And here is the Molly Regional.
Game 1 #2 St. Cloud State vs. #3 Clarkson
This is a pretty interesting first round match-up. The two teams have met in each of the past two seasons. Last year, St. Cloud dominated Clarkson in St. Cloud, and this year, St. Cloud traveled out east and the two teams split. Both teams have a lot to prove in these games too. Clarkson has been very good the past couple seasons, but I think they need to have some success in the national tournament for people to really start taking them seriously. St. Cloud, well, you know the story about them in the national tournament.
This could be one of the higher-scoring first round games as well. Clarkson seniors David Cayer and Nick Dodge saw a little drop in production this year, but the Golden Knights still have a lot of dangerous scoring options. The Huskies, meanwhile, have perhaps the most dangerous top powerplay unit in the country led by Ryan Lasch, Andreas Nodl, and Garrett Roe.
Neither team is exceptional defensively either. Clarkson had some bad defensive breakdowns in their playoff loss to Colgate, while St. Cloud has also had some terrible 3rd period meltdowns this year. Both goalies have been solid this year, but aren't exactly what I would call game-changers.
St. Cloud played pretty good hockey down the stretch, save the Final Five play-in game. One of the common factors in all of St. Cloud's tournament losses has been that they haven't played their best hockey. If they play poorly on Friday, they'll likely lose again. But I think the Huskies will play inspired hockey, and advance in the tournament thanks to a couple powerplay goals.
Game 2 #1 Michigan vs. #4 Niagara
This should technically be the most lop-sided game of the tournament since it is #1 vs. #16, but there is still the potential for an upset. Michigan's team has reportedly been hit hard by the flu bug, and hasn't had a very good week of practice.
There also still has to be some concerns about Billy Sauer. Sauer hasn't played well in both NCAA tournament appearances, though in his defense, both of those games were against North Dakota. Still, if Niagara can keep the game low-scoring and close, they might catch a break on a soft goal or two.
Overall though, it'd be a pretty huge upset if the Purple Eagles beat Michigan. I except Michigan to win, and Kevin Porter to put up a couple points to solidify his Hobey bid.
Game 3 #1 Michigan vs. #2 St. Cloud
This would be the third time these teams have met, but the first outside the state of Michigan. The other two games came well before any of these players were in college, but strong memories still remain in St. Cloud. Mark Hartigan is still bitter. Apparently he didn't learn anything from Molly.
I think Michigan has got too much talent for St. Cloud in this one. Unless the Huskies can build a lead early, I think Michigan's forwards have too much speed for St. Cloud's defense, and I don't see Jase Weslosky turning away that many quality scoring chances to steal the game for St. Cloud.