By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ST. PAUL —
It doesn’t get much closer than Minnesota State and Wisconsin, as far as matchups go.
The two teams, who will open the WCHA Final Five against each other at 2:07 p.m. today, split their regular-season matchup, each sweeping the other on the road. They also finished the regular season in a tie for fourth place in the conference standings.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of respect between the two teams.
“We’re looking forward to playing one of the top teams in the country over the last three or four months,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said.
On Nov. 23-24, MSU began a seven-game winning streak with a pair of 4-2 victories in Madison, Wis.. On Jan. 11-12, Wisconsin swept in Mankato for the first time ever, winning twice in overtime, 4-3 and 2-1.
“Mankato has been as good as anyone in the country all year,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said. “It should be a whale of a game.”
Sitting 16th in the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the NCAA tournament field, Wisconsin likely needs to win today’s game to keep its season alive. No. 10 Minnesota State is all but a lock to make the postseason, regardless of today’s result.
Still, both teams have their eyes set on playing for the Broadmoor Trophy on Saturday night.
The winner will advance to play St. Cloud State at 2:07 p.m. on Friday.
In today’s second game, Colorado College will play North Dakota. The winner will play Minnesota on Friday night.
Here’s a look at the entire Final Five Field:
Record: 24-12-3 (16-11-1 in WCHA, tie-fourth)
Pairwise Ranking: 10
Coach: Mike Hastings (first year)
Top forwards: Matt Leitner (17-28—45), Eriah Hayes (19-16—35), Jean-Paul LaFontaine (9-24—33)
Top defensemen: Zach Palmquist (6-18—24), Josh Nelson (5-9–14)
Top goaltender: Stephon Williams (21-10-2, .929, 1.84)
Record: 19-12-7 (13-8-7 in WCHA, tie-fourth)
Pairwise Ranking: 16
Coach: Mike Eaves (11th year)
Top scorers: Michael Mersch (23-12—35), Marke Zengerle (9-21—30), Nic Kerdiles (7-19—26)
Top defensemen: Jake McCabe (3-15—18), John Ramage (7-8—15)
Top goaltender: Joel Rumpel (13-8-4, .932, 1.87)
Record: 16-18-5 (11-13-4 in WCHA, eighth)
Pairwise Ranking: 25
Coach: Scott Owens (14th year)
Top scorers: Rylan Schwartz (17-31—48) Alexander Krushelnyski (14-26—40), William Rapuzzi (15-19—34)
Top defensemen: Mike Boivin (14-14—28), Eamonn McDermott (3-19—22)
Top goaltender: Joe Howe (12-11-4, .912 , 3.09)
Record: 21-11-7 (14-7-7 in WCHA, third)
Pairwise Ranking: 7
Coach: Dave Hakstol (ninth year)
Top scorers: Danny Kristo (24-26—50), Corban Knight (15-33—48), Rocco Grimaldi (13-21—34)
Top defensemen: Dillon Simpson (5-19—24), Joe Gleason (5-13—18)
Top goaltender: Clarke Saunders (13-7-4, .920, 2.20)
ST. CLOUD STATE
Record: 23-14-1 (18-9-1 in WCHA, tie-first)
Pairwise Ranking: 12
Coach: Bob Motzko (eighth year)
Top scorers: Drew LeBlanc (13-37—50), Nic Dowd (14-24—38), Jonny Brodzinski (21-11—32)
Top defensemen: Nick Jensen (4-25—29), Andrew Prochno (5-21—26)
Top goaltender: Ryan Faragher (22-12-1, .916, 2.27)
Record: 26-7-5 (16-7-5 in WCHA, tie-first)
Pairwise Ranking: 2
Coach: Don Lucia (14th year)
Top forwards: Erik Haula (16-33—49), Kyle Rau (15-24—39), Nick Bjugstad (21-15—36)
Top defensemen: Nate Schmidt (8-23—31), Ben Marshall (8-11—19)
Top goaltender: Adam Wilcox (25-6-5, .923, 1.84)