parks went to the net and had a pass deflect in off his skate to cut it to 3-2. Exactly 30 seconds later, Brock Nelson blocked a high bouncing puck and fired it in to tie the game 3-3.

The Fighting Sioux fans in the crowd went crazy, and the Sioux poured it on.

Mario Lamoureux scored at 9:42, then Corbvan Knight scored on North Dakota’s only power-play chanbce, at 10:19, and Lamoureux scored again by jamming in a rebund at 16:10.

Friday reading: Previews

Former Tiger Joey Crabb scored for Toronto in the Leafs' 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

No. 2 seed Minnesota Duluth knows it will need to focus on the details when it takes on No. 3 Denver at 1:07 p.m. Mountain in the WCHA Final Five semifinals.

UMD has to feel comfortable in the Xcel Energy Center, where it won its first NCAA Division I title 11 months ago.

No. 1 Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt dropped some weight this offseason and it has paid off with 33 assists this season.

Making the Final Five, let alone coming in as the favorite, is new to all but three of the current Gophers, who take on No. 4 seed North Dakota in the 6:07 p.m. MT semifinal.

All Final Five games will be broadcast live on FS North and ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain.

Pine Creek graduate Emily West is one of the players to watch in the women’s Frozen Four this weekend.

Thursday reading: Final 5 quarterfinal previews; TV schedule

Michigan Tech enters unfamiliar territory against No. 3 seed Denver at 1:07 p.m. Mountain today in the opening quarterfinals of the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul.

Here’s a capsule preview look at the game. Freshman goalie Juho Olkinuora will likely get the start this afternoon for DU.

Here’s a preview on the second quarterfinal, No. 4 seed North Dakota vs. No. 5 St. Cloud State from an UND perspective. North Dakota is gunning for its third Broadmoor Trophy in a row.

Here’s a feature on SCSU captain Ben Hanowski.

All Final Five games will be televised live on FS North and ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain. Here’s the schedule courtesy of the WCHA:

WCHA Final Five, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN

Games for Thursday, March 15: (6) Michigan Tech vs (3) Denver (NC), 1:07 pm MT (TV-FOX Sports North, ROOT Rocky Mountain); (5) St. Cloud State vs (4) North Dakota (NC), 6:07 pm MT (TV-FOX Sports North, ROOT Rocky Mountain).

Games for Friday, March 16: Michigan Tech/Denver vs (2) Minnesota Duluth (NC), 1:07 pm MT (TV-FOX Sports North, ROOT Rocky Mountain); St. Cloud State/North Dakota vs (1) Minnesota (NC), 6:07 pm MT (TV-FOX Sports North, ROOT Rocky Mountain)).

Games for Saturday, March 17: Broadmoor Trophy Championship Game, 6:07 pm MT (TV-FOX Sports North, ROOT Rocky Mountain).

Final Five preview capsules

Thanks to Zack Friedli of Minnesota Hockey Hub for compiling the stats appearing below.

No. 1 Minnesota Gophers (26-12-1)

Last weekend: Swept Alaska-Anchorage at Mariucci Arena (2-1, 7-3)

Head coach: Don Lucia

Key players: Erik Haula, F, So. (44 points, 25 assists); Nick Bjugstad, F, So. (40, 24 goals); Kyle Rau, F, Fr. (36, 20 assists); Nate Schmidt, D, So. (36, 33 assists); Mark Alt, D, So. (22, 17 assists); Kent Patterson, G, Sr. (26-12-1 record, 2.12 gaa, ,914 saves)

How the Gophers win the Final Five: After winning the MacNaughton Trophy, the Gophers come in as the favorites with the confidence to match. This team will not wilt if it falls behind as past squads have. The offensive firepower and solid goaltending should be enough.

How the Gophers lose: Minnesota’s defense must keep the front of the net clear for Patterson, especially against Duluth, which has plenty of players who can bury the puck.

