2015 NCAA Tournament- West Regional Preview

West Regional

Site: Scheels Arena, Fargo, N.D.
Friday’s schedule: (2) Michigan Tech vs. (3) St. Cloud State, 3:30 p.m. CDT, ESPN3; (1) North Dakota vs. (4) Quinnipiac, 7 p.m., ESPNU.Saturday’s schedule: Semifinal winners, 8 p.m. CDT, ESPNU.

Michigan Tech University

Record: 29-9-2 (21-5-2 WCHA, second place)
How they qualified: At-large
Last appearance: 1981
Championships: 1962, 1965, 1975
Player to watch for: Tanner Kero (40 GP, 19-26–45)Overview: It’s been a long time coming for Michigan Tech playing this late in March. The last time they made the tournament (1981), head coach Mel Pearson was a senior on the team. With that being said, the NCAA wasn’t generous on the Huskies, putting them in a region that has the team that’s been No. 1 for most of the last month in North Dakota. This years seniors came in at the same time as Pearson and the fruits of his labor has come to life in his fourth season. He’s taken a team that didn’t see a lot of winning to having them contend for conference championships and now playing in the NCAA tournament.
St. Cloud State University 
Record: 19-18-10 (14-13-1 NCHC, sixth place)
How they qualified: At-large
Last appearance: 2014
Championship: None
Player to watch for: Jonny Brodzinski (38 GP, 20-17–37)Overview: They finished sixth in the NCHC, which goes to show you just how strong the conference was this season. After conference realignment a few years ago no one would have thought six teams from a conference would make the tournament anymore. They are middle of the road statistically in terms of offense and defense, but their goaltending has gotten better as they allowed five goals over their last four games before falling to Miami in the NCHC tournament final. 11 of Brodzinski’s 20 goals this season have come on the power play.

ncaaUniversity of North Dakota
Record: 27-9-3 (16-6-2-0 NCHC, first place)
How they qualified: At-large
Last appearance: 2014
Championships: 1958, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000
Player to watch for: Zane McIntyre (39GP, 27-9-3, 2.04 GAA, .929 sv%, 1 SO)

Overview: North Dakota is about as much as everyone’s favorite to win it all as Kentucky is in the men’s basketball tournament. North Dakota has been ranked between Nos. 1-3 all season long and lost three games during the 2015 half of their schedule prior to dropping both games in the NCHC tournament last week. Their opponents can’t be too aggressive on the power play, as North Dakota’s nine shorthanded goals is second-best in the nation.

Quinnipiac University
Record: 23-11-4 (16-3-3 ECAC Hockey, first place)
How they qualified: At-large
Last appearance: 2014
Championships: None
Player to watch for: Matthew Peca (38 GP, 7-29–36)

Overview: As if the Bobcats didn’t already have a tough challenge playing the favorites in the first round, they’ll have to do it without sophomore leading scorer Sam Anas. Anas suffered a knee injury prior to the ECAC championship weekend and missed the tournament. He’s expected to be out this weekend as well. They’ll have to rely on 15-goal scorers Landon Smith and Travis St. Denis. They’ll also have assist machine Matthew Peca to contribute on offense as well. Peca can relate to the young guys on the squad, as he was a sophomore when the Bobcats played for the title in 2013.

Last Words: Like Kentucky playing in Louisville last weekend, North Dakota is playing virtual home games this weekend. They’ll have the crowd in their favor Friday and Saturday should they win. This is also the only regional where all four teams is coming off a lost in their last game played. Be rest assured that all four teams will be coming out hard in the first period to redeem themselves from their last games played.

Prediction: North Dakota over Michigan Tech

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