NCAA West Regional Preview

After completing the long grind that is the NCAA Division 1 hockey season, the No. 8-ranked Michigan hockey team is scheduled to open play in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Joining Michigan in the West is No. 2 Minnesota, No. 6 North Dakota and Air Force. GBW breaks down the regional.

With the West Regional scheduled to get underway in just over four hours, GoBlueWolverine Magazine breaks down the Wolverines NCAA hockey regional.

Mascot: Golden Gophers
Coach: Don Lucia (484-260-66, 20 Years)
Record: 30-9-3
National Ranking: No. 2/No. 2
Tournament Seed: No. 1
Season Recap:

Minnesota has the talent and depth to cruise to the schools sixth NCAA title. As the No. 1-ranked team in the preseason, the Gophers got off to an amazing 19-1-3 start to the 2006-07 season. Things cooled off over the second half of the year, but the Gophers had already built an insurmountable lead in the WCHA standings. After stumbling to a 9-7-0 finish over the second half of the year, the Gophers got back on track with a victory over North Dakota in the WCHA Tournament Championship. .

Key Players:
F – Kyle Okposo (19-20-39)
F – Jay Barriball (18-23-41)
F – Blake Wheeler (18-20-38)
D – Erik Johnson (4-19-23)
G – Kellen Briggs (2.10 GAA, .918 Save Percentage)

Mascot: Wolverines
Coach: Red Berenson (611-291-64, 23 Years)
Record: 26-13-1
National Ranking: No. 8/No. 8
Tournament Seed: No. 8
Season Recap:

The No. 2 seed in the regional, the Wolverines are one of the hottest teams over the second half of the season. Goalie Billy Sauer has picked his game up to the next level since the midseason break, and the Wolverines will only go as far as he can carry them. T.J. Hensick paces the nation's high scoring offense, but they have struggled to score at critical times in big games. Michigan needs to get on the board early to get the confidence flowing to advance past the West Regional this weekend.

Key Players:
F – T.J. Hensick (21-45-66)
F – Kevin Porter (23-33-59)
F – Andrew Cogliano (23-25-48)
D – Jack Johnson (16-21-37)
G – Billy Sauer (2.93 GAA, .900 Save Percentage)

North Dakota
Mascot: Fighting Sioux
Coach: Dave Hakstol (76-44-11, 3 Years)
Record: 22-13-5
National Ranking: No. 6/No. 6
Tournament Seed: No. 9
Season Recap:

After a 9-10-1 start to the season, North Dakota became the hottest team in the nation over the second half of the year. With a record of 15-3-3 over the final 21 games of the season, the Fighting Sioux are poised to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Ryan Duncan, the Sioux's Hobey Baker hopeful, has registered a point in 14 of ND's last 15 games. North Dakota had an impressive run in the WCHA Tournament sweeping Minnesota State and eliminating St. Cloud State in the semifinals before falling to Minnesota in overtime of the Championship game.

Key Players:
F – Ryan Duncan (30-23-53)
F – T.J. Oshie (13-31-44)
F – Jonathan Toews (16-27-43)
D – Taylor Chorney (8-21-29)
G – Philippe Lamoureux (2.32 GAA, .915 Save Percentage)

Air Force
Mascot: Falcons
Coach: Frank Serratore (198-280-33, 14 Years)
National Ranking: NR/NR
Tournament Seed: No. 16
Season Recap:

With five straight losses to open the month of February, things looked bleak just a month and a half ago for the Air Force Falcons. Air Force turned it around however, and, after six straight wins, the Falcons find themselves as Atlantic Hockey's representative in the NCAA Tournament. Eric Ehn was the nation's top scorer until Michigan's T.J. Hensick passed him during conference tournament play, but he's capable of putting the puck in the net at anytime. Air Force is going to need strong play in goal to survive Minnesota in the first round, but if we learned anything from Holy Cross last year, it's anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament.

Key Players:
F – Eric Ehn (24-40-64)
F – Andrew Ramsey (22-25-47)
F – Mike Phillipich (16-27-43)
F – Jeff Hajner (12-14-26)
G – Ben Worker (2.25 GAA, .896 Save Percentage)

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