We now move to the other side of the bracket, and the Boston College Eagles might only face one of these teams if they make the national championship game. There are several legitimate threats to win it all over here as well, but in Cincinnati’s Midwest Region, who has the edge?
Regional Semifinal 1
(1) Wisconsin vs. (4) North Dakota
The Big Ten hockey champion Wisconsin Badgers are going to face northern foes North Dakota. There’s nothing like a big rivalry game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and no matter how hot Wisconsin had to get to win their conference championship, the Fightin’ North Dakotans can absolutely win this game if they come at it the way they should a Wisconsin-North Dakota matchup.
Sure, Wisconsin has the better body of work, led by senior forward Michael Mersch with his 22 goals and junior goalie Joel Rumpel. But again, it is a rivalry game between two teams that have a former conference affiliation in common and quite a bit of history, up to and including NCAA Tournament games.
If that weren’t a factor? Then yes, Wisconsin would be a relatively substantial favorite, but the gap in this 1-4 game feels smaller than that in the others. North Dakota had a good season and are probably the best 4-seed in the tournament. They’re not the favorites in this game, but if any four is going to win, it will probably be this one.
Regional Semifinal 2
(2) Ferris State vs. (3) Colgate
Ferris State is a team that Boston College fans will remember, being the team the Eagles dumped to win the whole tamale in 2012. They’re a strong team again in 2014, ranked sixth in the national polls entering the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs are top ten in both offense and defense nationally, and their penalty kill has helped them win many games. Their problem, if anything, has been a very average power play, though that doesn’t seem to be much more than a nitpick since they average 3.32 goals per game (10th).
Colgate got into the tournament as an at-large bid out of the ECAC, getting back into the tourney for the first time since 2005, winning 20 games up to this point. If they want to find #21 in Cincinnati, they’re going to have to stop a potent Ferris State offense and/or keep up with them. Both defensively and offensively, even on specials — power play and penalty kill — everything about the Raiders says “average.”
Granted, they didn’t look so average when they beat Quinnipiac in double overtime in the ECAC Tournament. Further, they’ve already played Ferris State three times this season, winning twice. Just because they look “average” on the surface sure doesn’t mean they can’t win this one.
Likeliest Regional Final
(1) Wisconsin vs. (2) Ferris State
This might be the most likely regional final, but the Midwest seems like a highly competitive region. North Dakota is capable of pulling the upset, and we know Colgate has had prior success against Ferris State this season. Don’t be shocked if there’s a 3-4 game here to decide who Cincinnati sends to the Frozen Four.
If this happens to be it, these two regional rivals will come up with an entertaining game. Gut feeling on who would win it? Ferris State.