Wisconsin, North Dakota and St. Cloud State represent the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this weekend in the NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament, which gets underway at four sites around the country.
Wisconsin is the top seed in the West Regional, despite losing to North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five championship Saturday night at Target Center. The Fighting Sioux are the No. 2 seed, so both teams get a first-round bye.
St. Cloud State is the No. 6 seed in the East Regional.
North Dakota and Wisconsin entered the Final Five finale each knowing they were assured of spots in the tournament. But that didn't keep the teams from putting it all on the line in the Fighting Sioux's 5-3 win.
''Winning this is good because it puts you on a roll going into the NCAAs,'' said North Dakota senior wing Lee Goren, who scored two goals and was named MVP of the Final Five. ''We've won three in a row now, and we're all excited and confident about what we can do.''
Wisconsin had defeated North Dakota in a pair of overtime games in January to essentially clinch the WCHA regular-season title.
''This was two good hockey teams going head to head, and they had more jump in the first and third periods and that was the difference,'' said Badgers coach Jeff Sauer.
The West Regional gets underway Friday night at Target Center with New Hampshire (23-8-6) playing Niagara (29-7-4) at 6 p.m., followed by Boston College (26-11-1) and Michigan State (27-10-4) at 9:30 p.m.
North Dakota (28-8-5) plays the New Hampshire-Niagara winner at 6 p.m. Saturday, and Wisconsin (31-8-1) takes on the Boston College-Michigan State winner at 9:30 p.m.
St. Cloud State (23-13-3), making its second trip to the tournament, plays at noon Friday in Albany, N.Y., against Boston University (24-9-7).
The Huskies finished third in the WCHA regular season and lost to North Dakota 7-3 Friday in the Final Five semifinals. They beat Minnesota Saturday to claim third place.
Minnesota and the other team that competed in the WCHA Final Five, Minnesota State, were not picked for the NCAA tournament.
Don Brose had hoped his last season as coach at Minnesota State would last a bit longer, but the Mavericks missed out on an at-large bid when seedings were announced Sunday. They lost to Minnesota in the opening game of the Final Five.
''I tried not to get my heart expecting too much,'' said Brose, who is retiring after 30 seasons. ''It was a Cinderella season already, and maybe this was just asking too much.''
Despite being knocked out of the Final Five after one game, the Mavericks thought they had a shot at the NCAA tournament because of their strong showing during the regular season.
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