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#1 Wisconsin vs. #4 Bemidji State

I'm going to try to preview all of the first round NCAA tournament games, or possibly just all the ones involving western teams(screw you, Maine/Harvard). We'll start with the first game in the Green Bay regional between Wisconsin and Bemidji State.

Towards the beginning of the season, I said that Bemidji State was probably the most likely small conference school to knock off a number one seed. Last year they took eventual national champion Denver to overtime in the first round. They started out this season on a tear by sweeping two WCHA teams in Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State.

They finished the season with a respectable 20-13-3 record, but were slightly less than .500 away from home, and in what is likely a more telling stat, 0-2 against tournament teams when they got swept by North Dakota in a home and home series.

Junior Layne Sedevie should get the start in goal for the Beavers. He's put up a respectable 2.37 GAA and 9.19 SV%

The Beavers top line features two juniors who lead the team in scoring, Luke Erickson(16-19-35) and Ryan Miller (17-12-29), and senior Ryan Huddy(8-20-28) who is the playmaker on the line. Huddy is the son of former NHLer Charlie Huddy.

The Wisconsin Badgers season has been all about Brian Elliott. Wisconsin was the most dominant team in college hockey before Elliott went down with a knee injury in the second half of the season. The Badgers struggled with freshmen Shane Connelly forced into service, and for a while, Elliott was shaky when he returned after his injury. But once he regained form, Elliott shut down St. Cloud State, and then Michigan Tech in the playoffs, and despite a loss to North Dakota in the Final Five, Wisconsin looks to be back where they were.

Wisconsin doesn't score a lot of goals, but they've got some dangerous scorers on their top line. Joe Pavelski quietly finished tied for 11th in the country in scoring with 50 points, while linemate Robbie Earl is one of the most dangerous scorers in the country.

The real key for the Badgers though will be the play of their defense. If they can keep Bemidji's forwards on the perimeter and block a lot of shots, it will be very difficult for the Beavers to generate any offense.

The Badgers were considered most likely to flame out in the NCAA tournament, and Bemidji has Cinderella written all over them, but I don't think I can pick them to knock off Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin has recovered from their stumble down the stretch that cost them the WCHA regular season title. I think this game will be very close, but Wisconsin should prevail in a low scoring battle. I'll take Wisconsin by a score of 3-1