All five top-seeded teams in the WCHA playoffs swept their opponents this weekend, giving them an extra day of rest before next weekend's Final Five.
The Final Five is at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, so all the teams played their final home games of the season.
Now the pairings for the Final five are set: Colorado College will play Wisconsin on Thursday. The winner of that game meet Denver Friday, when St. Cloud State and Minnesota will also face off.
The winners of each of those games will advance to a championship on Saturday, when the losers will compete for third place.
In weekend action, Minnesota (28-7-4, 19-7-3 WCHA) edged North Dakota with an overtime victory Saturday. The Golden Gophers pulled out the sweep when Keith Ballard rebounded his own deflected shot and slid the puck past fallen Fighting Sioux goalie Andy Kollar with just 1:24 left in overtime.
"It was pretty tense in the locker room before overtime, but it was a good tense," Gophers player Jordan Leopold said. "Everyone was focused and ready to play. And Keith made a great play."
North Dakota put up plenty of resistance after an embarrassing 7-2 loss Friday night. The Sioux (16-19-2, 11-16-2) peered out of a 5-0 deficit four minutes into the second period in that loss, and John Pohl torched them for two goals.
"(Minnesota) had the jump tonight and capitalized early," said Sioux coach Dean Blais. "We tried to fight back, but they were just that good. They would've beaten any team in the country (Saturday)."
In other WCHA action, Denver handed Michigan Tech two losses, St. Cloud State took two from Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College swept Alaska Anchorage and Wisconsin hammered out two victories against Minnesota State, Mankato (16-20-2, 11-16-2).
The Badgers (16-18-4, 13-13-3) registered a 7-3 victory Saturday night in retiring coach Jeff Sauer's final home game. Six players scored in the win, which followed a hard-fought 3-2 overtime victory Friday for Wisconsin. Matt Murray scored the game-winning goal for the Badgers seven minutes into overtime.
St. Cloud State (29-8-2, 20-7-2) bounced back from a 5-4 overtime victory over Minnesota-Duluth (13-24-3, 6-20-3) Friday. Husky standout Mark Hartigan notched a career-high five points in the 6-3 victory, bumping his school record for goals in a season to 37 and tying the St. Cloud record for assists in a season with 38. Because Hartigan is leaving school early for professional hockey after this season, it was his final home game.
"It would've been nice to play four years," Hartigan said. "But I'm happy with the results. I guess that's the way I've got to get noticed by the big scouts is to put up those numbers."
The Huskies built up a 4-1 lead at 7:33 in the second period, but didn't put the game away without weathering a Minnesota-Duluth rally.
"It would've been easy for us to roll over after it was 4-1, but we didn't do it," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. "Say whatever you want about their lead, but you know what? We buzzed 'em (in the second period and early in the third). We were on the verge of getting the third goal but their power plays, that's where they make there living. The 5-on-3, gimme a break. We deserved some of our penalties but if (the Huskies) play like that with a lead against some other teams, they're going to lose."
Denver (30-7-1, 22-6-1) breezed past Michigan Tech (8-28-2, 4-23-2) for two victories, including an 8-1 stomping Saturday night. David Neale scored two goals in the game for the top-seeded Pioneers, and Denver ripped 31 shots on goal.
"Sometimes when you're expected to win, there are additional pressures," Denver coach George Gwozdecky said.
Jesse Heerema and Peter Sejna each posted two-goal games to help Colorado College get past Alaska Anchorage 6-1 Friday. But defense was the Tigers' strong suit Saturday in a 1-0 victory. A 16-save Jeff Sanger shutout helped propel Colorado College (24-11-3, 17-10-2) to the win over the Seawolves.
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