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West Regional Preview

The Gophers are the top seed in Grand Rapids.

The West Regional will take place at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The first round of 16 game will take at 2:00pm EST on Friday afternoon, with the next round of 16 game to follow at 5:30pm EST. The regional final will take place on Saturday at 4:00pm EST.

Top seed Minnesota will take on fourth seed Yale in the first round, while second seed North Dakota will take on third seed Niagara.

Here's a look at the four teams that make up this regional:

University of Minnesota

Nickname: Golden Gophers

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Enrollment: 52,557

Leading scorers: Erik Haula, jr., 16-33-49, Kyle Rau, so., 15-24-39, Nick Bjugstad, jr., 21-15-36

Top goalie: Adam Wilcox, fr., 25-7-5, 1.85 GAA, .922 SV%

Minnesota was projected to be the top team in college hockey this season, and more or less lived up to that billing for the entire year. They were especially dominating in the non-conference part of the schedule, where they had blowout victories over NCAA tournament teams Notre Dame and Boston College.

There's talent up and down the Gopher lineup, led by arguably college hockey's most talented player, Nick Bjugstad. Their blue line has a ton of speed, and one of the best power play quarterbacks in the country in Nate Schmidt. Freshman Adam Wilcox won the starting job early in the season and has looked like an upperclassman all year.

If the Gophers have one weakness, it has been an inability to put together a solid effort for two consecutive nights, something that could haunt them in a one-and-done tournament format.

Yale University

Head Coach: Keith Allain (Yale '80)

Nickname: Bulldogs

Location: New Haven, CT

Enrollment: 5379

At-large berth

Leading Scorers: Jr. Kenny Agostino (15 goals and 22 assists), Sr. Andrew Miller (16 and 19), Sr. Antoine Laganierre (14 and 13)

Top Goaltender: Sr. Jeff Malcolm (16-6-2, 2.42 GAA, .914 sv. pct)

The Bulldogs slipped into the field of 16 at the last minute. Yale entered the weekend in fairly comfortable position, but lost to Union in the ECAC Semifinals and Quinnipiac in the ECAC Consolation game. Keith Allain's team entered Saturday night needing both Boston University and Michigan to lose their respective games. BU lost to UMass-Lowell Saturday in Hockey East and Michigan lost to Notre Dame Sunday afternoon in the CCHA.

Yale's top three forwards are very skilled. Leading scorer Kenny Agostino is a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick and senior Antoine Laganierre will be a highly sought after free agent. The question will be if Yale's defense can hold up. Goaltending has not been the strong point of the program over the past few years.

University of North Dakota

Nickname: Ugh...Just don't even ask

Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota

Enrollment: 15,250

Leading scorers: Danny Kristo, sr. 25-26-51, Corban Knight, sr. 15-33-48, Rocco Grimaldi, fr. 13-22-35

Top Goalie: Clarke Saunders 13-8-4 2.26 GAA, .916 SV% or Zane Gothberg 8-4-3 2.55 GAA, .916 SV%

North Dakota has two of the most exciting players in the country in Hobey Baker finalists Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. They help form one of the most deadly lines in college hockey. The depth behind that line can be a bit of a concern for North Dakota, however, if the opposition is able to shut down that top line. But they definitely play the fast, physical style that North Dakota is known for, and will be difficult to match-up against for any team.

In goal, both Clarke Saunders and Zane Gothberg have been good, but neither has quite played well enough to earn the full-time starting job.

Niagara University

Head Coach: Dave Burkholder (RIT '84)

Nickname: Purple Eagles

Location: Niagara Falls, NY

Enrollment: 4200

At-large berth

Leading Scorers: Jr. Ryan Murphy (15 goals and 21 assists), Sr. Giancarlo Iuorio (21 goals and 13 assists) and Sr. Marc Zanette (10 goals and 8 assists)

Top Goaltender: Jr. Carsen Chubak (23-6-5, 1.91 GAA, .938 sv. pct)

The Purple Eagles lost three of their last five games including a loss to Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals. Skeptics will point to their 1-3-3 out of conference record and 8-9-3 record away from their home rink, Dwyer Arena.

Niagara's only non-conference win was a 2-0 decision over Clarkson in October. The Purple Eagles lost to the ECAC's 11th place team, 10-2.

Niagara will be a three seed in the tournament Dave Burkholder's team will be heavy underdogs to whoever they play, but Niagara upset UNH in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. This will be the school's fourth all-time national tournament appearance.

(WCH's Jeff Cox contributed to this post.)