We’re halfway through the outlooks of the NCAA Division I men’s college hockey tournament and here’s the NCAA West Region preview. This could arguably be called the Minnesota Invitational with three teams in the region from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The best boasts the number one overall seed and one of the favorites to win it all in St. Cloud State. However, Minnesota State and Minnesota-Duluth could come out of the region and get a shot at making it to St. Paul.
NCAA West Region Preview
St. Cloud State Huskies
Record: 25-8-6, 16-4-1 (Won NCHC regular season; runner-up in conference tournament)
Player to watch: Mikey Eyssimont, forward (Los Angeles Kings prospect) 17 goals, 22 assists; 39 points
Synopsis: The Huskies have gone 4-2 against their potential second-round opponents this season. Coach Bob Motzko has led teams to titles at the world junior level but wants to get back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2012-13. The Huskies will have to be wary of a plucky Air Force squad.
Minnesota State Mavericks
Record: 29-9-1; 22-5-1 (regular season champs in WCHA; lost to Michigan Tech in conference semifinals)
Player to watch: C.J. Suess (Winnipeg Jets prospect) 22 goals, 21 assists, 43 points
Synopsis: The Mavericks are fun to watch on offefnse and average 3.87 goals a game. Suess, the WCHA player of the year and Hobey Baker Award finalist, may be their only draft pick, but the players from Mankato could have a few draftees in June. Daniel Brickley is one of the better offensive defensemen in college hockey.
Record: 21-16-3, 13-11-0 (3rd in NCHC regular season and playoffs)
Player to watch: Riley Tufte, forward (Dallas Stars prospect) 16 goals; 12 assists; 28 points
Synopsis: The 2011 NCAA champions got hot in February and March to make the field. UMD was outscored 7-2 in their last two games, but Hunter Shepard is a goalie that can catch fire on steal a game or two. He’s gotten all 21 wins for the Bulldogs and five shutouts from his last eight games before last weekend.
Air Force Falcons
Record: 22-14-5, 13-11-4 (tied for 3rd in Atlantic Hockey; won conference tournament)
Player to watch: Billy Christopoulos, goalie; 22-14-5, .920 save percentage. 2.09 goals against average
Synopsis: Atlantic Hockey isn’t the most praised conference in college hockey, but they’ve sent teams to the Frozen Four before. Coach Frank Serratore’s team upset Western Michigan last season and came within a goal of beating Harvard for a Frozen Four berth last season. Christopoulos was the tournament MVP and allowed only one goal in the final two games.
Air Force is a good team, but there won’t be a monumental upset as St. Cloud will advance. Minnesota State’s firepower will carry it to the regional final, but the Huskies want to finally get Motzko that elusive national championship.
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