Friday, March 11, 2011

The Underdog with the Upperhand- Playoff Time

Let's hope St. Cloud continues its winning ways
The WCHA Playoffs begin tonight when the St. Cloud State Huskies will be visiting the the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs at the new AMSOIL Arena. Despite the UMD Bulldogs ending the season in the #4 position in the WCHA and the Huskies claiming the #9 position, the Huskies have a better "post-Christmas" record and took 3 of 4 points from UMD back in February (including an 8-2 smack down). What does this all mean? Most likely nothing. It is a brand new season and both teams will be fighting tooth-and-nail to make it to the Final Five. However, here is what the experts are saying:


St. Cloud Times
"No. 9 St. Cloud State at No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth — The Huskies are 10-5-3 in the second half, while the Bulldogs are 8-6-3. Minnesota-Duluth moved into the AMSOIL Arena, but it has yet to become a dominant place for the Bulldogs. Minnesota-Duluth is 3-4-2 at AMSOIL, which includes a 7-2 loss and 3-3 tie with the Huskies. The Bulldogs are not the most physical team in the WCHA, which plays into the Huskies’ favor. Prediction: St. Cloud State in three."
"Theresa: This is a tricky, tricky series in my mind. Earlier in the year, the pick would be a no brainer. Now, however? The Bulldogs have been stumbling a bit down the stretch while the Huskies are one of the hottest teams in college hockey. That being said, UMD gets the edge for overall consistency while SCSU has been, as I said earlier this season, consistently inconsistent. Who do I go for? Short playoff formats favor the streaky: I’m going with SCSU (probably in three)."
Goal Gophers

Chris: "The year Tech beat CC in the playoffs, I happened to be at a first-round series between UMD and St. Cloud State and I told then-Huskies beat writer Mike Killeen that if Tech pulled off the upset, I would walk across the National Hockey Center ice stark naked. I had no intention of actually doing it, because everyone knows I’m all talk and no action, but oddly enough in the past few years I have been on that campus when no one was around and thought about actually sneaking into the building and doing it, just in case when the Great Scorer comes to mark against my name, he marks not whether I won or lost but how I played the game. I didn’t, natch, because I’d screw it up somehow and get arrested or something, and that’s all I need, more bad publicity. Back to hockey. The St. Clouds beat the UMDs bad a couple of weeks ago, so you can throw out the record book, as the kids say.  I’ll go with the ... Bulldogs take the series at home, losing 3-2, winning 4-2 and then taking a five-overtime thriller 6-5 on Sunday evening"
Roman: "Seems it has been a couple years since I've seen St. Cloud State. The Gophers split with SCSU in late October. Know much more about UMD. They can score. This Mike Connolly have five goals -- in one game -- against the U of M. Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine find the net a lot, too. But the Amsoil Arena has not proved to be much of a home team edge this season. 'Dogs should try to move this series to the DECC. ... Being a contrarian Huskies win 4-2, 3-5, 2-1 overtime."
Goon's World
"In early February the Huskies invaded Amsoil Arena and beat the Bulldogs 8-2 and tied in the rematch 3-3. SCSU is 5-2-2 in their last 9 games with loses to UND and DU, not too shabby. The Bulldogs are 2-4-2 in their last 8 games with wins over UNO and MSUM. This series has upset written all over it. SCSU is playing its best hockey of the year and are looking like the team that was picked to finish in the top 3 to start the year. The Bulldogs seem to be sliding into the playoffs. UMD needs to get back on track if they want to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament, which would include winning their first round playoff series. The Huskies still have hopes of making the NCAA tournament, but they need to win this series and do some damage in St. Paul to get in. Looking at the stats UMD has not last a league game when they were ahead after the 1st period, same goes for their 2nd period. The Huskies need to get a lead or be tied after the 1st and 2nd if they want to win, according to the stats. This could be the most interesting series this weekend, in my opinion.
SCSU in 3"
"The Huskies are coming off a well-played weekend at Denver where they split with the Pioneers. Prior to that they swept Wisconsin at St. Cloud in embarrassing fashion if you're a Badger fan. The Huskies are playing well right now, but started out the month horribly. They're 4-4-2 since the start of February.
Duluth is coming off a split with Omaha last weekend, and dropped three of four points at CC the prior week. Duluth is 3-4-3 in February and is not playing well right now.
For me, this is the match-up I wanted most. The Gophers don't lose at home in the playoffs, and we had no luck vs. CC earlier this season. Surprisingly, the Huskies lead the overall series against UMD 54-36-7, and are on a 4-0-2 run against the Dogs since Jan. '09. Things change though. Statistically, the teams look fairly even. The Dogs have three high scoring forwards, but the Huskies are putting some goals up now, too. Special teams will probably be the key in this one, and the Huskies special teams are playing well right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see Duluth take this in three, but I'm really impressed with this St. Cloud team right now.
Huskies advance to the Final Five in three games.
Huskies win Friday 3-1
Bulldogs win Saturday 4-2
Huskies win Sunday 3-2"
College Hockey News

"The matchup: After struggling early on, St. Cloud State has seemed to find itself down the stretch. The Huskies have lost just twice over its last eight games — a pair of 3-2 losses to the top two teams in the WCHA. Included in that run is a series at Amsoil Arena against the Bulldogs, where SCSU took three of four points, including an 8-2 win Feb. 11. That series started a downward spiral for UMD, which has won just two of its last eight. The Bulldogs are at their best when their penalty kill is working. In their last five wins, they have shut out teams with the man advantage. In their last five losses, opponents have scores nine power play goals.
Our take: With the above statistic in mind, the Huskies have scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games. The Bulldogs are a pretty good team 5-on-5, so if SCSU is going to pull the upset, they will need to find a way to take advantage of the UMD penalty kill. St. Cloud went 4-of-10 on the power play in February — the teams' only meeting of the season.

It looks like all (well almost all) the experts are picking St. Cloud State (as the "underdog") to come out with the wins and advance to the Final Five. Should be a very exciting and closely matched game though. I am also picking St. Cloud State to win in 3 games.

Final total:

St. Cloud Advances= 7
Duluth Advances= 1

Hanowski- Roe- Eddy
Festler- Marvin- Novak
Reid- LeBlanc- Dowd
MacMillian- Christian- Oslund

Lauridsen- Jensen
Gravel- Johnson
Zabkowicz- Barta


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