NCHC Frozen Faceoff offers college hockey preview at Xcel


Conference semifinals, final at Xcel Energy Center

Friday's semifinals: No. 4 seed Nebraska Omaha vs. No. 1 North Dakota, 4 p.m.; No. 3 St. Cloud State vs. No. 2 Denver, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's final: Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.

TV: All games on CBS Sports Network

Randy Johnson's preview:

First semifinal at a glance: Regular-season champion North Dakota (26-10-2) swept Miami (Ohio) in the quarterfinals and will try to exact revenge on Nebraska Omaha (22-11-4), which took nine of 12 regular-season points against the Fighting Hawks. Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist Jackson Blake (21 goals, 36 assists, 57 points) ranks second nationally in scoring for UND. Goalie Ludvig Persson has started 33 of 38 games, but his status was uncertain at midweek. … The Mavericks closed the regular season with a seven-game unbeaten streak before beating Colorado College in three games in the quarterfinals. Brothers Tanner (11-17-28) and Griffin Ludtke (4-20-24) are two of five Mavericks with over 20 points.

Second semifinal at a glance: Denver (26-9-3) swept Minnesota Duluth in the quarterfinals and is 7-1-1 since Feb. 1, including a sweep of St. Cloud State (17-15-5). The Pioneers average a nation's-best 4.87 goals per game, led by Hobey Baker top-10 finalist Jack Devine (27-27-54) and defenseman Zeev Buium (9-35-44). … St. Cloud State lost its final four regular-season games before beating Western Michigan in three games in the quarterfinals. Forward Veeti Miettinen (20-15-35) leads the Huskies in scoring, and Dylan Anhorn (6-26-32) supplies scoring from the blue line.

NCAA tournament forecast: North Dakota, No. 3 in the PairWise Ratings, and No. 4 Denver are locks for the NCAA tournament and will try to nail down No. 1 seeds. Nebraska Omaha is safely in the field and will be host of the Sioux Falls Regional. St. Cloud State needs to beat Denver to have a chance at an NCAA bid. The tournament champion receives the automatic NCAA bid.