2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament Primer & Predictions: Midwest Regional

Midwest Regional - (Resch Center, Green Bay, Wis.)

Michigan vs. Cornell - Friday, 9 p.m. ET

Michigan:

The Midwest Regional's top seed is making its 22nd-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Chew on that one. Led by 28-year head coach Red Berensen, the Wolverines program and coaching staff is well-versed in playoff hockey and big-game situations. Don't forget they suffered a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in last year's championship game in St. Paul. Many of those boys are returning hungry. Alex Guptill, David Wohlberg, Lee Moffie and A.J. Treais each have more than 30 points of offense this year.

Dealmaker: Shawn Hunwick, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, has been phenomenal, sporting a 1.98 goals against average and .933 save rate. North Dakota was the best team in college hockey last year before Hunwick stunned Xcel Energy Center with a 40-save shutout. He can be that type of goaltender.

Deal-breaker: The Wolverines don't boast a high-end prolific scorer. Cornell's sound defensive play might expose that, and ultimately prove the difference by one goal.

Cornell:

They're young, they're inexperience - they're super smart. It's Cornell. They also play some very sound defensive hockey and carry strong tradition where they go. Veteran coach Mike Schafer will prepare the boys accordingly. Greg Miller and Sean Collins lead Cornell with 30 and 24 points, respectively. They are the only two double-digit goal scorers on the team. Andy Iles brags a .918 save percentage and 2.13 goals against, so the Big Red have a strong foundation to support an upset over the No. 1 seed.

Dealmaker: Defense, defense, defense. Did someone say defense?

Deal-breaker: ECAC Rookie of the Year Brian Ferlin will not be in the lineup. The Big Red need all the firepower they can get.

Prediction: Michigan wins 4-1

 

Ferris State vs. Denver - Friday, 5:30 p.m. ET

Denver:

The Pioneers are very good team with the potential to be great. It kind of depends on how many soldiers say "present" during roll call. Jason Zucker's 46 points of production is in flux as he and others remain game-time decisions, according to head coach George Gwozdecky. The Shore brothers, Drew and Nick, are both healthy and poised to contribute. Freshman defenseman and WCHA Rookie of the Year Joey LaLeggia provides some spunk from the blue line.

Dealmaker: Time for goaltender Sam Brittain to shoulder the load. He is 8-3-0 this year after returning from surgery.

Deal-breaker: Injuries. The Pioneers aren't deep enough as it is. A possible lack of options makes them vulnerable.

Ferris State

Don't believe everything you read, including virtually every college hockey pundit's preseason analysis regarding the Ferris State Bulldogs. Hey, we're wrong sometimes. The Bulldogs are just rubbing that in our face. Ferris State boasts a balanced scoring attack, including Jordie Johnston, Matthew Kirzinger and Kyle Bonis with 10 or more goals. Senior defenseman Chad Billins is an offensive lynchpin with 29 points from the blue line. Senior goaltender Taylor Nelson is tasked with stopping some of the country's top scorers over at Denver.

Dealmaker: Strong defensive play could halt Denver's top scoring threats to zilch. Pop in a couple goals, and bam, the Bulldogs move on.

Deal-breaker: Ferris State was knocked out of the CCHA playoffs in the first round - by last-place Bowling Green. Not exactly a good tune-up before the Big Dance.

Prediction: Denver wins 3-1

 

Regional Final on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET

Michigan vs. Denver

Any battle between Michigan and Denver has the makings for a great game, but with a Frozen Four ticket on the line, it could turn into an instant classic. Two powerhouse programs brimming with history and talent will end in overtime. Michigan will badly outshoot Denver, but Brittain will stand on his head and outplay Hunwick. Literally, Brittain will stand on his head and freak everybody out. Book the Pioneers' flight to Tampa.

Prediction: Denver wins 3-2 (OT)

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