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Conference Tournament Recap

The WCHA held their first ever six-team Final Five tournament. There was a lot of debate about how this new tournament format would work, though it's largely irrelevant with the multiple reports that Minnesota and Wisconsin will be leaving for the Big Ten hockey conference starting in 2013-2014.

The Final Five's first two-game Thursday session drew an announced attendance of 13,131, which is pretty good. I only saw the afternoon game on Thursday, but judging from that number, about 9000 Alaska-Anchorage fans must have showed up for the evening game(which would be impressive, considering that's about nine times bigger than their average home crowd). At one point in the first Thursday game, Kevin Gorg was talking about how tough it could be for the goalies to see the puck against a backdrop of empty dark green seats, and I'm not sure that's the setting you want one of your conference's biggest games of the year played in. But if that attendance number is anywhere close to accurate in what was close to a nightmare scenario for ticket sales, this format is probably here to stay for final two years of the 12-team WCHA.

But by the end of the tournament, it was the same old Final Five that fans have loved for years, with the two best teams in the league playing a classic championship game, that North Dakota's Matt Frattin won in double overtime to win the title, and possibly clinch the Hobey Baker award.

In Detroit for the CCHA tournament, it was Miami's weekend. The RedHawks jumped out to an early 4-0 first period lead on Notre Dame and cruised to a 6-2 victory, and then scored three unanswered goals with the score tied at 2 in the third period to clinch the title over Western Michigan in the CCHA's first ever all-MAC school championship game.

I've seen the idea floated around of Miami and Notre Dame joining some WCHA powers for a post-Big Ten super conference, but attendance for the tournament game between the two was just brutal. They've been very good in recent years, so with a tougher schedule, they both seem like they're a down year or two from being a complete anchor.

The feel-good story of the CCHA tournament was Western Michigan knocking off Michigan in the Friday night semifinal which essentially clinched the Broncos first NCAA tournament bid since 1996(a team featuring a senior Jamal Mayers and freshman Joe Corvo, for you NHL fans). The Broncos have a pretty great fanbase when the team is playing well, and it's nice to see them being brought back in full force.

In all, it was a very good weekend of hockey from both tournaments, but not one that produced any major game-changing results. Western Michigan and Colorado College both solidified their iffy tournament status. Enough results went Nebraska-Omaha's way to sneak into the tournament despite spending the weekend at home. And Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage couldn't run their luck long enough to make anyone that nervous that they might steal a bid. It sets things up for an exciting NCAA tournament.