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WCHA Final Five to change starting next year

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The WCHA unveiled plans for an expanded 2011 Final Five on Saturday. For starters, the name will stay the same, except in the future it will refer to the number of games played at Xcel Energy Center, not the number of teams.

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With the conference expanding from 10 to 12 teams next season, with the addition of Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha, there were will be six first-round series. And the winners of those will advance to St. Paul.

Other details:

• The four lowest seeds in the field will play on Thursday in two quarterfinal games played back-to-back in one session. Tentative times are 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

• On Friday, the two Thursday winners will face the top two seeds, the MacNaughton Cup champion and the WCHA regular-season runner-up. The so-called "Minnesota rule" will remain, meaning if the Gophers are playing, they will be in the late game both nights.

• On Saturday, the championship game will be played at 7 p.m. as usual, but the afternoon third-place game has been eliminated.

Instead, hockey fans probably will have the chance to attend a Wild afternoon game at the Xcel. Wild officials have petitioned the NHL to schedule a 1 p.m. home game for the Wild on that date.

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Pioneer staff reports
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