Trying to get on track in CCHA semifinals

By Ryan Stieg 

The CCHA Playoffs began last weekend, and I got off to an awful start.  

I gambled a little bit by picking some of the lower seeds to win in three games and that came back to bite me. In fact, I ended up only predicting one series correctly and that was the one that most people got right as top-seeded Bemidji State dispatched with Ferris State in two games. Meanwhile, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State made me look dumb as they won their respective series in two games. Finally, there was Lake Superior State, who I thought would lose to St. Thomas in three games, and for most of Sunday’s game, it looked like I’d be correct. However, the Lakers tied it in the third period and then won the game on a crazy play with six seconds remaining to move on to the semifinals. It was a heartbreaking moment for both the Tommies and me. Well, probably much more for them than me.  

Now, we move on to the second round and two very different matchups. It’s going to be hard to predict these two, but if I get them right, I can get almost back to .500. So, let’s see if I can get back on track. Here’s my picks for the CCHA Semifinals and I’ll begin with a game up in northern Minnesota.  

No. 7 Lake Superior State at No. 1 Bemidji State 

On paper, this looks like a mismatch with a much lower seed heading west to play the MacNaughton Cup champs, but it’ll be a closer game than you might think. LSSU has arguably the best forward in the conference in Jared Westcott as well as All-CCHA Second Teamer Connor Milburn, who gave the Tommies fits last weekend. However, the Beavers are playing their best hockey at the right time and are stacked in all areas. Bemidji has two CCHA Defenseman of the Year candidates in Kyle Looft and Eric Pohlkamp, Forward of the Year finalist Lleyton Roed and Goaltender of Year candidate Mattias Sholl. The Lakers will put up a good fight, but Bemidji moves on to the CCHA Championship. The Beavers win 4-2.  

No. 4 Minnesota State at No. 3 Michigan Tech 

Mark this day down in your calendars. This is the first time the Mavericks have had to play on the road in the playoffs in seven years. Mankato has been dominant for so long that it kind of makes you wonder of its fans remember what not playing at home feels like. The Mavs come in after rolling over Northern Michigan for the third time in four years during the playoffs and looked good in both games. Forward of the Year finalist Sam Morton leads the offensive attack, while Defenseman of the Year candidate Evan Murr anchors the blue line. Unlike last year, the Huskies don’t have the offense to keep pace with Mankato, although Second Teamer Isaac Gordon is fun to watch. However, Tech does have the better goalie in Blake Pietila, so that should give it an advantage in a one-game elimination. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I think the Mavericks do just enough to get to the title game. Mankato wins 3-2.  

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