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FINAL FIVE: Wisconsin, Colorado College win again; advance to finals

Fans celebrate along with Wisconsin’s Brendan Woods, left, after Nic Kerdiles, right, scored in the third period of a WCHA Final Five semifinal against St. Cloud State Friday in St. Paul. Wisconsin won 4-1 to advance to Saturday’s championship game. Jim Mone | Associated Press1 / 2
Colorado College’s Charlie Taft, right, celebrates his goal against Minnesota with teammate Alexander Krushelnyski (16) in the second period of their WCHA Final Five semifinal game Friday in St. Paul. Genevieve Ross | Associated Press2 / 2

ST. PAUL (AP) — Wisconsin and Colorado College are surging out of the WCHA.

Both teams – who are leaving the league next year – came into the Xcel Energy Center Friday night and knocked off the higher seed to advance to the league title game.

Wisconsin defeated top-seeded St. Cloud State 4-1 in the first semifinal matchup while sixth-seeded Colorado College knocked off second-seeded Minnesota 2-0 in the late game.

The teams will meet at 7 p.m. today for the conference title. The Tigers need to win the tournament to make sure they have a bid in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin should be in but can make sure of it with a victory tonight.

Wisconsin 4, St. Cloud State 1

Nic Kerdiles had a goal and two assists to help Wisconsin beat St. Cloud State 4-1 in the WCHA semifinals on Friday, the fifth straight win for the Badgers.

Joseph LaBate, John Ramage and Tyler Barnes also scored for the Badgers (21-12-7), who will play for the championship and the Broadmoor Trophy on Saturday against either Colorado College or Minnesota. Seeded fourth in this year’s WCHA playoffs, their last appearance before they move to the Big Ten, the Badgers haven’t won the conference title game since 1998. They started this season 2-7-5.

“It would’ve been very easy for the team to just fall apart, but as a coaching staff we went in and tried to say the right things and then the leadership took over from there,” coach Mike Eaves said.

Joel Rumpel made 30 saves for Wisconsin, which has scored 24 goals during this five-game winning streak. The Badgers scored twice on their power play, including Ramage’s goal just 11 seconds after St. Cloud State defenseman Tim Daly was given a five-minute major penalty and ejected for checking from behind early in the second period.

“They’re just dialed in now with their systems and how they play. I was awful impressed,” said St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko.

Ben Hanowski tied the game late in the first period on a power play for the top-seeded Huskies (23-15-1), who shared the regular season championship with Minnesota but must wait until Sunday to find out their fate for the NCAA tournament.

“Bubble trouble. You know more about it than I do. We’re 8-3-1 against teams in this tournament, but our nonconference record is what’s hurting us,” said Motzko, whose team will move to the upstart National Collegiate Hockey Conference next season. “We deserve to play again.”

The Huskies fell into a tie for 12th after the game in the latest PairWise rankings, produced by to try to mirror the NCAA tournament selection criteria. Only 16 teams get in, with five spaces for automatic bids.

Colorado College 2, Minnesota 0

Rylan Schwartz and Charlie Taft scored in the second period for Colorado College in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Friday night in the WCHA semifinals, sending the Tigers to an improbable spot in the championship game against Wisconsin.

Joe Howe made 35 saves for Colorado College (18-18-5), seeded eighth out of 12 in the league playoffs. The Tigers won the last two games of the first-round best-of-three series against rival Denver and knocked off North Dakota in overtime in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Then they took down the Gophers (26-8-5), the second-ranked team in both major national polls playing in front of a partisan crowd less than eight miles from their home ice. This was Minnesota’s last WCHA game. The Gophers will be in the Big Ten next season.