No. 2 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (24-8-6)

Last weekend: Swept Minnesota State at Amsoil Arena (4-2, 3-2)

Head coach: Scott Sandelin

Key players: Jack Connolly, F, Sr. (56, 38 assists); Travis Oleksuk, F, Sr. (50, 29 assists); J.T. Brown, F. So. (46, 23 goals); Brady Lamb, D, Sr. (29, 20 assists); Wade Bergman, D, Jr. (18, 15 assists); Kenny Reiter, G, Sr. (22-7-6, 2.39, .912)

How the Bulldogs win the Final Five: Players besides Connolly, Oleksuk and Brown need to score. Reiter plays up to his potential.

How the Bulldogs lose: A poor showing on the penalty kill; Role players who may not be able to step it up on offense at tournament time.

No. 3 Denver Pioneers (23-12-4)

Last weekend: Won best-of-three series against Wisconsin at Magness Arena (0-1, 3-1, 3-2)

Head coach: George Gwozdecky

Key players: Drew Shore, F, Jr. (50, 29 assists); Jason Zucker, F, So. (44, 24 assists); Nick Shore, F, So. (39, 26 assists); Joey LaLeggia, D, Fr. (37, 26 assists); John Lee, D, Sr. 14, 11 assists); Juho Olkinuora, G, Fr. (8-7-3, 2.08, .928); Sam Brittain, G, So. (7-3-0, 2.44, .925)

How the Pioneers win title: Denver returns to near full strength on offense with forward Beau Bennett back, even in a limited role. The Pioneers were a much more potent team with him in the lineup earlier this season.

How the Pioneers lose: The penalty-prone Pioneers get burned when its penalty kill falters.

No. 4 North Dakota (22-12-3)

Last weekend: Swept Bemidji State at Engelstad Arena (4-1, 4-3)

Head coach: Dave Hakstol

Key players: Brock Nelson, F, So. (40, 23 goals); Danny Kristo, F, Jr. (40, 23 assists); Corban Knight, F, Jr. (35, 22 assists); Ben Blood, D, Sr. (18, 15 assists); Brad Eidsness, G, Sr. (8-3-1, 2.18, .920); Aaron Dell, G, Jr., (14-9-2, 2.79, .896)

How the Sioux win third title in a row: The top players deliver big-time goals and the goaltending holds up.

How the Sioux lose: With only 17 skaters available, they could wear down by the third game in as many nights.

No. 5 St. Cloud State Huskies (17-16-5)

Last weekend: Swept Nebraska-Omaha at National Hockey Center (4-0, 3-1)

Head coach: Bob Motzko

Key players: Ben Hanowski, F, Jr. (42, 22 goals); Jared Festler, F, Sr. (34, 19 assists); Travis Novak, F, Sr. (25, 13 assists); Nick Jensen, D, So. (32, 26 assists); Andrew Prochno, D, Fr. (28, 23 assists); Mike Lee, G, Jr. (8-5-2, 2.24, .930)

How the Huskies win the title: Lee keeps up his hot play.

How the Huskies lose: A poor offensive performance will not get them past North Dakota and then Minnesota.

No. 6 Michigan Tech Huskies (16-18-4)

Last weekend: Swept Colorado College at World Arena (3-1, 4-3 OT)

Head coach: Mel Pearson

Key players: Brett Olson, F, Sr. (30, 20 assists); David Johnstone, F, Fr. (29, 18 assists); Jordan Baker, F, Sr. (27, 17 assists); Steven Seigo, D, Jr. (22, 17 assists); Josh Robinson, G, Sr. (15-13-4, 2.83, .908)

How the Huskies win the title: Michigan Tech is the underdog of the tournament, but has confidence headed into the Final Five with good goaltending from Robinson and dynamite play from Johnstone, who Pearson had expected to lead the team in scoring this season. MTU must bury its chances and play strong defense in the slot.

How the Huskies lose: MTU plays best when ahead, judging from the CC playoff series, and could struggle in a run-and-gun affair.

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