Denver beat North Dakota 3-1 in the first semifinal game today, setting up a potential rivalry rematch in the Broadmoor Trophy game.
Earlier this week, Colorado College players secretly wished they'd get to face Minnesota in the Final Five. Their wish was granted when Gophers forward Mike Howe scored with 12.7 seconds left in regulation. It should be a packed house at the Xcel Energy Center tonight.
Things to watch:
--Even though CC goaltender Richard Bachman was unquestionably the WCHA's best goaltender this season -- he captured 77 of 78 rookie of the year votes and player of the year honors Thursday -- Minnesota's Alex Kangas has put together a solid campaign after taking the reins midway through the season. In 28 games, Kangas has a 1.95 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Coach Don Lucia said Monday Kangas was the reason for the Gophers' about-face.
--CC and Denver are the bitterest of rivals, but Minnesota is up there on the Tigers' list. A gopher hangs in effigy in the bowels of CC's locker room.
--Minnesota played three overtime games last weekend and the play-in game last night. How will the Gophers' legs hold up?
--CC's forwards exposed all sorts of weaknesses in Minnesota's defensive corps in October. I'll be interested to see how the Gophers' defense has improved since the beginning of the season. Remember, Minnesota lost its three top defensemen off of last season's team -- Mike Vannelli, who graduated, and early departures Alex Goligoski and Erik Johnson.
Here are the lines for tonight's game:
21 Bill Sweatt -- 14 Chad Rau -- 25 Mike Testwuide
26 Scott McCulloch -- 19 Andreas Vlassopoulos -- 23 Jimmy Kilpatrick
10 Scott Thauwald -- 17 Tyler Johnson -- 22 Eric Walsky
18 Matt Overman -- 9 Brian McMillin -- 16 Derek Patrosso
8 Jack Hillen --15 Nate Prosser
7 Kris Fredheim -- 4 Jake Gannon
11 Brian Connelly -- 24 Ryan Lowery
30 Richard Bachman
31 Drew O'Connell
1 Tyler O'Brien
13 Ben Gordon -- 17 Blake Wheeler -- 7 Patrick White
11 Mike Hoeffel -- 16 Mike Carman -- 26 Jay Barriball
12 Tony Lucia -- 19 Evan Kaufmann -- 22 Ryan Flynn
24 Mike Howe -- 25 Drew Fisher --14 Justin Bostrom
5 Derek Peltier -- 20 David Fischer
28 Cade Fairchild -- 4 Stu Bickel
2 Kevin Wehrs -- 6 R.J. Anderson
33 Alex Kangas
1 Jeff Frazee
35 Brent Solei