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Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener between North Dakota and Northeastern might be the best first-round game in any region. It is a pick ’em game with the Huskies holding a slight edge because they seem to have forgotten how to lose. That makes them Dave Dondoneau’s pick to win the Midwest Region:
Winners of 13 in a row, the Huskies are the fourth seed nobody wants to face. The Huskies have played with a nothing-to-lose edge over the past two months and as a result they are the sexy pick to win it all. But it certainly will not be easy.
[caption id="attachment_9024" align="alignright" width="429"] REGION PREVIEW: Northeastern hopes run of luck that started in Ireland rubs off in Midwest[/caption]
UND, which dropped from first to third in the PairWise rankings after losing to Minnesota Duluth in the NCHC semifinals, is one of those teams that could steamroll everyone or exit in the first game.
The Fighting Hawks have typically responded well after losses. Falling to Duluth in the NCHC semifinals and tying Denver in the third-place game might have been they wakeup call they needed on defense after playing three consecutive weeks against the worst teams in the NCHC.
UND’s chances depend on sophomore goalie Cam Johnson and whether he can match his 1.64 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in a region where all four teams rank in the top 15 in the country on offense.
Michigan can outscore anybody, but its consistency on defense is a liability. The return of forward Kevin Roy from injury has lifted Northeastern to another level. It would be great to see Michigan’s CCM Line of three Hobey Baker Award finalists square off against UND’s CBS Line in the region title game. It could be the first of several great matchups for future NHL players Kyle Connor and Brock Boeser, the nation’s leading freshmen scorers from Michigan and North Dakota, respectively.
The Wolverines would love nothing better than to reach the region finals by trouncing Notre Dame as an early welcome into the Big Ten. They’ve got the power play and firepower to do it.
- Semifinals: Northeastern 4, North Dakota 3; Michigan 7, Notre Dame 5
- Championship: Northeastern 6, Michigan 5
Agree or disagree? Vote below and tweet your Frozen Four picks @LiveOnASN along with your comments:
Who is your choice to win the Midwest Region?