For the final time, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s (WCHA) flagship men’s even- the 2013 Red Baron WCHA Final Five – gets underway today at the Xcel Energy Center in St.Paul, Minnesota.
The six-team tournament, to determine the WCHA playoff champion, is regarded as one of, if not the best college hockey conference tournament. One of the six teams will be crowned Final Five champion on Saturday night and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA 16-team National Tournament. The six teams in this year’s Final Five have plenty of Vees alumni on their rosters. 11 former Vees are on the six teams involved with St. Cloud State University and Minnesota each having three.
Rundown on the Teams
St. Cloud State (23-14-1)
Vees Alumni: (3) Joey Benik (freshman), Joey Holka (sophomore) and Garrett Milan (sophomore)
Final Five Appearances: 14th since 1994
Final Five Championships: (1) 2001
Facts: They’re the NO. 1 seed in the tournament and have an automatic bye to the Semi-Final, as they were regular season/ MacNaughton Cup co-champions; shared with Minnesota. They await the winner of the Minnesota State-Wisconsin Quarter-Final game.
Vees Alumni: (3) Connor, Mike and Ryan Reilly (freshman).
Vees Recruits: Louie Nanne (’13 or ’14)
Final Five Appearances: 23rd since the tournament began in 1988.
Final Five Championships: (6) 1993, 1994, 1996, 2003, 2004 and 2007
Facts: No. 2 seed and have the other automatic berth in the Semi-Final. Co-Regular Season WCHA Champions. They await the winner of the Colorado College-North Dakota Quarter-Final.
North Dakota (21-11-7)
Vees Alumni: (2) Mark MacMillan and Brendan O`Donnell. (Also feature Mark`s older brother Mitch)
Vees Recruits: Wade Murphy and Troy Stecher (’13)
Final Five Appearances: 20th since WCHA playoff championships began in 1988.
Final Five Championships: (6) 1997, 2000, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012
Facts: NO. 3 seed in the tournament and are the three-time defending Final Five champions. No longer known as the “Fighting Sioux” after new NCAA regulations were put in place; shame as their logo was one of the best in sports. They will face Colorado-College in Quarter-Final action, as the winner moves on to face Minnesota.
Vees Alumni: (1) Joel Rumpel (sophomore)
Vees Recruits: (1) Jedd Soleway (’14)
Final Five Appearances: 19th since 1988
Final Five Championships: (4) 1988, 1990, 1995 and 1998
Facts: Took out Minnesota-Duluth last weekend to nab a spot in the tournament. A team that has upset material. Joel Rumpel had a sensational sophomore season between the pipes and will be required to do some heavy lifting. NO. 4 seed and will face Minnesota-Mankato in one Quarter-Final.
Vees Alumni: Bryce Gervais and Nick Buchanan (freshman)
Final Five Appearances: (2) 2000 and 2003
Final Five Championships: None
Facts: Quite the turnaround under first-year Head Coach Mike Hastings, who was named WCHA Coach of the Year. The Mavs will be an interesting team to watch with plenty of depth of front, solid defense and WCHA Goalie & Rookie of the Year in Stephon Williams.
Colorado College (16-18-5)
Vees Alumni: none
Final Five Appearances: 14th
Final Five Championships: none
Facts: Upset state rival Denver in their three-game WCHA playoff series to book a spot in the tournament. No . 6th seed faces a stiff test as they face the three-time defending Final Five champs in North Dakota in their Quarter-Final. But remember, they were the 8th seed when the came-from-behind to take out 5th seeded Denver last weekend; another team with upset qualities.