WCHA playoff preview: Round of 10

A look at at the five matchups that will determine next week’s Final Five.

Max Sanders

The conclusion of the menâÄôs hockey regular season also signals the end to all the hypothetical playoff scenarios, tiebreaker possibilities and playoff pairings. Now, the ten teams have been officially seeded, and the first-round matchups are set. ItâÄôs time to look at all five first-round series and see which teams have the best shot of moving on to Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five. No. 1 Denver (25-7-4, 19-5-4) vs. No. 10 Michigan Tech (5-28-1, 4-24-0) Denver, the nationâÄôs top-ranked team, is led by Hobey Baker favorite Marc Cheveri e, who is tied for the national lead in save percentage (.937). He also leads the nation in shutouts (6) and finished the year allowing less than two goals per game . The Pioneers, though, are not just a defensive powerhouse. They boast the nationâÄôs fourth-leading point scorer in senior forward Rhett Rakhshani , who has 48 points on one of the top-scoring lines in the country. Denver will be hosting a Michigan Tech team that won just four games in conference play all season and scored a paltry 59 goals in league action. The two teams met twice this regular season, with the Pioneers winning both matchups, 5-2 and 5-3. It would be an upset of major proportions if the Huskies even manage to take one game from a Denver team that is among the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament. No. 2 Wisconsin (22-9-4, 17-8-3) vs. No. 9 Alaska-Anchorage (11-21-2, 9-17-2) The Seawolves finished the year tied with Minnesota State-Mankato for the No. 8 spot but lost the tiebreaker due to head-to-head record. Now they head to Madison for the first round, where they face a Wisconsin team that is coming off a weekend split with Minnesota in which the Badgers lost a meaningless Sunday game, having already locked up the No. 2 seed. The Badgers boast the leagueâÄôs most potent attack, scoring a WCHA-high 109 goals in conference play, and face an Alaska-Anchorage team that allowed 106 goals, second to only Michigan Tech in goals allowed. The two teams met for one series in the regular season, with Wisconsin sweeping Alaska-Anchorage by scores of 5-1 and 6-2. No. 3 St. Cloud State (20-11-5, 15-9-4) vs. No. 8 Minnesota State-Mankato (15-18-3, 9-17-2) The two schools will meet for the second time in as many weeks, as St. Cloud faced Minnesota State-Mankato in a home-and-home last weekend. The Mavericks took the first game 4-2 in Mankato before tying the Huskies 2-2 in overtime Saturday in St. Cloud in the only series between the teams all year. The magic number for the series is 92, as it is the number of goals scored by St. Cloud State in WCHA play as well as the number of goals allowed by Minnesota-State Mankato . The Mavericks will attempt to contain stellar freshmen Garrett Roe and Ryan Lasch , who tied for sixth in the WCHA in points scored with 32 each. Minnesota State will need to slow the talented duo to have a shot in this series. No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth (20-15-1, 16-11-1) vs. No 6 Colorado College (18-15-3, 12-13-3) Once thought to be a lock for a home ice spot, the Tigers stumbled down the stretch, losing five of their final six regular season games en route to falling to the No. 6 spot. In the regular season, the teams met twice, splitting the series in Colorado Springs before Minnesota-Duluth swept the Tigers in Duluth, outscoring Colorado College 9-3. No. 4 North Dakota (20-11-5, 15-10-3) vs. No. 7 Minnesota (17-17-2, 12-14-2) The Gophers have not had any postseason success in Grand Forks (0-5 all time in playoff appearances against North Dakota on their home ice). Compounding the issue for Don LuciaâÄôs Gophers is that they face a Sioux team that is the hottest in the conference and winners of its final seven regular season games. Turning the postseason struggles around completely hinges on the play of Alex Kangas . The junior goaltender will need to be at his best, as North Dakota boasts one of the top defensive units in the country, not allowing more than two goals per game during its current win streak.